Mike Benning joined Lee Janzen as the winner of a major golf title in recent weeks, only for his effort at the U.S. Open, Janzen received more recognition, and a lot more money.
Benning's reward was more personal -- a sense of accomplishment and proof that determination and hard work do pay off.
He earned that by winning the stroke- and match-play titles at the56th annual International One-Arm championships in England.
Benning grew up with golf at Congressional Country Club while his father, Bob (currently director of golf at Stoneleigh GC in Round Hill, Va.) was head professional at the Bethesda layout.
Benning, 28, employed in customer relations for Foot-Joy and Titleist, was a pretty good Junior in the Washington area until a rare form of cancer forced the amputation of his left arm below the elbow at age 14.
There has been no recurrence of the disease since then, and Benning went on to graduate from Arizona State with a degree in business. Now he's a world champion, too.
One of 60 world-wide entries competing at the Seaford Golf Course in Sussex on the southeast coast, Benning won the stroke-play phase with rounds of 80-81--161.
With the top 16 finishers advancing to match play, Benning reached the final by dispatching four foes, none going past the 16th green. In the final, no more than one hole separated the two, and when Benning went 1 down at the 11th, it marked the first time he had been behind in any of his matches. The American rallied with wins at the 12th and 14th, then preserved the 1-up margin with a four-foot par putt.
"I understand winning both happens maybe once every 10 years or so, and that made it even better," Benning said from his Newport (R.I.) home last week. "I knew going in, because of comparative scores from the past, that I'd probably finish in the top 10, but to win -- I was pleasantly surprised."
Through the help of National Institutes of Health programs, the National Handicap Ski Association, and the National Amputee Golf Association, Benning worked his way back to the links after his surgery.
"They were part of the mental, as well as physical rehabilitation," he said. "It helps to see others go through the same struggles.
"This was my first trip abroad. It was a world championship, and I wanted to compete, to see where I stood with my peers. I prepared twomonths for this thing, and I went there with intentions of winning."
Benning, who had a 14-handicap prior to his surgery, worked it back to a 14, and currently carries a 12.
"I don't want to be a one-time winner, either. I want to put my name on that trophy some more times. Besides, it's much more " fun to talk golf than medicine."
Divot the Clown will be the feature attraction in an introduction-to-golf event at Pine Ridge Golf Course, Thursday, beginning at 9:30 a.m. The nationwide program is sponsored by Spalding.
There is no charge -- youngsters will be fitted for a club, and will receive a visor and a sleeve of balls -- but pre-registration with the Baltimore Municipal Golf Corporation, (410) 444-4933, is required.
Women's Trans National
The 63rd annual event begins tomorrow at the Shannopin Country Club in suburban Pittsburgh with the first of two qualifying rounds to determine the 64 places in the match-play draw. Those with area ties are Sarah Ingram, formerly of Owings Mills; Jane Fitzgerald, Kensington; Andrea Kraus, Baltimore; Lynne Hunter, Ellicott City; Cindy Peterka, Towson; Geri Vartabedian, Bowie; and Sally Krueger, formerly of Bethesda.
A field of 157 (86 pros, 71 amateurs) is set for the first round of the 73rd annual Maryland Open championship, listed for tomorrow through Wednesday at Crofton CC. . . . The monthly meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Association of Golf Course Superintendents will be held Tuesday at Washington Golf & CC in Arlington, Va. . . . Jenny Chuasiriporn of Timonium will be after an unprecedented third consecutive girls title when the 19th annual Bobby Bowers Memorial begins a four-day run tomorrow with a qualifying round.
This week's schedule: Tomorrow -- Maryland Open, Crofton CC, 7 a.m.; Middle Atlantic Father-Son, Congressional CC; Free State Seniors, CC Woodmore, 11 a.m. Tuesday -- Maryland Open, Crofton CC, 7 a.m.; Women's Golf Association at CC Maryland and Hillendale CC, 9 a.m.; Entries open for Maryland State Mid-Amateur. Wednesday -- Maryland Open, Crofton CC, 7 a.m.; Entries close for USGA Amateur and Maryland State Juniors and Girls. Friday -- Middle Atlantic PGA pro-am, Hog Neck GC, Easton, 8 a.m.