Brad Benjamin, the reigning U.S. Public Links champion, received a sponsor exemption Thursday into the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic. That news capped a memorable week for the former Memphis standout, who was one of six amateurs to play last week in the Masters. He missed the cut by three strokes after rounds of 73-77.
“To be able to play in the tournament means a lot. The John Deere is going to be the highlight of my summer,” Benjamin said.
It could also be his last as an amateur.
The Rockford, Ill., native plans to turn pro, but does not know when. In the meantime, he will play major amateur events this summer – the Western Amateur, Porter Cup, Northeast Amateur and Southern Amateur, and perhaps the U.S. Amateur – in hopes of earning a place on the Walker Cup team.
Benjamin burst onto the national scene last year at the U.S. Public Links Championship, when he trounced Washington All-American Nick Taylor, 7 and 6, in the finals to secure an automatic invite into the Masters. A few months later, at the Illinois Open, Benjamin birdied his last two holes of regulation to force a playoff, then defeated Mike Small on the third extra hole to capture the title.
“He’s an inspiration to every young golfer who dreams of playing the game at the highest level,” said Clair Peterson, tournament director of the John Deere Classic.
Tournament officials with the John Deere Classic have a history of rewarding the U.S. Public Links champion. Jack Newman, the ’08 Public Links winner, also received an invite into the John Deere, to be played July 8-11 at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill.
Now, it’s Benjamin’s turn.