Illinois Open Champion Brad Benjamin Competing in 2010 Masters

Brad BenjaminCurrent Illinois Open Champion Brad Benjamin is competing in the 2010 Masters in Augusta, Ga. April 5-11, having earned an invitation for his victory in the 2009 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship.

"You just don't picture yourself [at Augusta] no matter how good you think you are," said Benjamin. "It's just so surreal. I can't picture myself on the first tee playing against the best players in the world on everyone's dream golf course."

Benjamin, 23, from Rockford, Ill., captured the 60th Illinois Open Championship defeating four-time Illinois Open champion Mike Small 13-14 in a three-hole, total stroke playoff. The 23-year-old became the second consecutive amateur (Joe Emerich) to win the Illinois Open Championship.

In the final round of the 2009 Illinois Open Championship, Benjamin posted a 3-under-par 68, making his 54-hole total 208 (-5). Small missed a birdie putt on the par-4 18th hole, and finished with a 1-under-par 70, giving him a total of 208 for the tournament which forced a two-man playoff with Benjamin.

Benjamin and Small both made par on No. 16 and bogey on No. 17. Both players tee shots found the center of the fairway on No. 18. After Benjamin's approach shot landed safely on the green, Small pulled a shot that settled on the rocks to the left of the green.

After much deliberation, Small decided to try his hand at a trick shot instead of deeming his ball unplayable. With his feet eight inches above the ball, Small played a ricochet off the face of the rock he was standing on. Incredibly, it came to rest 12 feet from the cup, giving him a great chance to save par.

Benjamin missed his birdie putt by inches and tapped in for a par. Small then rolled his offering in hopes of forcing sudden death, but he came up short, giving Benjamin the 60th Illinois Open Championship title.

Benjamin won the 2009 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship over the No. 1 seed Nick Taylor, of Canada, 7 and 6, in the 36-hole Championship match. He is a 2009 University of Memphis graduate.


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