BOB WEST — Texas A&M’s Sam Bennett shocks, charms golf world in Masters
Published 12:04 am Wednesday, April 12, 2023
Don’t feel too sorry for Sam Bennett, the Texas A&M senior who upstaged many of golf’s biggest names as an amateur at the 87th Masters.
Bennett, because he is an amateur, could not take the $261,000 payout his tie for 16th merited, but indications are he’ll actually pocket more than triple that in NIL fees.
For those who have been paying attention to the financial revolution in college sports, NIL stands for name, imaging and licensing royalities college athletes are entitled to collect through outside deals. Bennett, thanks to his Masters heroics, looks to be the first collegiate golfer to hit the jackpot.
Luke Fedlam, a sports attorney involved in the NIL scene, outlined Bennett’s situation for Golf Digest ahead of Sunday’s final round.
“The sort of TV time Sam is getting today. The exposure his story is getting, and the attention his social media channels are getting, I’d estimate it will be worth at least in the high six figures and probably seven figures for him going forward.”
Bennett, of course, was arguably the week’s best ongoing story line outside eventual winner Jon Rahm.
He posted an opening 68, proved it was no fluke by matching it in round 2 and was paired with Rahm and then leader Brooks Koepka in the third round.
Imagine that. College kid qualifies by winning the U.S. Amateur, shoots the second best 36-hole amateur score since Ken Venturi in 1956, then becomes the first amateur since Deane Beaman in 1964 to be in the top 10 after 54 holes. Come on, you can’t make this stuff up.
Bennett’s story, though, got even better under the glare of the media spotlight. The 23-year-old from Madisonville, Texas, had lost his dad to early-onset Alzheimer’s two years ago but kept him close with a left arm tattoo in Mark Bennett’s handwriting saying. “Don’t wait to do something.”
Every time the younger Bennett grips a golf club the words on the tattoo are unavoidable.
That the youngster stumbled a bit in the final 36 holes, shooting 76-74, was almost inevitable. But it didn’t take away from the fact he beat defending PGA champion Justin Thomas and defending U.S. Open champ Cam Smith, among numerous other established players who were part of a starting 78-player field.
Instead of getting the proverbial 15 minutes of fame, he wound up with several hours. Going forward, he’ll be the most recognizable athlete on the Texas A&M campus. Maybe on any college campus, considering the up close and personal TV exposure of the Masters.
Ironically, Bennett’s Masters success cost A&M its top player for its own invitational tournament. Bennett had said he was going to fly back Sunday night and play 36 holes in the tourney on Monday and 18 on Tuesday, but wearily and wisely backed out.
Chances are nobody in Aggieland will hold it against him.
Golf news should be e-mailed to Bob West at email@example.com.