After finishing up LPGA Qualifying School in a tie for top spot last December, Rebecca Lee-Bentham has enjoyed an eventful off-season in preparation for her 2013 campaign. With one full year of LPGA experience now under her belt, combined with a stellar showing at Q-School, some of her long time supporters believe 2013 could be her breakthrough year.
One of them is Taylor Pendrith, a current member of the Canadian men's national team, who fondly recalls her abilities on the golf course from their days as high school classmates in Richmond Hill, Ontario.
"I was very impressed with how good of a player she was back then, kind of envious of how talented she was," said Pendrith, himself a third year standout with the Kent State University golf team. "It was pretty obvious that she was going to be a great player in the years to come."
He points to Lee-Bentham's performance at the final stage of Qualifying School as a significant achievement heading into the 2013 LPGA season.
"She played outstanding," said Pendrith about Lee-Bentham who shot a 5-under 67 on the final day to finish in a tie for first place with Thailand's Moriya Jutanugarn.
"I think that finishing at the top of the leaderboard is reassuring and helps her confidence going into this season," he added. "I'm sure there will be more victories in her future."
Lee-Bentham agrees with her former Bayview Secondary classmate about the significance of finishing Q-School on top.
"I knew how many good and deserving players were out there fighting; and to know that I came out on top is such a grateful feeling," she said.
"Just felt very grateful for all the support God has given me to make it this far," Lee Bentham added. "I have a lot to be thankful for and know that I couldn't have done it without the help from my family and friends."
The former Canadian national team member was also quick to credit Golf Canada for the support over the years.
"Being a part of the National Team program throughout my junior and amateur career allowed me to travel and compete around the world. I believe that experience has played a big part in getting me to where I am today," said Lee-Bentham. "It also provided me with a strong support system that always helped guide me in the right direction."
One person who has played an important role in guiding Lee-Bentham's development is former Canadian women's team head coach, and current head coach of the men's program, Derek Ingram.
Ingram believes the 2011 Canadian amateur champion is within striking distance of not only being competitive but victorious at the highest level.
"She's addressed the fact that she needs to get longer off the tee," said Ingram. "You can never get too long but I think she's now long enough to win out there.
"She has to continue to work on her short game, it's a strength, but it needs to be very polished," he continued. "Rebecca also needs to be aggressive and go for par fives when she has the opportunity because those are birdie holes that you just don't want to give up."
"She's just got a ton of game and a ton of guts," Ingram added. "Rebecca's starting to believe that she's got the game and the ability to compete at the highest level; and if she plays her game, she's going to have excellent finishes and a chance to ultimately break into the winner's circle."
For her part, the hard working 20-year-old takes pride in knowing that she's made the most of her off-season to address key aspects of her game.
"I've been working on my overall skill level, trying to improve every part of my game," Lee-Bentham pointed out. "Building confidence by knowing that I've worked hard to become a stronger player."
In addition to putting in extra practice rounds, she also kept busy away from the golf course.
Besides returning home briefly to visit her family, the Toronto native also took part in a training camp with the Golf Association of Ontario.
"I got the opportunity to travel with the GAO Junior Team to Tucson, Arizona for a training camp to help out as a mentor," said the young LPGA golfer. "Seems not too long ago I was in their shoes, so I enjoyed getting the chance to change roles."
Lee-Bentham's off-season was also highlighted by the announcement of her endorsement deal with Galvin Green, becoming the company's first Canadian ambassador.
"Galvin Green is big in Europe and is starting to make its way over to North America," she said. "I'm excited to be a part of their brand and to showcase a great line of golf apparel."
Lee-Bentham will have the opportunity to showcase her new sponsor's collection when she kicks off her 2013 season at the Australian Ladies Masters, a Ladies European Tour event which runs from February 1st to 3rd.
"I'm just excited to kick start the season again," said Lee-Bentham. "I feel like I've had a very productive off season; and looking forward to what the new year has in store."
On the topic of a breakthrough year in 2013, Lee-Bentham believes the pieces are now in place.
"I can't predict a breakthrough but I know that with last year's experience, I've become a better player," she said. "I believe that with faith and hard work, anything is possible."