DALLAS – Holding a two-shot lead headed into Sunday’s final round of the 106th Texas Amateur presented by Insperity, Lewisville’s Grant Bennett will tee off tomorrow with a chance to do something he’s never done.
Win a major golf tournament.
A junior at Wichita State, the 20-year-old Bennett used an eagle and three birdies to post a 3-under-par 68 in the second round of the Texas Amateur, which was shortened to 54 holes after rain storms washed out the first round. Bennett paired his 68 with a 4-under 67 in the first round, which takes him to 7-under 135 overall, good for a two-stroke advantage over Michael Cotton from Katy.
“To be honest, I haven’t won any big tournaments,” Bennett said. “This would be the biggest, for sure. I won some junior tournaments and I’ve had some top-10s and top-fives in college. I finished seventh at our NCAA Regional in San Diego; that was my best result. But I’m hitting it really well right now and feel like I can win.”
With his best friend caddying for him – Ben Baxter, a sophomore on the SMU golf team – Bennett said he’s been calm and relaxed walking the fairways at Bent Tree Country Club. Chatting up Baxter keeps Bennett’s mind free between shots, and that keeps him focused on the moment instead of thinking about bigger things – like winning the most prestigious amateur golf championship in Texas.
After a solid drive on the 554-yard par-5 13th hole, for example, Bennett and Baxter talked about the beautiful scenery at Bent Tree as they walked to Bennett’s ball. Once there, Bennett said he had a perfect yardage for his 17-degree hybrid: 245 yards to the green. Bennett flushed it and his ball finished 15 feet from the hole. A couple minutes later he rolled it straight up the hill and into the cup for an eagle that gave him the outright lead.
“Being on top of the leaderboard is the place I like to be,” he said. “Tomorrow, I want to play another solid round and hit a bunch of fairways and greens. If someone is going to beat me, they’re going to have to shoot a really low score. But, yes, my dream scenario would be for me to win.”
If that happens, he wouldn’t be the first to score his first substantial win at the Texas Amateur. Just last year, in fact, Plano’s Will Zalatoris notched his maiden big-time victory with a Texas Amateur title at Brook Hollow Golf Club. From there, Zalatoris proceeded to win the Trans-Mississippi Amateur and U.S. Junior Amateur in a matter of two months.  
There are still 18 holes to play, of course, and plenty of skilled competitors in pursuit of Bennett. Cotton, two behind at 6-under 137 after an even-par round on Saturday, is a freshman at the University of North Texas. He’s playing in his first Texas Amateur, but he has elite competitive experience, having played in the 2013 U.S. Amateur.
Fort Worth’s Andrew Presley rolled in six birdies on the way to a 4-under 67. The former TCU Horned Frog sits alone in third place at 4-under overall. Presley finished third in the 2014 Texas Amateur. Three players are tied for fourth place at 3-under 139, including 2004 Texas Amateur champion Zach Atkinson from Colleyville.
“I played pretty steady all day,” said Atkinson, who drained six birdies Saturday. “I kind of ran out of steam coming in.”
Tied with Atkinson are Andre Garcia from Mansfield and Preston Stanley of Katy. There are 12 players under par headed into Sunday’s final 18 holes. Eight of them, including first-round leader David Lee, are within five shots of Bennett. Fifty-four players made the 36-hole cut.
Saturday’s scoring average was 75.65, a bit higher than Friday, and the number of under-par rounds dipped from 14 to seven. Part of that could be attributed to a slight breeze throughout the day and to Bent Tree drying out after heavy rains early in the week. The brawny 484-yard, par-4 sixth hole continues to be the most difficult, with the field averaging more than a half-shot over par at 4.53.
The final round begins at 7:30 a.m. Sunday. An awards ceremony will be held immediately after the conclusion of play.
To view second round results from the 106th Texas Amateur presented by Insperity, please click here.