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Ben Silverman’s life-changing month inspires bigger dreams

6 Min Read

Tour Insider

Ben Silverman’s life-changing month inspires bigger dreams

Won in Bahamas as sponsor exemption, then teamed with Aaron Rodgers for Pebble Beach pro-am title

    When the calendar turned to 2023, Ben Silverman said he felt awesome.

    He just needed a chance to prove why he felt that way.

    Silverman won The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic at The Abaco Club – after gaining a spot in the second Korn Ferry Tour event of 2023 via a sponsor exemption – and followed that up with a tandem title alongside Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

    Suddenly he has converted conditional Korn Ferry Tour status to full membership; at No. 4 on the season-long standings, he’s well positioned to regain PGA TOUR membership for 2024.

    Opportunity knocked, in the form of just his second sponsor exemption in 13 years as a pro. He answered, and then some.

    “I was kind of in a state of gratitude,” Silverman said of his week in the Bahamas. “Player dining is on the beach right on the ocean and every morning it’s gorgeous out … I’m just soaking it all in. I was just going to do everything I could with this opportunity because my game is in great shape – but I’m also going to enjoy this.”

    “I was just in a place where I was like, ‘Man, I need an opportunity.’ Winning was in the back of my mind because that’s always the main goal, but that wasn’t on my mind going into it. It was more of … last year when I finally got a start in April, I made the cut and finished 60-something, but that still reshuffled me into the whole next run of tournaments. Just making a cut would give me somewhat of a schedule. That was important. At the same time, I was just feeling super happy and grateful to be given an opportunity.”

    It’s been quite the start to 2023 for Silverman, as he turns his focus to regaining a PGA TOUR card for next season. Even at 35, he’s never been in better shape – physically or mentally – to take on the world’s best.

    Silverman, who won the 2017 Price Cutter Charity Championship presented by Dr Pepper to earn PGA TOUR status for the first time, spent most of the offseason trying to gain even more speed. The holiday season be darned, he was out there trying to ramp up his driver’s whip. When he teed it up at The Honda Classic in mid-February, he was averaging 173 mph of ball speed – he used to struggle to even hit 170.

    “I’m in a different place then I’ve been on the golf course,” said Silverman, “and it feels great.”

    Silverman’s backstory in golf has been well told in his native Canada. He grew up playing hockey but didn’t get past the AA minor circuit. He didn’t watch Mike Weir’s 2003 Masters win like his countrymen on TOUR now, but did check it out on video later. He was too small to keep going with hockey and ended up working at a Canadian golf retail outlet as a teen. His first junior tournament, at 16, he submitted a score of 118.

    “I’ll tell you what, I was trying on every shot,” Silverman told the Toronto Star in 2017, after earning a PGA TOUR card for the first time. “I just wasn’t very good at that point.”

    Fast-forward almost 15 years and Silverman earned a TOUR card after his Price Cutter Charity Championship win (it came a year after fellow Canadian Mackenzie Hughes won the same tournament – and Silverman used the same caddie Hughes did) and kept it for the two following seasons.

    Silverman ended up back at Q-School and made it Second Stage last fall. He shot 10 under at Plantation Preserve in Florida – usually a satisfactory score at that site – but ended up missing by three.

    “I felt really, really good. And even though I missed at Second Stage, I still played solid. It’s just, the scores were super low. I played solid but didn’t score great and I left not feeling (that bad),” said Silverman with a big laugh. “I was like, ‘Well, this sucks, because I can’t improve on my conditional past-champion status on the Korn Ferry Tour… but the game feels great.’”

    Silverman ended up going back to the drawing board and planning out what the year would look like with qualifiers, potential starts and mini-tour adventures – basically a re-run of his 2022. He just desperately wanted a chance to compete. Silverman tried to get into the Great Abaco Classic last season, but his request was declined. This season, though, he got the answer he was looking for.

    Silverman carded rounds of 71-65 to enter the weekend in contention, and he ended up defeating Cody Blick in a playoff. For the first time since 2016, he said, he was able to create the schedule he wanted – and with two young kids at home, that’s invaluable.

    There was one extra addition, however. He got called as a sponsor exemption for the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am not long after his win in the Bahamas. Silverman said he wrote to the tournament director a few times before and updated him with a letter after he qualified for the U.S. Open last year. He had made a connection with Rodgers after Monday qualifying for the 2022 WM Phoenix Open.

    “I saw him coming off the course (in Phoenix) and wanted to introduce myself,” said Silverman of his first meeting with the quarterback. “We got along well and he’s a massive sports guy and golf nut – he follows golf religiously. He knew who I was and had seen me on TOUR (and) we kept in touch. Since Max Homa wasn’t playing and he saw me winning in the Bahamas, he was pushing hard for me to get into the tournament so he could play with me – which was amazing.”

    Silverman admits with a laugh that Rodgers was “carrying him” through the bulk of the tournament, but with Rodgers out of each of the last 10 holes at Pebble Beach on the final day, they used all of Silverman’s scores and ended up winning by one.

    With a couple of PGA TOUR starts now in the rear-view mirror, Silverman is all-in with the Korn Ferry Tour and its schedule for the balance of 2023. He’ll try to play the RBC Canadian Open this summer – the course is less than 15 miles from where he grew up – but otherwise it’s all eyes on the No. 1 spot on the Korn Ferry Tour Points List. The top 30 at season’s end will earn 2024 PGA TOUR membership.

    Silverman’s speed is up. His mental mindset is clear. And while he felt great when the calendar turned to 2023, he’s hoping there will be an even better reason to be excited when it clicks to 2024 – a PGA TOUR card.

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