November 23, 2015

We could have gone with Keegan Bradley (see Vermont), given his successes as a teenager in Wyoming, but we’re giving the honor to the homegrown lad, Jim Benepe. Born and raised in Sheridan, Benepe showed promise as a teen by winning the 1982 Wyoming Stroke Play Championship and the 1983 Wyoming State Match Play Championship. He attended college at Northwestern and claimed the Big 10 Championship and All-American status in 1986. He found quick success as a pro, winning the British Columbia Open in 1987 as well as the Canadian Tour’s Order of Merit and Rookie of the Year that year. Benepe broke through Down Under in 1988, winning the Victorian Open in Melbourne and then set sail for the PGA Tour. On a sponsor’s exemption at the Beatrice Western Open, his first-ever PGA Tour event, Benepe played well but seemed destined for a runner-up finish. But when Oregon’s best golfer, Peter Jacobsen, double-bogied the final hole, Benepe found himself a Tour winner. This feat catapulted him to Rookie of the Year honors. Injuries and poor play forced Benepe away from the game after 1991, though he did post a T-3 at the B.C. Open in 1990, a T-14 at that year’s U.S. Open, and a T-7 at the 1991 Canadian Open. Benepe still lives in Sheridan.