After winning the 2022 U.S. Amateur, Sam Bennett gained automatic exemption to this year's 2023 Masters. A fifth-year student-athlete at Texas A&M University, Sam is now officially gearing up for his first appearance at Augusta National. He made some time to chat with us about the week ahead and what he's most looking forward to...

How much have you thought about your first tee shot at The Masters?

"Every day since I've won the Amateur, I don’t think there has been even an hour where I haven't thought about playing in the Masters. I’m pretty anxious to get up there and get comfortable on the grounds and put some work in with my coach and I'm just ready to go ahead and tee that ball up on Thursday."

What's it been like for you balancing your busy collegiate schedule with Masters preparation?

"My whole focus has been on my team and A&M, and putting up good scores for them. I used this 5th year to get some more experience. It’s actually gotten kind of bad though (laughs), I'm coming off a (collegiate) tournament and I treated it like I was at Augusta. So, I’ve been using these tournaments to get tournament ready so that I feel prepared.

But it’s tough, I haven't had the best season this year, I’ve had one win but a lot of uncharacteristic rounds where I havent played well. I talked to my coach yesterday and he knew this might happen. You see that happen a lot with guys that are playing in the Masters that are still in school - they don't quite play well because they know what's coming up and how you want to be ready and do well at the Masters so it's definitely been hard. I’ve been playing lots of golf and so I was happy to get home and take a few days off before heading back up to Augusta."

Can you speak to your confidence level on course and how you’re planning to carry that into Augusta?

"I love competing and hate losing, just like anybody. In match play, my competitive nature is able to come out and in stroke play too, but I was a multi-sport athlete growing up. I’ve got a lot of experience playing in big time baseball games and basketball games, so I think that's helped me during big time moments in golf. I play golf in a unique way with my style. Coach and I always talk about it, I just have to own my game and own what Sam Bennett does well, so I have a lot of confidence in myself and try to just go out there and do what I do well."

Because you're the U.S. Am winner, you get to experience some pretty cool things leading up to the event - What have the months leading up to the event looked like and what does your week at Augusta look like?

"It was cool! After winning the semi-final match at the Am, and knowing I had a spot in Augusta and a few other majors, that was nice. The semi-final match is the most pressure out of all of them because of what's on the line. It was hectic after, just the things that come along with being the US-Am champ. Between school and workouts, and my team, yout know Texas A&M is my #1 priority this year. And as a 5th year, trying to be a leader and wanting to help lead my team to success, it’s been good. That's why I came back for a 5th year, so I am focused on my team. But it’s going to be cool playing with Scottie, reigning Masters champ and World Number One. And Fitzpatrick being the reigning US Open champ, you know being a featured group out there. Scottie will be fun to play with and I like his style of game. It’s been busy this spring."

What is your favorite Masters moment as a spectator?

"Man, there's a bunch. When I went to Augusta for the first time, I was able to see where Bubba Watson hit that hook shot out of the trees and Tiger’s chip in on 16. I’m a golf geek, I love watching golf and when I got to Augusta it was like I’d been there before, I mean all the slopes, I knew where all the pins were going to be. When the caddy was showing me them I could have told him where all four hole locations were going to be on the green just from watching as a fan. It was cool when Sergio hit that eight iron from 177 yards on 15 to like 6” and finally seeing him win a major. But Tiger is my favorite golfer ever and will always be so to see him get him done in ‘19 was by far the coolest moment."

Who are you going to have in attendance out there?

"You get 8 free tickets a day and can buy up to 4, so pretty much 12 tickets a day. I have family coming in Monday through Wednesday for the practice round and then some buddies coming down for Thursday and Friday, and hopefully the weekend as well."

Who are you planning to have on the bag for you during your week at Augusta?

"My coach!"

Have you played or been to Augusta National before?

"No, this has been my first time. Being down here before the Masters kicks off and being able to see the course for the first time without the crowds has been awesome."

What holes are you most excited to play?

"You can’t beat Amen corner - 11, 12, 13 - once you get down there in the creek bottom it has a different feel to it. Those holes are great. My favorite hole other than the holes on Amen corner is number 2, the par five. Hitting that tee shot, and turning it off that bunker… that second shot is cool, you’re just straight downhill and the green - it just sits out in the wide open. I’m pretty excited to play that hole, it's a hole you’ve got to attack because you're trying to make birdie. So, I’m looking forward to playing hole 2, but hopefully I get a chance to hit that shot on 16 on Sunday to the hole in one pin. That was the hole that when I got there, it was just as I thought it was. But I’m definitely ready to play hole 2."

What past experiences will you lean on to help navigate your way around Augusta National?

"You always hear it's a drawers course which is true, there's a lot of tee shots and shots that call for the right to left movement, which I like to do. Just the creativity, I mean, I’m a feel player and I never had a lesson or anything like that so to be able to use some imagination around the greens and be able to hit some pretty cool shots and use some slopes, I think I’ll be good out there."

Being able to play with the past year's Masters winner, Scottie Scheffler, has to be a super cool experience to look forward to. Do you have any relationship with Scottie headed into The Masters?

"He went to UT, so one of my teammates - his brother played at A&M, they both did, his names Andrew Pacey, I missed him by a year but I’m on the team with his brother William Pacey - but Andrew Pacey is married to Callie Scheffler who is Scotties sister. So we have a little connection there. So we haven’t played together yet, but we know each other a little bit."

You have a 4 shot lead going to 18 on Sunday, but there's one wrinkle; you only have a putter in the bag? Are you still putting on the green jacket?

"So that means I can make a triple? I think I could get it on the green in five shots for sure, as long as I didn’t go in the two left bunkers. What the TV doesnt show is how deep the bunkers are."

What's the craziest thing that's ever happened to you on the golf course?

"Well I was playing in this one tournament, the Spirit International, and I was in the final group playing for Team USA, but one of my teammates on the girls side, we were hitting balls on the range and somehow her sand wedge got in my bag and so I teed off with 15 clubs and got a two stroke penalty and got a double on the first hole and then ended up making seven birdies and still won the tournament, so I think that was the probably the craziest."

Do you have any pre-game rituals or superstitions that you follow while you're playing, either before or during the round?

"(laughs) Before every college round I always have a Red Bull."

What would be your dream foursome and where would you want to play that round?

"My dad, Tiger and Kobe at Augusta."

If you were to pick one tournament to win, what would it be and why?

"I’d have to go with the Masters at Augusta, for sure. Next would probably be the Open Championship at St. Andrews."

If (and when) you win The Masters, what would your Winner's Dinner be?

"I don’t care for food too much, I’m pretty picky, but I love a good filet. That would be the main course then I did like the sliders Scottie did. I’ve thought about this for a while and I have no clue."

If you weren’t golfing, what would you be doing?

"Man, when people ask me that question it makes me be like, “I guess I don’t have any other hobbies?” (laughs). I do like playing pool, we have this place over here at school called the Dixie Chicken that's super old school and a big Aggie thing. So we'll go there and play a good amount. I golf a bunch, and when I’m not playing in tournaments I’m golfing with my roommates. A lot of recreational golf, we have fun out there."