A Young Terrapin Chases the Golden Bear

On  October 16,  1971, legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus took to the University of Maryland golf course to compete in an exhibition along with fellow golfers Lee Elder, Deane Beman, and Rick Bendall. The contest paired Nicklaus with Maryland’s team captain, Bendall, against former Maryland All-American Beman and PGA pro Elder. Elder became the first African-American to compete in the Masters tournament in 1975, and his teammate Beman went on to become the PGA Tour’s second commissioner. Of the four, it was Nicklaus’s first time playing the par-71 course in College Park.

The event, which raised money for the M Club athlete scholarship fund, started off with some complications after Nicklaus swung so hard on his first tee shot that he split his pants below the zipper. After a short 20-minute break and a borrowed pair of pants later, the match swiftly resumed. Following a dominating performance by Nicklaus on the front nine, it was Bendall who carried the weight for the pair on the back nine of the better-ball match. With a three-under-par score of 68, Nicklaus finished the day with the best score, followed by Bendall and Elder who shot 69 and Beman who shot 72. Bendall later commented, “That man (Nicklaus) plays a different course than the rest of us. He’s amazing.”

Despite playing among professionals, including the number-one golfer on the PGA tour, it was the young Maryland captain, Bendall,who had the eye-catching performance of the exhibition. In front of a crowd of about 2,500, Bendall proved that he had what it took to play with golf’s best. Bendall, the NCAA’s reigning driving champion at the time, would go on to finish 8th in the 1971 U.S. Amateurs, earning a spot in the 1972 Masters field. Yet Bendall knew he didn’t have enough skill to be a full-time pro and chose to go to medical school. He eventually became a family physician in Virginia.

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