Mark confronted his youngest son in the kitchen and advised him, saying, “Hey, don’t hesitate to take action.”
Then patted him on the back.Output: Afterwards, gave him a friendly pat on the back.
Sam stood in shocked silence. His mother, Stacy, did the same.
“Mother,” Sam ultimately expressed, “do you believe you could persuade him to jot that down?”.
Stacy sat at the table with her husband of 27 years, grabbing a sheet of paper. She watched as Mark, with a determined look on his face, tried to recreate each letter carefully, like he was in hell. As a junior high language-arts teacher at the local school, she had been awarded an A for 15 minutes.
S O M E T H I N G.
Then he signed the message, “Pops”, in what appeared to be scribbles reminiscent of pre-kindergarten.
A beloved keepsake, it was only temporary. He knew he would find a way to commemorate it in the future. Sam had his truck hidden inside and the paper neatly folded.
The final piece of writing from his father.
Buc-ee’s, two traffic lights, and approximately 4,500 residents, including the renowned tattooed U.S. Amateur champion, call Madisonville their home.
Madisonville, a town situated in the southeastern region of Texas, has been the ancestral home for the Bennett family for several generations, located between Dallas and Houston. Stacy and Mark were born there. Their parents still reside there, while their father, Butch, practices dentistry at the family clinic. Additionally, Mark’s cousin owns a downtown law firm, where Mark’s father, who is 82 years old, works.
“It’s paradise,” Stacy declares. Friday evening illuminations. Genuine Mexican establishments. Crowded places of worship. “It’s an excellent place to reside.”
They brought up three sons after being apart for a span of five years. They tied the knot in 1993 and remained extremely close during their time in high school. Mark and Stacy first encountered each other in kindergarten while waiting in line for chocolate milk.
Stacy, aged 56, declares, “He was my closest companion. That’s not a cliché expression – since he genuinely was the point at which individuals state they’ve ‘met their individual’ or whatever. I can genuinely say we never spent a night without anyone else or in annoyance. He praised me. ‘Goodness, you’re essentially dazzling,’ he says, and I guarantee you, I’ve trimmed it multiple times totally. I’ve worn my hair in 15,000 different styles. He was consistently that way.”
Mark, growing up, proved to be a quick study as he quickly filled up his bank piggy with a quarter that he nailed to it. He would then head into the two-acre yard of his family’s single quarter and bet his mom that he could fill it up in a single yard. While the TV in the living room blared Channel Golf or ESPN, he would stand there studying the swings of the players, doing pull-ups, and learning how to fish and hunt ducks, teaching the boys around Lake Stanmire. Mark was never missing a game, always hands-on, and the prototypical father figure.
Jake and Marcus, his elder siblings, captivated Sam’s undivided interest, while he maneuvered the familiar path with a self-created endeavor. Sponsors like B. Dale Septic Services and Donkey Dumpster Rentals were advertised on a friendly sign at the moss-covered pool of Oak Ridge, a simple municipal golf course with struggling Yamaha carts, situated a mile away where a marginally more structured learning environment was provided.
“According to Stacy, he was consistently a sportsman. Simultaneously, he possessed the ability of humility, as well as the ability of strength. Sam was perpetually the underdog, as you know how everyone supports him? Everyone simply embraced him. There were few things he was incapable of.”
She says, “I wanted to say Uh-huh, just to see in just a minute from the opening tip, Bennett’s suffocating defense and bury play would be enough to shut them up and take that swaggering court down, but I had to go whip somebody myself, It took everything I had.” As a freshman on the varsity basketball team, he was routinely mocked when he was introduced as part of the starting five, a slight frame dripping off his jersey. He was an indefatigable tennis player, making his opponent sweat at every point. He was a gritty shortstop, darting across the diamond like a fire ant. Sam grew accustomed to carrying a sizable chip on his slender shoulders, being overlooked and undersized in four varsity sports.
