THE NAME OF THE GAME
Daniel Bennett is looking forward to building on his incredibly successful foundation. Gary Lemke
GOLFRSA SQUAD WATCH
Another product of the GolfRSA conveyor belt of excellence is making a name for himself. So it’s important to get that name right. “I don’t really mind. But if I had to go with either Dan or Daniel it would be Daniel.” We’d better get used to it. Still only 18, Daniel Bennett is about to embark on his next life journey.
When we spoke, South Africa’s top-ranked junior golfer was awaiting his Matric results, having finished up at Curro Hazeldene in Pretoria. “I’m confident of my results, with the exception of maths,” he tells us. He and over 900 000 Matric learners no doubt.
In the distance, in the second half of 2024, is a new life in the US, where Bennett will be taking up business management at the University Of Texas in Austin. It’s the perfect environment in which to shape his golf career. “Yes, it’s the biggest, most well-known student-athlete golf university there is,” he says. Those who have become household names include Jordan Spieth and Scottie Scheffler, and South Africa’s own Brandon Stone and Dylan Frittelli.
Bennett captured the headlines when he set a record 21-stroke victory at the Nomads SA Boys Under-19 Stroke Play Championship at Pecanwood in March 2023. That achievement remains his career highlight.
Extra time with Bennett.
Bennett captured the headlines when he set a record 21-stroke victory at the Nomads SA Boys Under-19 Stroke Play Championship at Pecanwood in March 2023. That achievement remains his career highlight
His 34-under total of 254 was the lowest-to-par round ever scored in South Africa, eclipsing that of Mark McNulty. Bennett’s winning margin was one stroke wider than the previous mark set by Aldrich Potgieter a year earlier.
Life, and golf, has accelerated since then. Among his more recent experiences was competing at the Investec SA Open at Blair Atholl Golf & Equestrian Estate and at the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek a week later.
He missed the cut on both occasions, shooting 72 and 79 at the SA Open, and 75 and 70 at the Alfred Dunhill. The youngster was in good company at Leopard Creek, scoring lower than the likes of Branden Grace, Shaun Norris, Ross Fisher and other multiple professional winners.
“It was challenging getting my game into shape for those two DP World Tour/Sunshine Tour events. I missed so much golf with schoolwork and not playing any tournaments. I went there straight out of exams and I also had tendinitis in my right wrist,” he says.
After sharing the lead for the Freddie Tait Cup (leading amateur trophy) at the SA Open with Altin van der Merwe after a first-round 72, Bennett found himself holding a cold putter. However, he wouldn’t swap the experience for anything.
“I learned more in those two weeks with the pros than I have done in my entire career so far. Among the things that were new to me was that the week is from the Monday to the Sunday. I’d only ever been used to the junior and amateur set-up which is four to five days max.
BACK TO WINNING WAYS
Bennett starts the year off with a bang.
I feel like it’s a lot easier to score lower now because I know it is doable. I also won the Western Province Amateur, finishing on 19 under
“The other difference was the intensity the pros show in their prep, they are a lot more focused. The golf courses are also set up much tougher than the ones we play on and have are more difficult pin placements.”
Bennett had a busy end of year and start to 2024. “I had the Junior Interprovincial before Christmas and I also went up and down to Durban quite a bit, moving my stuff [Christmas was spent with parents down there].”
He has been living with his coach and mentor Nico van Rensburg at Silver Lakes. “Nico has always been there for me and he’s guided me in the right direction. He makes sure I’m always doing the correct things and the fundamentals, and he made my schooling a priority over golf.”
Bennett, a GolfRSA National Squad member, had followed up his win at the Northern Amateur with that record-breaking performance at Pecanwood and things didn’t stop there. “I feel like it’s a lot easier to score lower now because I know it is doable. I also won the Western Province Amateur, finishing on 19 under with scores of 67, 67, 69 and 66. I feel like those kinds of low scores are going to happen more frequently, which is exciting.”
What has been the reaction to his ground-breaking 2023? “To be honest, back in March everyone was in a bit of shock, except for my dad because he knows my capabilities. I called him after the Nomads tournament and he told me, ‘It’s about time you played well’ and I laughed. My dad has always been so invested in my golf and wanted me to do well, and I used to tell him to be patient. I’m so glad I’ve been able to show him that.”
Given that Bennett has dipped his toes into the uber-competitive professional waters, what lies ahead in terms of him taking that step from the amateur to paid ranks? “The plan is to turn pro after I’ve finished at the University of Texas. I’m spending four years there from August, so we’re looking at the end of 2028 at the earliest.”
In the meantime, get used to the name. It’s Daniel Bennett.
Daniel Bennett shattered three South African golfing records as he marched to a wire-to-wire 21-stroke victory at the Nomads SA Boys Under-19 Stroke Play Championship at Pecanwood Golf and Country Estate in 2023.
ERNEST BLIGNAULT/GOLFRSA/CARL FOURIE/HEINRICH HELMBOLD/SUNSHINE TOUR