Sam Bennett’s Historic Run at The 2023 Masters

Sam Bennett, 2023 Masters, Augusta National,Mandatory Credit: Katie Goodale USA TODAY Network
Sam Bennett, 2023 Masters, Augusta National,Mandatory Credit: Katie Goodale USA TODAY Network /

For all the love it professes for amateur golfers like Sam Bennett, The Masters tournament sure hasn’t been very kind to them.

That’s what makes what Bennett is doing this week special. He entered third-round play Saturday in sole possession of third place and starting in the final group alongside the two men ahead of him, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm.

Bennett, expressing the boldness one needs to be a great amateur player, had told the media he intends to compete for the championship. That’s unlikely, but no more unlikely than what he had already done in posting consecutive opening rounds of 68 for an 8-under 136.

The history of amateur play at the Masters is frankly bad.

If Bennett even lands a top 20 finish by the end of play Sunday, he would be the first amateur to do so in 18 years. That hasn’t happened since Ryan Moore tied for 13th in 2005. Moore started that weekend tied for sixth, eight strokes off the leader’s pace.

No amateur has landed a top 10 spot at Augusta National in a staggering 60 years. The last to do so was Charlie Coe, who tied for ninth in 1962. Coe is also the last amateur to finish top five, tying Arnold Palmer for second and finishing one stroke behind Gary Player in 1961.

Coe that year closed with consecutive rounds of 69 that included birdies on holes 13, 14, and 15 on Sunday. He would have forced a playoff with Player if he could have birdied any of the final three holes, but he parred them all.

Since Moore in 2005, the highest finish by any non-pro was Bryson DeChambeau’s tie for 21st in 2016. DeChambeau began that weekend in a tie for eighth at 144, four shots behind Jordan Spieth. He closed with rounds of 77 and 72.

Only a literal handful of amateurs had gotten to the 36-hole mark as close to the lead as Bennett. In 2003, amateur Ricky Barnes stood tied for third after 36 holes, but he was five strokes behind leader and eventual champion Mike Weir. Barnes closed with 75-73 and finished 21st.

Prior to DeChambeau, the last amateur to stand within four strokes of the lead at the tournament’s halfway point was Deane Beman, whose rounds of 71-72 left him tied for ninth three strokes behind Arnold Palmer back in 1960.

Beman closed with 77-78 and didn’t win low amateur. That honor was divided by Coe and Jack Nicklaus, both at 5-over 293.

dark. Next. Day 2 at Augusta: LIV fights back

If Bennett could have somehow emerged with the lead entering play on Sunday it would have been nearly unprecedented. No amateur has actually led the Masters entering the final round since Ken Venturi did so in 1956.

He carried a four-stroke lead into that eventful Sunday and still led by five through nine holes. But Venturi bogeyed seven of his final 10 holes to lose to Jack Burke Jr. by one stroke.