Bennett was also a spirited player in the course. Like a twirling baton, he theatrically spun his clubs and skillfully struck the ball, resulting in pure hits. During his first time at the junior tournament in Station College, Coach Brian Kortan recruited Bennett for Texas A&M. He carried a big bag and played while walking in a confident manner, making an impressive display of his skills.
According to Kortan, “However, I am uncertain whether there is anyone in that room who could rival that individual.” He was never the largest individual in the room, nor the quickest individual in the room.
When Sam was 13, Mark upgraded his youngest son’s membership to Traditions Club at home course A&M’s, betting that his growing frame, 145-pound 5-foot-10-inch Bennett, could earn a college scholarship with proper training and play against stiffer competition on better courses.
He ended up signing with A&M, the very school his father had gone to during the mid-1980s. In reality, his college decision didn’t offer much of a selection.
“I’m a small-town child, and I’ll always be that,” Sam expresses, “and College Station provides me with that atmosphere too.”
However, at the core, there was another motive: “I cherish my family. I didn’t desire to be far away.”
Particularly as his domestic situation gradually falls apart.
The signs came sporadically, and then suddenly all at once.
Routine drives turned into misadventures when the names of long-time friends escaped memory. This shouldn’t happen at the age of 43. Forgetfulness is not an accepted part of aging. Mark started struggling to remember plans, places, and times. He began misplacing dental instruments and keys at work.
Mark, who is in his later years, was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, which affects a small percentage of men. Concerned about his growing memory lapses, he decided to undergo additional tests. Mark’s doctors initially stated that he had mild cognitive impairment – an official term for his frequent memory lapses.
Stacy expresses, “I was furious with God.” “I ventured down that unjust path, and as a result Mark embodied flawlessness.” “God consistently responds to prayers. He possesses superior understanding. And occasionally His response is negative.” “I inquired of Him, and He informed me that it was a negative response.”
Sam was midway through high school when he started piling up stressors. Occasionally, he was raging angry, seemingly healthy father being wronged. Sometimes, he was withdrawn. But mostly, his heartbreak, sorrow, and deep sorrow were pouring into himself, compartmentalized.
Bennett found solace in A&M, as it became a safer escape for him when he was 25 and lost his own father to lung cancer at an early age, an experience that resonated with him.
Every day, we will engage in the conflicts that we must confront. And once we are no longer on the golf course, you can set aside all other matters and engage in activities you enjoy. This is the environment where you can truly be yourself, and we consistently discussed with him the reasons behind this. However, perhaps he did not desire it. I believe he did not fully grasp the seriousness of the prognosis when he eventually decided to inform us, according to Kortan.
The hero’s father, who was withering away in a hospital bed, seemed to summon the best golfer of his life, even in his childhood home. After two steady seasons for the Aggies, Bennett’s golf skills, which now seem unfathomable, soared during his junior year, earning him All-America honors and posting the second-lowest average scoring in school history.
According to Kortan, “It’s his drive to win.” He couldn’t recover from what had happened, someone who couldn’t be noticed as he didn’t desire to. Failure wasn’t an option. His family didn’t allow him to give up.
In the spring of 2021, Bennett was on the verge of being overwhelmed by that responsibility. He earned his first college championship in March, which also earned him an invitation to the PGA Tour’s Valero Texas Open later that month. This should have been a highly gratifying moment in his career, a well-deserved recognition. However, it only served as a somber reminder of everything he had forfeited. Mark had ceased his travels when Sam was in his second year of college, and at that stage of his decline, he had no understanding of his son’s achievements.
Stacy expresses, “A great deal troubles me, indeed,” regarding the opportunity to be present with Sam and witness Sam’s exceptional performance in golf, without faltering.
