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Amateur surprise

Masters 2023: 'I'm not worried about school right now'—Sam Bennett instead is thinking about something outlandish

Masters 2023

Ben Walton

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Sam Bennett could not stop smiling. You would be beaming too after throwing up a pair of 68s at Augusta National, dusting defending champion and playing partner Scottie Scheffler by seven shots in the process. It would be way weirder if he wasn't enjoying the hell out of his well-earned post-round presser in the Masters media center.

Bennett's entire week, so far, has been a dream. It began Monday night with the annual amateur dinner, where the reigning U.S. Amateur champ dined with the six other ams in the field this week. After "the best dinner of my life," Bennett was slated to stay in the famous Crow's Nest, but the dorm-room-style digs only have five twin-size beds. Apparently, Bennett had never originally put his name down to stay, meaning he was the odd man out. No matter. The club moved him into Butler Cabin, where he stayed in "Mr. Williams' suite" overlooking the 18th green.

On Tuesday, the fifth-year senior at Texas A&M found out he would be paired with Scheffler, a fellow Texan (though of the Longhorn variety), as well as Golf Twitter icon Max Homa. On Wednesday, he took in the Par 3 Contest. On Thursday, he began his first career round in the Masters by making birdie at No. 1 and eagle at No. 2. He made 15 pars and one birdie over the next 16 holes to start with a bogey-free 68, a feat an amateur hadn't accomplished at Augusta National in 30 years.

Masters 2023

Ben Walton

And then he did the unthinkable—he backed it up, posting another four-under 68 with just one bogey, which for a brief moment had him in second place alone, a place only two other amateurs have been at some point in the history of this storied tournament. It's already been the most magical week of the 23-year-old's life and he still has two more days of it to live.

As much as he's soaking it all in, Bennett's well aware expectations are now about to change. He's made the cut and all but locked up Low Am honors. With those two boxes checked, it's time to move the goalposts.

"Everybody coming into the week was like, 'yeah, hope you get low am'," Bennett said. "That's pretty much all they were saying. I just wanted to put two good rounds up. I knew my golf was good enough to compete out here. I found myself in a situation that now I've got a golf tournament that I can go out and win."

As Bennett has already proven both in college and on the amateur circuit, he's a dangerous dude when it comes time to go win a golf tournament. Bennett is the quintessential man-on-a-mission type, this character trait on full display when on Thursday of last summer’s U.S. Amateur, after obliterating Florida's Fred Biondi, 6 and 5, in his second-round match at Ridgewood Country Club, he seemed pissed off. Bennett was wondering why nobody was talking about him in the leadup to the event, instead pumping up the likes of Michael Thorbjornsen and Gordon Sargent (the latter of whom finished nine over this week at Augusta and will miss the cut).

Similarly, in the build-up to this week, it was Sargent who was the sexy pick for Low Am over Bennett, largely due to his prodigious length off the tee. "I don't hit it far like Sargent. I don't have 190 ball speed," Bennett said Friday. "I don't have a pretty swing like some of the other amateurs. It's golf, not a golf swing. I've done the right things this week. I was prepared. I was more experienced than the other guys, and yeah, here I sit here with a chance to go on the weekend and do something special."

How special? Should Bennett go on to win (what a crazy sentence to type), he would be the first amateur to do so in Masters history. No amateur has even finished in the top 10 since Charlie Coe in 1962. Six years before that, Ken Venturi held the 36- and 54-hole leads before shooting a final-round 80 and finishing solo second.

"This is probably going to sound bad, but I don't … I mean, I don't even know if he's won any majors or what majors," said Bennett when asked if the name Ken Venturi means anything to him. (For the record, Sam, Venturi won the 1964 U.S. Open while nearly passing out from heat exhaustion.)

Masters 2023

Ben Walton

With bad weather already suspending second-round play and pushing it to Saturday, which also could be impacted by inclement weather, plus the fact he could be playing in one of the final groups, it could be a very, very long time until Bennett hits a shot again. Fortunately, he has a number of buddies hanging here this week, in addition to his caddie and college coach Brian Kortan. They plan to kill time by rewatching the golf, checking in on Golf Channel's "Live From" and shooting the proverbial s--t. Kortan would prefer Bennett caught up on some school work, but that seems unlikely.

"Coach has been bugging me about that," Bennett said. "I'm not worried about school right now."

Nor should he be. He's got a golf tournament to win.