2023 Masters: The Master & The Amateur

2023 Masters: The Master & The Amateur

By August Wherry

Thousands of patrons and millions of viewers exhaled this Sunday night after witnessing one of the most dramatic Masters in tournament history. Accentuated by torrential weather, golf fans were once again treated to a tournament that tested every aspect of players’ physical and mental capabilities. Ultimately, two storylines emerged: the one everyone was anticipating about a head-to-head Sunday finale between the top players of the rival PGA and LIV Tour, and the one no one expected at all.

The Masters kicked off on Thursday with the warm spring weather everyone has come to expect from Augusta in April, offering a very “gettable” golf course and providing ample opportunities for competitors to find their rhythm in a marathon chase for birdies and eagles. By Saturday, the weather had taken an ominous turn, so much so that three tall pines near the 17th tee box fell, narrowly missing dozens of patrons below and forcing play to be suspended Saturday. Competitors like Jon Rahm (PGA Tour) and Brooks Koepka (LIV) were able to use the poor weather as an opportunity to rise to the top of the leaderboard.

While golf experts and fans alike surely expected the top players in the world to lead the tournament, no one predicted the emergence of amateur golfer, Sam Bennett, a senior at Texas A&M. Bennett’s victory last summer in the U.S. Amateur awarded him an invite to The Masters, where he proceeded to put on a show unlike any amateur ever to play the tournament. Bennett played impeccably well Thursday and Friday, earning him a spot in Saturday’s final pairing–a first for any amateur in the history of The Masters. And despite not keeping pace on Saturday’s round, he finished on Sunday in an impressive 16th place–the best finish for an amateur at the Masters in almost 20 years.

While Bennett’s success makes for a classic underdog story, it is important to consider just how impressive his performance was, and to take it as a heartfelt reminder as to why so many of us love golf. For the last two years, reporters, pundits, and fans alike have debated the PGA and LIV Tours’ places in the game, seeing division that distracted us from the true soul of the game. Bennett walked off the 18th green in tears of joy, not because his good play guaranteed him millions of dollars (in fact, he doesn’t receive one cent as an amateur) or a future on one of the Tours, but because with his enthralling performance, he proved to himself that he could compete on the greatest stage in golf against the top players in the world.

That purity and passion for the game is exactly why the Masters is the greatest tournament in in the sport. For even as the turmoil stirs behind the scenes, Augusta National’s open policy to qualifiers, regardless of tour affiliation or professional status, allows a story like Bennett’s to surface. And right now, even as the debate between the rivals ensues, his story serves as a crucial reminder that golf is indeed a wonderful spot.