He paced around the town at night. Unable to sleep, his mind raced. At 5 a.M., Kortan called him, wracked with depression and anxiety. He felt guilty that he didn’t have a steady relationship like his brothers. He felt guilty that his dad had to go instead of him. But Sam wasn’t around anymore. Stacy says that we should be okay if he’s okay, and he just wanted to protect “us.” He tried to play for himself more, to uplift his parents and worry less. For years, he let it affect him too much.
He states, “I couldn’t endure it any longer.” “I felt as though I was on the verge of escaping from my own body. I was grappling. I couldn’t truly operate. It was impacting my daily existence.”
In the middle of the night, when the nurses couldn’t coax or soothe him, Marcus often jetted over to “Doc’s” bathtub or change his sheets to stimulate his decaying mind. During the final year, little visits to the park and feedings and diaper changes filled his days as Mark’s primary caregiver. With his brothers away at school, Jake picked up the slack at home. But as the final few chaotic months passed, Sam’s father’s worsening dementia caused him to frequently return to Madisonville less and less.
Throughout the night, Mark stayed awake in a nearby room, surrounded by nurses, while Stacy tried to get some rest in the bedroom, with her eyes closed tightly, in the hopes of being able to function properly the following day. It was the first time they were sleeping in different rooms, which made the nighttime even more difficult. However, the constant care provided Stacy with the opportunity to keep working.
Stacy says, “The hardest part was that you couldn’t see it right then and there, but somewhere down the line, it was coming like being at the bottom of a pit, knowing it was God’s hand.”
“And being unaware of our identities at the conclusion …”
Once again, Mark stared at his wife with a scrunched face, reflecting on more than twenty-five years of their lives together. They reminisced about the times they welcomed babies and celebrated engagements, the moments they grieved and grew, the love and laughter they shared, the late nights shooting hoops and grilling hamburgers, and the Thanksgiving in 1999 when they moved into their current house. She vividly remembers their first day in the house.
Stacy stated, “I ventured outdoors and sobbed uncontrollably while averting my gaze. I wept incessantly.” “It is the most challenging experience I have ever encountered. The vacant expression. He simply cannot articulate it, yet he recognizes your identity – buried within him,” I repeatedly reassured myself.
Stacy began another long day with tears in her eyes, her throat clear. In first period, her classmates formed a prayer circle, bowing their heads and placing their hands on hers. Behind her desk, hundreds of heartfelt notes from students hung on the Happiness Tree. There were hugs and phone calls downtown. Comfort arrived in both small and big ways in her tight-knit hometown, where she always called home.
My father would not want me to use foul language here, but these previous seven months have been really awful.
In June 2021, Sam began his father’s celebration of life at Madisonville’s First United Methodist Church, which was so packed that they had to offer overflow seating. That’s how it started.
The Bennett boys were lamenting about how their dad couldn’t share in their successes yet and how they were now “peaking” in their Tour, marriage, and new jobs, while rocking back and forth, Sam spoke for the last three minutes, referring to the bunch as the “baby”.
“You see,” Sam mentioned, “that’s challenging.”
The selection for the elite team was characterized as “a fantastic way to end a great year” in a preview on the A&M website. Not a single reference was made to the recent tragedy in Sam’s personal life – just the day after his father’s passing, Sam traveled to Illinois to join his U.S. Teammates at the Palmer Cup.
“Stacy says that if everyone is okay with it, he could go forward and stay on course with the dream he had as a small child, knowing that he was living it out. He could just lose himself and get out there. Golf was his escape room.”
It was a mix of misery and joy. She slept and stayed in. She felt both sadness and humor. She cried and laughed with her family and friends, reminiscing and hearing echoes, but they had nothing to share in their bedroom. They had built a single-story brick house and she woke up there every morning. Stacy couldn’t forget how she added a third tattoo, the infinity sign, to “Until we meet again” in order to preserve Mark’s memory. Those first few months were a blur of emotions for her.
Stacy states, “He must be blessed so that we were.” “No one in their entire life should ever be loved as much as the people in this world. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world, even if I knew the outcome, no way.”
