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Silverman set for return to the PGA Tour

Ben Silverman Ben Silverman - The Canadian Press

Ben Silverman can’t wait to get back to the PGA Tour.

After spending the past four years playing primarily on the Korn Ferry Tour, he’s set to rejoin golf’s top tier starting in January.

Sure, the purses are huge, and the perks are outstanding, but for Silverman, the most satisfying part is the reward for all the hard work he’s put in to earn another shot.

“I’m very, very excited,” he said. “It’s been four years since I’ve been full time on the PGA Tour, and I think I’ve built up an appreciation of what it means to be playing there.”

Last season was a notable one for Silverman. He began the year without full-time status on the Korn Ferry Tour and sitting 1,017th in the Official World Golf Rankings. In most cases, that means getting a handful of last-minute starts and battling against those playing full time.

But Silverman managed to turn a sponsor exemption into a playoff win at the Bahamas Great Abaco Classic in January, and, along with two other runner-up finishes including a playoff loss, ended the season in fifth on the Korn Ferry Tour points list and 153rd in the world rankings.

The result was a promotion back to the PGA Tour where he’ll start the new year in Hawaii. The achievement really didn’t sink in until after the final event, the Korn Ferry Tour Championship in October.

“During the season, I was always trying to focus on playing and I don’t think I was fully appreciative of what happened,” he admitted. “Now that I’ve had some time to digest everything, it’s really hit me.”

On his first trip to the PGA Tour in 2018, Silverman managed just two top 10s and ended the season in 136th spot on the FedEx Cup standings. A year later, he recorded two top-25s and fell to 181st, getting relegated to the Korn Ferry Tour.

This time around, he’s older, wiser, and going to the PGA Tour with a different attitude.

“I think the last time my goal was to make the PGA Tour and I didn’t really have a goal past that,” reflected Silverman, who will turn 36 on Nov. 15. “This time, my No. 1 goal is to win on Tour. I’m going to enter every tournament with that as my attitude on the opening round and work as hard as possible to make it happen.”

Hard work is nothing new for the Thornhill, Ont., native, who didn’t take up golf until his mid-teens and famously shot 116 in his first golf tournament. He stayed with his dream of playing professional golf because, he admitted, he didn’t have a Plan B. Since those early days, he has made a career out of believing in his abilities and putting in plenty of hard work. No stone has been left unturned in his search for golf success.

His Instagram posts, for instance, show him grinding it out in the gym with workouts that would leave mere mortals gasping for air after only a few moments.

He trains, he said, not as a golfer but rather as a professional athlete. While many of the exercises are targeted at the muscles used in his sport, a lot are for overall fitness and strength. It’s all designed to allow him to make it through a long, grinding season on the PGA Tour without injuries.

There is also a large collection of videos showing him on the range, working on his game, from driver through to the putter. Many of them are alongside his coach, Jeff Leishman, who has played an integral role in Silverman’s growth.

That relationship was formulated in March 2021 when the two met at a Golf Canada gathering in Florida, where top golfers sat down with the governing body to provide feedback on what its role should be in the development of the country’s best players.

Even though he’d never been a part of any Golf Canada program or received any support, Silverman was keen to offer his opinions in hopes it might help the next wave of up-and-comers.

After the meeting, Leishman and Silverman chatted at length and the two struck up a relationship that continues to prove successful.

“I was impressed with just how focused he was,” recalled Leishman, who lives in Jupiter, Fla., but is originally from Alliston, Ont. “He was very clear on what he wanted to have happen. He was driven and had lots of energy. He’s also very ambitious, but not in a far-fetched way. His skills line up with his ambitions and he’s not afraid to work hard.”

In the last few years, with Leishman’s help, Silverman has sharpened all parts of his game. He’s added seven miles per hour clubhead speed, through use of the Stack System, a program of weighted swing sticks created by Sasho Mackenzie of Antigonish, N.S. That’s allowed him to keep up in a game that increasingly favours longer hitters. His short game and putting also get lots of attention to complete a well-rounded arsenal.

At the end of 2022, Silverman sat down with his coach and showed him the goals he’d written down for his upcoming season. They were lofty but realistic, Leishman remembered.

Silverman achieved them all by the end of January.

As for this year’s goal of winning on the PGA Tour, Leishman thinks it’s well within his capabilities.

“As his coach, my biased view would be that he’s going to win,” Leishman said. “But from an objective standpoint, I think he’s demonstrated he has the skills and performance to win, and I think he will have multiple chances to win. Whether he wins will depend on a lot of things, some of which are out of control but he’s definitely capable.”

Silverman certainly won’t take life on the PGA Tour for granted this time around. The benefits at this level are plentiful. The courses are generally immaculate, new range balls of all brands, courtesy cars for every player, day care for the kids (he has two boys, four and eight), great meals in the locker room, two fitness trailers at every stop and if a player needs equipment fixed or altered, the major companies have trailers on site to attend to that.

That’s all great, but the Canadian is primarily focused on posting low scores. His approach to each event will be somewhat different than in his previous tours as he uses experience to guide him.

“I learned a lot about myself in the past and what works in terms of preparation,” he stated. “I want to make sure my game is where I want it to be when I’m on the tee on Thursday. That might mean not playing one of the nines before the tournament in favour of working on some part of my game. In some cases, too many practice rounds can make you lose touch with your game. This time around, I know what to expect.”

His confidence is high and the belief he has in himself for the coming year is solid. There’s every reason to think that this time around, he’ll succeed.