At one point during this year’s Masters, Sam Bennett, the Texas A&M senior with a sad backstory and a motivational tattoo, was in position to win over $1 million, which as an amateur he wouldn’t have been able to collect. Asked how that felt, he hung his head for a moment, then quipped, “NIL has been pretty good this year.”
NIL just got better.
Before teeing it up in the SEC championship tournament this week, where he tied for 16th and his team got knocked out in the semi-finals by Florida, the eventual champion, Bennett announced a new deal with T-Mobile, which he stacks atop long-running contracts with Suncast and Ping as well as what his agent, Matt Bollero, calls “alumni support.”
Terms of the deal weren’t announced, but after finishing the second round in second place, Bennett ended the Masters in a tie for 16th (again), which paid out $261,000, an amount that it seems unlikely he’ll miss. “The opportunity cost of playing in the Masters far outweighed the potential earnings from that week, particularly in interest from big companies,” Bollero said in a phone interview this week.
Translation: Bennett’s killing it.
More important, he set himself up to cash in even more once he turns pro, which he’s planning to do after the NCAA championships, which take place May 26-31 at Grayhawk Golf Club in Arizona. He’ll make his debut at either the Memorial (June 1-4) or the U.S. Open (June 15-18).
“We’ve been building relationships that could open the door to fuller deals once he turns, but we can’t negotiate any of that until he’s done with college,” Bollero said. “He’s done well and will continue to.”
Bennett’s NIL journey began after he earned a spot in the Dubai Desert Classic in the winter of 2022 then played in a few PGA Tour events. He made the cut at the 2022 U.S. Open in June, then won the U.S. Amateur in August.
That run of good play and resultant name recognition landed him an equipment deal with Ping and hat patch deal with Suncast, a massive outdoors company that had left golf sponsorship and returned to partner with Bennett. “They’ve been tremendous, and they’ve loved working with Sam,” Bollero said. “They even created a bobblehead of him.”
He also has a deal with Upper Deck and various companies have popped up to “test the water for a week here and there,” said Bollero, which he believes “gives them a chance to peek behind the curtain” for potential longer-term deals once Bennett goes pro.
The success follows his strong play, but also his heart-wrenching story. In 2020, Bennett’s father lost a battle with Alzheimer’s, but shortly before he passed, he gave Sam a note that read: ”Don’t wait to do something. Pops.” Bennett had an exact replica of the note, in his father’s handwriting, tattooed on the inside of his left forearm where he can see it every time he addresses the ball.
“Everything Sam has gotten, he’s earned because of how he is as a human, how he was raised, and how he’s played on the course,” Bollero said. “He’s in position to have a lot more success.”