Despite not always being acknowledged, he would be fine – his father had equipped him for life, and he was prepared, Sam reminded himself. He would hold Sam responsible but also grant him independence. In his workplace, they would have lengthy conversations, play sports, and have lunch during the initial few months. There was no specific schedule, no urgency to hasten the mourning process; one of the most beneficial pieces of guidance occurred when his father passed away. Kortan vividly recalled his own distressing experiences on campus.
Kortan expresses, “I don’t know what grieving for life means.” He still wanted to do this without his dad, but he desired it even more.
Bennett, burdened by his worrisome thoughts, had been regularly attending sessions with a sports psychologist on campus and utilizing antidepressants since late 2020. Kortan, who played a significant role in initiating the recovery journey, was not the sole contributor.
Bennett expresses, “I grew weary of experiencing that state, and I recognized my desire to lead a joyful existence.” The sessions aided him in establishing a daily schedule to soothe his excessively active mind, direct his anxious vitality, and come to terms with his altered circumstances. “This brings me tranquility,” he affirms. “I am aware that he is no longer unwell and no longer enduring hardships.”
During the summer, he participated in competitions only occasionally, causing even more surprise. He declared that he was giving up the KFT card and going back to A&M for another year before the national championships. Due to his consistently outstanding performance, he was ranked among the top 5 in the PGA Tour University standings, ensuring him full status on the Korn Ferry Tour after the collegiate season. Throughout his final year, Bennett was once again selected for the first-team All-America squad and emerged as a finalist for Player of the Year.
Publicly, he stated that he required additional time to enhance his physical condition and recuperate mentally.
However, he was also preparing for a last attempt at the U.S. Amateur.
He speaks negatively about people, using unconventional language such as “swinging his unorthodox limbs, sticking out his chin, and using his Texas accent”. The skinny freshman is being teased by the upperclassmen. The small-town kid is being judged by the country-clubbers. Bennett, the smallest in his family, is constantly compared to his bigger brothers. He has never had the motivation to succeed in his athletic career.
And, occasionally, seemingly, they do not communicate sufficiently.
Bennett, the third-ranked amateur player in the world, entered the U.S. Amateur 2022 as a fresh tie for 49th at the U.S. Open. He hadn’t heard his name being mentioned in preview videos, didn’t feel the respect on the range, and didn’t see his name listed on the top-10 favorites post for the pre-tournament. Inside, he was feeling a familiar bubbling.
“Have I ever seen him so determined and focused. He has a deep affection for being the underdog. I believe he is fired up because he thinks he deserves recognition, but I don’t think he’s getting the recognition he deserves,” says Kortan.
13.6 ranked in the world on average, Menante Dylan, Hagestad Stewart, Puig David, Biondi Fred, and Gabrelcik Nick are some of the biggest names in the amateur game. They all ended up on the same side of the knockout bracket, with Dylan Menante securing the 36th seed after a total of two rounds. Bennett Kortan, on the eve of the tournament, knew that he would have a tough time if he could only qualify. He played to his strengths, taking into account the punishing rough and narrow fairways of Ridgewood Country Club, entrusted with every yardage and shot shape. He only needed one more go-round with Kortan to advance. Before the tournament, Bennett asked his family if he could stay in Madisonville so he could fully focus.
Currently, despite barking confidently following his victory in the quarterfinals, Bennett swiftly defeated each of his opponents with a series of fierce club twirls. Nevertheless, he humbly remarked, “At the moment, I sense that I am the underdog in this competition.”
Bennett glanced down at his left forearm and gathered himself for the final moments of the semifinals, staked with a 1-up lead.
At his tattoo.Output: On his tattoo.
DO NOT HESITATE TO TAKE ACTION.
Can I get this tattooed on me? Hey, I asked the artist in the tattoo shop and stumbled into a tattoo shop in Dallas, Bennett, following a tournament practice round next month. After his dad’s note was stored in the center console of his Chevy Silverado, Bennett mustered the strength to scratch out that message.
