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Celebrate: Mitchell Benson, who died 10 years ago in a car accident, is remembered with a golf tournament

The Memories for Mitchell Golf Tournament kept Mitchell Benson's memory fresh Wednesday in Worthington

Jacob Buntjer tees off in the Memories Fore Mitchell golf scramble as Andrew Buntjer holds the hockey stick used as a putter in honor of Mitchell Benson on the 10th hole Wednesday Morning at GreatLIFE Golf and Fitness Club Worthington.
Jacob Buntjer tees off in the Memories Fore Mitchell golf scramble as Andrew Buntjer holds the hockey stick used as a putter in honor of Mitchell Benson on the 10th hole Wednesday Morning at GreatLIFE Golf and Fitness Club Worthington.
Tim Middagh / The Globe
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WORTHINGTON -- Persons participating in the Memories Fore Mitchell Golf Tournament Wednesday at Worthington’s GreatLIFE Golf and Fitness Club were instructed to putt with hockey sticks on hole No. 10.

Mitchell Benson, who died in a one-vehicle car accident on Aug. 3, 2012, was a hockey player. The number he wore on his jersey was 10.

It was exactly 10 years ago on Aug. 3 that Mitchell, age 20, died in a tragic accident authorities said was the result of an attempt to swerve to avoid hitting a deer.

To remember Mitchell and to celebrate his life, parents Phillip and Amy Benson, of Worthington, staged a memorial golf tournament that brought 125 golfers in all, and 30 teams to the local golf course. Players came from Worthington, Minneapolis, Mankato and even from Colorado to take part in the unique event. Phillip and Amy were joined by their surviving children, Alyssa (28), Sarah (22) and Andrew (18) along with grandparents, other relatives and many other friends.

Members of team Back 9 Bandits Jamey Belltman sinks a putt on the 16th hole as wife Paula holds the flag during the Memories Fore Mitchell golf scramble Wednesday morning.
A members of the team "Back 9 Bandits" Jamey Belltman sinks a putt on the 16th hole as wife Paula holds the flag during the Memories Fore Mitchell golf scramble.
Tim Middagh / The Globe

Mitchell, himself, was not a golfer. He was, instead, a hockey, football and tennis participant at Worthington High School. Phillip recalls sitting at home with Amy last December during a snowstorm, and Amy said that the next summer would be the 10th year since the accident. That’s when the two of them conceived of the idea of a golf tournament to celebrate their son’s life.

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“I kind of said, ‘I think it’s going to be a lot of work. But it’s going to be a lot of fun, and we’re going to do it our way,” said Phillip.

It was a warm and sunny day on Wednesday, and participation in the tournament was outstanding.

Every golfer in the tourney was given a goodie bag which included a poker chip embossed with the words, “Keep moving forward.”

Moving forward has been the Benson family’s motto since that awful day on Aug. 3.

“Ten years later we’re doing really, really well. We knew that life had to keep moving. And with three other kids and other family members, we had to keep moving, too. Time heals. And life is good,” Phillip explained in the clubhouse while golfers teed off outside.

“What the tournament is doing for us, it’s showing how much friends and family care. And it’s going to keep moving the family forward because of so many memories. And the whole Worthington community has been very supportive of us.”

Mitchell, said Phillip, was an outgoing, fun-loving and “fun-chasing” kid who thoroughly enjoyed life. He joined the Marines on the same summer that he died.

Amy’s sister, Donna Tims, who Phillip describes as “our rock since this happened,” considers the golf tournament to be an important family marker.

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“To me, it means somewhat of a closure for one piece, so we can look forward to the next. (Mitchell) touched a lot of people. I think, for a lot of people, this probably means the same to them that it means to me,” she said. “I think it was awesome (to have a memorial tournament). And it just so happens it falls on the exact day he passed away. It was meant to be.”

Said Phillip, “Typically, on the anniversary date, Amy and I would leave town. Last year we were in Alaska. So this is the first time on the anniversary date we’ve been in town.”

Related Topics: GOLF
Doug Wolter joined the Worthington Globe in December of 1983 as a sports reporter. He later became sports editor, and then news editor and managing editor. In 2006 he moved to Mankato with his wife, Sandy, and served as an editor at the Mankato Free Press. In 2013 he and Sandy returned to Worthington to take up the job of sports editor at The Globe, and they have been in Worthington since.

Doug can be reached at dwolter@dglobe.com.
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