AUSTIN – Granbury golf coach Steve Ward remembered the moment he realized he had something special in Travis Benson.
“He was a freshman, and he shot in the 90s one day in a tournament, then he came right back the next and shot in the 70s,” said Ward.
“It was an improvement of about 20 strokes. I knew right then we were on to something great in days to come. For a freshman to show that much mental strength and character was remarkable.”
Along with being a great coach, you can also call Ward a master of understatement. Benson went on to become probably the greatest golfer to swing a club for Granbury High.
And, despite having one of the worst days of his career Monday at the 4A State Tournament, shooting an 81, Benson left his mark on the program with a strong comeback Tuesday.
Benson roared back in the final round of his high school career and shot a 68. It was arguably his most impressive round as a Pirate, and for more than just the score.
“Last night I said to myself, ‘This is your last round of high school golf, go have fun and leave a good impression,’” said Benson, referencing his thoughts after the disastrous first round.
Regardless of what he did Tuesday, Benson’s impression was already sculpted, and it’s a great one. He’s that rare individual whose talent is matched with consistent style, class and an ever humble attitude.
It’s not uncommon for him to sink a 30-foot putt, as he did Monday for a birdie, and rush over to congratulate another player whose shot was nowhere as impressive as his. And in those few times when someone does hit a better shot than him, he’s right there leading the applause.
Benson’s final contribution to the GHS golf program as a player was setting a great example for his teammates, most notably the younger ones. Sophomores Briggs Berry and Zac Wall and junior Baker White were all paying close attention to their team leader, and he knew it.
“I learned that even if it’s a bad round, you can still come back strong,” said Berry. “Travis is incredible.”
Wall, in fact, made it very clear that he wants to follow in Benson’s footsteps.
“Anybody who can come back from a tough round like he had Monday and shoot 68 the next day, that takes something special,” said Wall. “It makes me want to work even harder.”
With four consecutive birdies on holes 9-12, Benson was back where he belonged Tuesday, shooting lights-out. He reminded everyone that he just might have what it takes inside him to someday play this game for a living.
“I’ve thought about that a lot,” he said. “I think I’ve got the mental game for it.”
Ward said Benson is only a couple of stages from fulfilling his dream of playing as a professional. Those could very well come after playing for New Mexico State University and competing on the tough summer tournament circuit in the next few years.
Benson’s opening round is unexplainable, really, except to say that’s golf. Just when you think you’ve got it mastered, it will find a way to show even the greatest player who is truly the master.
And, as great players do, Benson saw opportunity even in the most challenging moment.
“It was a chance for me to show the younger guys that adversity is the best thing ever,” said Benson. “I hated that first round. Frustration is the exact word for how I was feeling.
“But I think I’m a better golfer today because of it, and hopefully they’re a little better also.”
Benson’s college coach was also taking notice to see how his new player would react. No doubt he was pleased with Benson’s calmness during the most stressful moment of his career so far.
“Oh, I guarantee you he was happy,” said Ward. “That was leadership Travis showed.
“I’ve done this 16 years and had a lot of players go play college, and he’s the most complete player I’ve ever had.”
Benson has come a long way from a freshman who grabbed attention with the assorted interesting hats he’d wear in a tournament. Now he simply wears a cap like everyone else and lets his game make the statement.
It speaks loudly and gracefully, and it’s certainly worth a listen.
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