Q&A: Brad Benjamin, 2009 APL champ

Joining me today on Wildman’s Summer is Brad Benjamin. Last summer, Benjamin surprised many by winning the U.S. Amateur Public Links.

By winning the U.S. Amateur Public Links, you got the honor to play in the Masters, what was that experience like?

It was really surreal. I’ll admit it was a bit intimidating because I was playing with some of the best players in the world that you see on television every single week. My favorite part was the par-3 contest which I thought was pretty cool. My dad caddied for me and in the group behind us was Nicklaus, Player and Palmer. I got to see three of the all-time greats play their way in and that was really special. Also, Jim Furyk was in the group ahead of me and I saw him hit a hole-in-one in nine.

You graduated a year ago from Memphis, so what were you up to all of last year knowing you had no classes to go to?

I have just been an amateur so I could play in the masters. I have had quite a few opportunities to play in some premier amateur events this summer, and I am glad I was able to play in them. The Walker Cup is a main goal of mine, and is a big reason for me to stay amateur this summer. I really want to make the Walker Cup. Right now I’m just playing a lot of golf and am going to see how that goes and later turn professional. My No. 1 goal growing up as a kid was to one day become a professional golfer.

With all that free time, what have you worked on for the past year to help your game?

I’ve gained a lot of confidence since last summer, and have learned what my strengths and weaknesses are, and now know what I can and can’t do on a golf course. I have really learned how I should play golf, and have learned not to watch how other players play golf. I have gotten a lot of maturity and have really worked on my putting. I have been working hard on that for the last year and half and it is paying off.

You’re from Chicago, and since everyone has an opinion on Lebron James going to Miami, I figured I’d ask for yours?

It was really surprising. I thought he was going to say in Cleveland. If there was one place he was gonna go to though, I thought Chicago since they have all that rich history and tradition. I was shocked with the Miami pick, I figured he was so loyal to Cleveland it would be hard for him to leave. I know and understand why he left. I mean heck, the chance to play with such talented stars and the chance to win a championship seems like a pretty good idea to me.

Have you been getting more and more media attention since playing in the amateurs and making that Cinderella run at the U.S. Publinx?

I have, but its funny how a lot of people ask me that same question. I have always been a good player. I just think northern golfers don’t get the attention that golfers from the South do. I understand it all goes with where and who you play against. I actually feel like I have gone under the radar and I can now continue to prove myself and carry on. This summer I have been playing pretty good and I hope people are starting to notice that. I want them to think I am a good golfer because I am.

What’s amateur golf like, week in, week out? Have you gotten tired of traveling yet?

Well, this year I’m trying to do something entirely different, normally I play locally (in Chicago) and try to stick to the Chicago area. This year was my chance to play pro, but now I know I can compare this amateur schedule to something like a mini-tour schedule. I was gone all of June traveling week to week and now I know how to prepare for each week. I know I have a day for travel, then I need to scout the course I’ll be playing, and then try to stay well rested to prepare for Round 1. I have learned a lot this summer. It’s stressful but I needed to know and learn how to attack each and every single week. I have been really fortunate this summer with some great weather. I wanted to make this summer feel as close to a professional one so I know what it would be like when the day comes for me to join a professional tour. I have done driving and flying. I will say that I have noticed as an amateur you’re friends with a lot more people as opposed to what I saw with the pros. You can see that it can be stressful when you know you are playing a guy for money. I have been really fortunate this summer to continue to make the friendships I have stronger by getting to know guys better and better each week.

You mentioned you are going to stay amateur in hopes of making the Walker Cup. What will you do next year? Going to go to grad school? Get a job? What are you going to do?

Well, back home we have a great place to practice with reasonable rates, which is Aldeen Golf Club in Rockford. Also, I’m a honorary member at Rockford Country Club. I have a friend that offered me a place in Hilton Head during the winter months so I can continue to practice, play, and work on my game. The plan is to play as much as golf as possible. Right now I’m living with my (parents) but you don’t really want to ever mention that. I have a lot of friends back home and its a good golf city. I plan to just keep working on my game so that I can get better and better.

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