Sam Bennett (Courtesy of the Masters)
History will tell Sam Bennett finished tied for 16th in his Masters debut at 2-under par to win the Silver Cup as low amateur.
Bennett will tell you he wanted more.
He wasted no time in serving notice he was playing more than low amateur honors, as the Madisonville, Texas native followed a birdie on the first hole on Thursday with a chip-in eagle on the par-5 second to go 3-under after his first two holes at the Masters. He added a second birdie on the par-3 sixth hole and his outward nine of 32 tied for the lowest first nine among amateurs in Masters history.
His bogey-free 68 left him tied for sixth place, three shots behind first-round leaders Viktor Hovland, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm to become the first amateur since Ryan Moore in 2005 to reside in the top-10 following the first round.
Jon Rahm and Sam Bennett
After carding another 68 on Friday, the reigning U.S. Amateur champion found himself tied for third place heading into the weekend, just four back of Brooks Koepka and two back of eventual champion Jon Rahm.
Over the first 36-holes, Bennett beat his playing partners Max Homa (E), the world’s fifth-ranked player and world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler (-1), the defending Masters champion, by a combined 15 shots, while his 36-hole total of 136 was the second-best mark in Masters history behind Ken Venturi (135) in 1956.
Bennett was confident he could do the unthinkable come Sunday, "Because I know that my good golf is good enough," he said unequivocally. "There's a Green Jacket on the line. I felt like I'm experienced and prepared and did a lot of good work in the practice rounds. I feel like I belong on this stage."
Surely Billy Joe Patton likely had the same thoughts in 1954 when he finished one stroke out of a playoff with Sam Snead and Ben Hogan. Ken Venturi flirted with victory in 1956 as did Charlie Coe in 1961.
Paired with Rahm and Koepka for the third round, Bennett dropped seven back after carding a 76 over two days after play was halted due to heavy rain and flooding with the leaders playing the seventh hole on Saturday.
He never threatened the leaders on Sunday, finishing with a 2-over 74 and ultimately tied for 16th on the leaderboard, which was the highest finish by an amateur since Ryan Moore tied for 13th in 2005.
Bennett didn't make any excuses for his struggles over the weekend other than fatigue. Due to the inclement weather which halted play on Saturday, Bennett had to play 30 holes on Sunday.
"I was tired this weekend," he said. "I think that's what it was. My body wasn't moving
how it should be. That's why I had the driver slotted the first two rounds, and then my legs kind of gave out. It wasn't turning and started missing them left. I think I need to get in a little better shape, get in the gym."
Though his weekend scores fell short of his standards, Bennett kept the weekend in perspective.
"I didn't play how I wanted to this weekend, but this experience playing the weekend at Augusta is definitely going to help me be the golfer I want to be," said Bennett. "And to be able to play the Sunday pins was just incredible."
Bennett's golf - which was better than some of the top players in the world for the last four days - might take a backseat to the once-in-a-lifetime experiences and priceless education the 23-year-old from a small town in southeast Texas received this week at Augusta National.
From staying in the Crow's Nest, the birdie-eagle start, playing alongside major champions in the heat of battle, the patrons that gave him a champion's greeting as he walked up to the 18th green in the fading sunlight on Sunday, receiving the Silver Cup in the Butler Cabin - Bennett took it all in.
"It was just, from growing up as a kid watching this tournament to losing my dad to the struggles I've faced and still face to be able to walk up that green on 18 on a Sunday, Easter Sunday, and just be appreciative of everything, I thought -- I mean, if you had told me I was going to be here when I was a kid, I would have thought you were crazy.
"So to be able to -- it's cool. Playing the Masters on Sunday, that's what every golfer dreams of. I was just happy to be able to do that."
Another thing Bennett will take with him from Augusta is the Silver Cup, awarded to the low amateur at the Masters. His name will be etched alongside Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Ben Crenshaw, Sergio Garcia and Hideki Matsuyama, players who also earned low amateur honors before they returned to Augusta to write some more history.
"Yeah, it's cool to be making history, and hopefully getting down to go on the 18th green and get back in Butler cabin. That's going to be neat. Yeah, I'm just proud of what I did and what I was able to accomplish.
"I've seen how the top dogs kind of play and what they're made of, so I think I can hang in with them."
This dog likely has many more appearances at the Masters in the future, but he'll never forget his first one.