This has been a big week for Thornhill, Ont.'s Ben Silverman, a professional golfer who has been making a sharp upwards move in his career on the GOLFslinger.com Tour, formerly the Fuzion Minor League Golf Tour. He won the Broward November Classic on Nov. 12th at the Jacaranda Golf Club in Plantation, Fla., finished second in the Jupiter Classic on Nov. 14th at the Abacoa Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla., and then returned home to celebrate his 25th birthday on Nov. 15th with his family.
Silverman has won nine GOLFslinger tournaments, including four since the beginning of October. The tournaments are mostly one-day events that pay $1,000 to the winner. Four tournaments known as "majors" are also on the schedule, each paying $10,000 to the winner. Silverman won a major at Bear Lakes Country Club in West Palm Beach in mid-September, shooting 68-66 to pick up the $10,000 first prize. He's won $53,340.20 on the GOLFslinger.com Tour, eighth on the career money list. He's second on this year's money list, with just under $38,000. The Tour runs 12 months a year.
As it happens, Silverman has news to report of a likely sponsor. The fellow is from Baltimore and had played some golf earlier in the fall with Silverman. He was impressed and then played last month with him at the WorldWoods club in Brooksville, Fla. to have a further look. The former tour pro Wayne DeFrancesco accompanied them to offer his view of Silverman's potential. DeFrancesco now teaches full-time.
He liked what he saw in Silverman, and a further meeting was arranged for last Sunday, Nov. 11th. DeFrancesco has recently started working with Len Mattiace, who lost a playoff to Mike Weir for the 2003 Masters. Mattiace tore his ACL in both knees in a skiing accident later that year, which did great damage, of course, to his career. But he's been back playing for some time, and started to work with DeFrancesco after being with Jim McLean for many years. He's won twice on the PGA Tour, both in the 2002 season.
Silverman told me this week that the meeting with his potential sponsor went well, and that a couple of fellows will provide him with enough funds to cover his expenses for up to a couple of years. He figures the deal will be set by Feb. 1. He plans to play as many Monday qualifiers for the Web.com Tour and PGA Tour as he can, and is eagerly awaiting news of when the dates and venue for the spring qualifying school for the 2013 PGA Tour Canada season will be firmed up. He'd like to play what was formerly the Canadian Tour.
"I'd love to play the Canadian Tour," Silverman said, "now that the PGA Tour has taken it over. It would be a good way to get to the Web.com Tour. (The leading money-winner will earn a full-time playing card for the Web.com Tour, and the next four finishers will get conditional status). But I have to qualify first."
It's hardly been a conventional path for Silverman, who now lives most of the year in home near the PGA National Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., where he rents a bedroom. (Details of his background can be found here.) Suffice it to say that he wasn't to the country club born. The Mandarin Golf and Country Club in Markham, Ont. welcomed him as a sponsored junior member when he was 16, and he's been full swing ahead at golf since.
Silverman has been working for five years with Larry Levow, the director of instruction at the Country Club of Miami in Hialeah, Fla. He has also been working with Leigh Anderson. She's a mental and fitness coach who is based in Columbus, Ohio. They work a lot with video, as most players do today. He's studied what Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler do well, with a view towards improving his own mechanics so that he can make his swing more efficient and repeat it under the gun. He's been doing that pretty well.
I played last summer at the Maple Downs Golf and Country Club with Silverman and Paul Spears, a Maple member (as am I), and a low-handicap golfer himself. Spears has been behind Silverman for some time and believes he can and will continue to progress. Silverman had just read Dave Stockton's book Unconscious Putting, which, he said, "completely changed my putting in the last three months. I used to be so mechanical."
Silverman hits the ball plenty long, in the Matt Kuchar range. His clubhead speed with a driver is 110 mph, which would be about average on the PGA Tour, and very playable. He likes to hit different shots, shots he sees in his mind's eye. At Maple Downs I saw a young man with a lot of raw talent. I also saw a young man committed to his future, which is why he's living in Palm Beach Gardens, working on his game so hard, and playing on the GOLFslinger Tour.
There's also something else in the future for Silverman. He's been honoured with a spot on Canada's golf team that will compete in next July's Maccabiah Games at the Caesarea Golf Club in Israel. Silverman need only raise the money to participate. When we last spoke about the matter, he'd raised about half of the $9,000 the trip will cost. Then there's an ultimate goal, besides reaching the PGA Tour.
"I really want to make the 2016 Olympics team (in Rio de Janeiro), so playing for Canada in the Maccabiah Games would be a great experience to get a feel of what it's like to play in that kind of tournament," Silverman said.
And there you have it, an introduction to Ben Silverman, a golfer who did not do much in amateur golf, who did not go through Golf Canada's training programs or play for Team Canada, and who did not attend a major U.S. college on a golf scholarship. Golf is a game for individuals, and there are many ways to make one's way forward.
It will be interesting to see just what "forward" means in Silverman's case. So far, so good.
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Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association's first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada's Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 12 books, including Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); This Round's on Me (2009); and the latest Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf's Mysterious Genius (2012). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Lorne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein