Sam Bennett (L) and Ben Carr (USGA photo)
The championship match at the 122nd U.S. Amateur is set, as Sam Bennett
will meet Ben Carr
for the Havemeyer Trophy on Sunday at Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, NJ.
Golf Channel will televise the afternoon round of Sunday's 36-hole championship match beginning at 2:00 p.m. ET.
Bennett, the Texas A&M standout who is ranked No. 3 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, advanced to the finals with a 1 up win over North Carolina's Dylan Menante
, while Carr, ranked 70th in WAGR, dispatched of Pepperdine's Derek Hitchner
, 3 and 2 to earn his spot in the title match.
Bennett never trailed in his match against Menante and took a 2 up lead with a par on No. 10 and a birdie on No. 12. However, Menante, the 2021 and 2022 Northeast Amateur champion, squared the match by taking holes 14 and 15. After the players halved the 16th, Bennett made an improbable birdie following an errant tee shot which forced him to punch out into a bunker and from 178 yards away. He then clipped his bunker shot to about 12 feet and made the putt for a birdie, pumping his fist as he took a 1-up lead to the 18th.
After an errant tee shot on 18, Menante punched his second shot through trees to the collar of the green, while Bennett flushed a seven-iron from the middle of the fairway to within 12 feet of the hole. Needing just two putts for the win, his first attempt came to rest inches from the hole, forcing a concession from Menante.
For Bennett, it was his third straight victory against a player from the top 10 in the amateur world ranking. All five of his matches at Ridgewood Country Club have been against players at No. 27 or better in the amateur ranking.
“They say the semifinal match is the toughest one,” said Bennett, “but [the] job is not finished. I want to win it all. It's going to be a fun day, 36 holes. [Ben’s] been playing good, too, so it should be a good match.”
With former PGA Tour player Willy Wilcox on his bag, Carr had a slightly easier time of it with Hitchner, closing out a 3 up win with a par on the 16th hole. Hitchner had a 1 up lead through seven but the Georgia Southern fifth-year senior evened the match with a par on the 466-yard 8th hole and then won holes 11, 13, 14 -- the last two with birdies to take a 3-up lead. The two players exchanged pars on the next two holes, sealing a 3-up victory for the Columbus, Ga. native. who is playing in just his second U.S. Amateur.
Said Carr: “It means a lot to be playing for the U.S. Amateur Championship. There's not any specific words that come to mind other than I just feel very lucky.”
It will be an emotionally-charged championship match, as both players recently lost their fathers. Carr's father, David, passed in 2019, while Bennett lost his father, Mark, last summer.
In an emotional post-round interview with Golf Channel's Smylie Kaufman, Carr shared a story about his special ball marker to commemorate his father that went missing before the match.
“On the first tee, I couldn’t find it,” Carr told Kaufman. “I emptied out my pockets, there was nothing. I emptied out my bag. I couldn’t find it in my bag."
But when he needed it most, he found it.
“I’m over my putt on 16, and it’s just in my left pocket,” Carr said. “I don’t know how. I swear to God, I checked. I checked my pocket, I swear to God.”
As Saturday's semifinals were concluding, a rainbow appeared just as Bennett and Carr were winning their matches.
As finalists, both Bennett and Carr earn exemptions into the Masters and the U.S. Open next year at Los Angeles Country Club, while the winner of Sunday's match also receives an exemption into the British Open.
• • • • •
Meet the Finalists
• No. 3 in World Amateur Golf Ranking® / WAGR®
• Competing in his fourth USGA championship and third U.S. Amateur
• Made the 36-hole cut (T-49) in his first U.S. Open this summer at The Country Club
• Advanced to the Round of 16 in the 2020 U.S. Amateur at Bandon Dunes
• Was named the 2022 Southeastern Conference (SEC) Player of the Year
• Registered six top-5 finishes in 2021-22 at Texas A&M University
• Member of USA team in 2021 and 2022 Arnold Palmer Cup
• Competed in two PGA Tour events (2021 Valero Texas Open, 2022 Arnold Palmer
Road to the Finals
• Shot 71-73–144 in stroke play to earn the No. 36 seed
• R64: Def. Nick Gabrelcik, 19 holes
• R32: Def. Fred Biondi, 6 and 5
• R16: Def. David Puig, 4 and 2
• Quarters: Stewart Hagestad, 3 and 2
• Semis: Def. Dylan Menante, 1 up
• • • • •
• No. 70 in World Amateur Golf Ranking® / WAGR®
• Competing in his second U.S. Amateur after having played in 2019
• Former PGA Tour player Willy Wilcox is his caddie this week
• Made a 20-footer on the first playoff hole to defeat Nathan Franks and advance to quarterfinals
• 2021-22 Ping All-America Honorable Mention, 2021-22 first-team All-Sun Belt
• Was the No. 1-ranked junior in the state of Georgia coming out of high school
• Entering his fifth year at Georgia Southern
• Trying to become first Georgia Southern player to win U.S. Amateur since alumnus Buddy Alexander (1986)
Road to the Finals
• Shot 72-72–144 in stroke play to earn the No. 34 seed
• R64: Def. Jake Holbrook, 7 and 5
• R32: Def. Andrew Von Lossow, 1 up
• R16: Def. Nathan Franks, 19 holes
• Quarters: Def. Alex Price, 2 and 1
• Semis: Def. Derek Hitchner, 3 and 2