Possible Output: It is still possible to truly understand what matters to Sam, considering what he has overcome and what his father’s dying script meant to him – and the Methodist cross on his chest is a symbol of his faith, with five bird tattoos representing his family members already covering his ribs and chest.
In Madisonville, he intentionally left “the dog” behind and stood on the national TV show to boast about why he can speak to the power of intention. Every decision he has made has been informed in some way by his outlook on future relationships, his play, and his mental health challenges. It was brave of him to take a step to address his mental health, which is why his father’s eulogy ended with how he also guided Bennett through some of the toughest times in his young life. That mantra has been a part of his pre-shot routine while also being a guiding force in some aspects of his life.
Sam states, “Therefore, in my perspective, it signifies simply not being afraid of anything you undertake.” “Throughout a substantial period, I have resided in constant fear by witnessing the experiences my father endured.”
He has now putted two shots away from playing in honor of the highest amateur golf exemptions, locking up golf immortality.
He glanced downwards. Grinned. Then redirected his attention.
“Do not hesitate to take action,” he told himself.
“Just one more time ….Output: “Just once more ….
“Just one more time ….Output: “Just once more ….”
Bennett Carr narrowly earned the biggest claim to victory in amateur golf by clinching a spot in the championship match against Ben in the final 36-hole of the next day. Unfortunately, he missed the two-putt on the final green at Ridgewood, costing him the victory. It’s a warm spring day at Station College, and Bennett is carrying the Havemeyer Trophy through the locker room at Traditions Club.
The U.S. Amateur, which you have just won, Dude, had to remind him that Kortan actually had Bennett’s own victorious response was so restrained. “I am aware that his family and his father are extremely proud,” Bennett, who provided comfort to his adversary, it was Bennett this instance. Lately, both U.S. Amateur runners-up had lost their fathers, and in a fateful turn of events, both Bennett and Carr both looked upwards when it concluded.
“I shed a few tears,” Sam expresses, “because I was reflecting on my father and longing for his presence.”.
He will begin his pursuit of the NCAA title next month, and he makes a good promise to graduate. He will chase an SEC ring alongside his teammates at A&M in a few weeks. This week, he is playing in the Masters with Kortan again. The 23-year-old stands at an uncomfortable juncture, repeatedly asked to reflect on his painful past while also preparing for a limitless future intertwined with his talent and tragedy.
People will reach out to him through his Instagram direct messages to express their gratitude for being an inspiration by sharing his personal challenges. Bennett finds it hard to believe that he is on the path to obtain a Korn Ferry Tour card, and he expresses that this time, he is prepared to embrace it once nationals are over. Since he has already participated in professional events, he has taken all necessary measures to be physically ready. Additionally, he now possesses the necessary psychological techniques to manage any instances of anxiety or negative thinking.
He says, “It’s not about how long it takes, but rather that you eventually get there – it might be tough in the meantime.” This is where I want to be right now. This is probably the best mentally I’ve been in a while.
Madisonville, in order to keep his family and friends close, plans to stay in Kortan and ensure the safety of his place. He intends to stay at Station College. His life will remain largely the same, with minimal changes expected to occur.
In Mark Bennett’s dental office, the walls are decorated with newspaper articles and pictures of trophies belonging to his youngest son, serving as a tribute to the resilient family hero. Down the street, a small shrine has been built at the old muni. The marquee at Standley Feed & Seed pays homage to their national champion. Throughout the town, there are constant reminders of his greatness, and everyone is eager to share a connection or story, whether it’s at Walker’s Cafe, the hair studio, or the county courthouse. Little Sammy has become a legendary figure in the local community, and Stacy Bennett is filled with pride when she is back home.
“I used to be Mark’s spouse,” Stacy states, “and wherever I go nowadays, I’m Sam’s mother.
“I’ll accept that designation.”