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Chance meeting with NFL icon spins Ben Silverman’s career forward

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Chance meeting with NFL icon spins Ben Silverman’s career forward

Silverman headed back to PGA TOUR in 2024

    Written by Kevin Prise @PGATOURKevin

    Aaron Rodgers was a fan of Ben Silverman before the two even met.

    Their chance encounter helped spin Silverman’s career forward, and now the 35-year-old Canadian is headed back to the PGA TOUR.

    After two TOUR seasons, Silverman had a roughshod 2020-21 Korn Ferry Tour campaign and lost full status, relegated to the Monday qualifying circuit. He played his way into the TOUR’s 2022 WM Phoenix Open, saw Rodgers during the Wednesday celebrity pro-am and decided to introduce himself.

    Turns out, Rodgers knew exactly who Silverman was.

    Unbeknownst to Silverman, Rodgers was an avid golf fan who recognized the name from television leaderboards – “a golf nut,” Silverman said. They chatted for 10 minutes and proceeded to stay in touch via Instagram. They’ve discussed the mental approach to elite athletics, finding parallels between football and golf.

    Rodgers and Silverman’s interview after winning the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

    “He’s given me a couple tips of what he does, breathing techniques when he’s in the pocket under pressure,” Silverman said. “Topics of conversation about elite performance and just being in a good state of mind. It’s just really cool.”

    Fast forward a year-and-a-half, and Silverman is playing some of his best golf. A renewed approach to distance off the tee, fitness and the mental game have propelled him to six top-10s in 11 starts, including a victory at The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic at The Abaco Club – which he entered on a sponsor exemption, having commenced the season with low-level conditional status as a past champion. Silverman crossed the threshold for a spot in the top-30 on the Korn Ferry Tour’s season-long standings – and a PGA TOUR return – with a TX finish at the Price Cutter Charity Championship presented by Dr Pepper in late July.

    3 Things to Know | Ben Silverman | The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic

    For Silverman, who left high school as a 12-handicap and had to try out for his college team at Johnson & Wales – then again at Florida Atlantic, after transferring before his junior year – the resilience fits his life’s arc.

    Silverman always knew he wanted to be a professional athlete, but he wasn’t necessarily bestowed the golfing gifts of a Rahm or McIlroy. He played several sports as a kid in Toronto – hockey, volleyball, badminton and even Ultimate (frisbee) – before deciding in high school to go all-in with golf. He gravitated toward the game’s individualism, merit-based structure and eternal challenges.

    “I don’t think it’s talked about enough,” Silverman said, “how mentally difficult golf is.”

    After turning pro, Silverman bounced around mini-tours while working part-time, struggling to make ends meet, before an acquaintance and colleagues offered to sponsor the young, hard-working pro. They’d pay his entry fees, rent, groceries – freeing up Silverman to work on his game at any hour. It paid off with Korn Ferry Tour membership in 2016 and a victory the following year, en route to his first TOUR card.

    Silverman finished No. 136 on the 2018 FedExCup standings to maintain conditional status, but the bottom fell out the following year. With just two top-25s in 24 starts, he finished 181st in the season-long standings, which meant a return to the Korn Ferry Tour. He was without a top-10 finish in 32 starts during the combined season, meaning a return to the hinterlands in 2022.

    Looking back, Silverman has an idea of what went wrong. He didn’t want it badly enough.

    “I wasn’t practicing with the same intensity while on TOUR as when I was trying to get there,” Silverman said. “The goal wasn’t really to win; the goal was to play on the PGA TOUR ever since I was 16. I didn’t have a goal past that; it was like, ‘I would love to win,’ but deep down the driving force wasn’t there, because I was already happy.”

    As for the game’s top tier, “they keep practicing like they’re not there,” Silverman surmised. “That’s the only way to stay there.”

    The chance meeting with Rodgers at TPC Scottsdale helped shift things in the right direction, and the trend has snowballed. Silverman was simply grateful for a spot in Abaco, which he converted into a playoff victory, and he hasn’t looked back.

    Things came full circle after that win in the Bahamas. None other than Rodgers was following along, gearing up for an appearance at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Afterward, Rodgers texted the tournament director with a nudge to offer Silverman one of the remaining sponsor invites. The request was obliged, and the duo spent the week together at Pebble Beach, teaming to win the event’s pro-celebrity portion.

    When Silverman returns to the Monterey Peninsula next season, it will be as a full-fledged PGA TOUR member.

    Ben Silverman's off-week training routine

    Kevin Prise is an associate editor for the PGA TOUR. He is on a lifelong quest to break 80 on a course that exceeds 6,000 yards and to see the Buffalo Bills win a Super Bowl. Follow Kevin Prise on Twitter.

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