Peter Benka, golfer, administrator and stockbroker: born Harrow, Middlesex 18 September 1946; married 1971 Pam Tredinnick (one son, one daughter); died Chiddingfold, Surrey 27 November 2007
Peter Benka was one of the leading amateur golfers of his generation, the epitome of the Corinthian spirit in sport, and later a golfing administrator of great integrity. At the time of his death he was the president elect of the English Golf Union. As a golfer who at his peak played off a handicap of plus one at Walton Heath, he could have entered the professional ranks, but chose instead to play the game he loved at the highest amateur level. His business career as a partner of the stockbroking firm Laing and Cruickshank, and later as a director of Credit Lyonnais Securities, was also one of distinction.
Benka burst on to the golfing scene when he won the Silver Medal as the leading amateur at the Open Championship at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club, Hoylake in 1967, the year he was also British Youths Champion (he won the title again in 1968), and made his first appearance as an England international.
His appearance in the Open at Hoylake, though a great personal triumph, convinced him of the great gulf between the leading amateurs and their professional counterparts. On the rather rudimentary practice ground that was then the norm, caddies took up position to "field" their employers' golf balls. Peter Benka was so accurate with his shorter irons that his caddie never had to move. He then noticed that Gary Player, the current World Match Play Champion, was achieving even greater accuracy with a 1 iron. Faced with such evidence, he decided to stay in the amateur ranks.
Peter Benka was born in 1946, the youngest of four children. He was educated at Charterhouse, which he later served as a member of the Governing Body. His loyalty to all things Carthusian was a lifelong thread. He sent his own son, who was later an Oxford golf Blue, to the school, and was prominent as a member of the Old Boys' Halford Hewitt side. He competed continuously in the tournament for 36 years from 1965, appearing in seven winning sides. When Charterhouse planned its own golf course, he was one of those who worked to bring the project to fruition. He was a successful president of the Public Schools' Golfing Society for three years from 1999.
Benka played the game from an early age at Addington Golf Club, over which course he competed in many Surrey championships. He represented the county from 1965 to 1984, winning in 1967 and 1968. He was capped for the English Boys' and Youths' Team, and was a member of England's winning side in the European Men's Team Championship in 1969, and represented Great Britain and Ireland in the St Andrews Trophy in 1970.
The highpoint of his golfing career came in 1969 as a member of the Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup team at Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Though the team lost narrowly, by 10 points to 8, Benka halved two of his foursomes matches, and won his singles match against Steve Melynk by 3 and 1.
In 1971 Benka married Pam Tredinnick, one of the leading lady amateur golfers of her generation. She would captain the Great Britain and Ireland side at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 2002.
Benka began his career as a golf administrator in 1972, as Captain of Surrey. He served on the County Committee for 25 years and was vice-president at the time of his death. In 1981 he began work with the English Golf Union on the Executive and Finance Committee, and later on the Championship Committee. He became an England selector in 1993, and served as chairman from 1994 until 1998. His first captain was Peter McEvoy.
Peter Benka was a supremely elegant golfer, who always seemed to be playing within himself, even at moments of crisis. One shot on the 10th at Sandwich on a cold, blustery April day epitomised him. Nobody else was able to reach the high-mounded green in two, and with the pin back left, over two gaping bunkers, few tried. Benka, however, gripped his club low and played a towering shot that feathered down six feet from the pin.
With such skill came a great interest in the doings of others. He was modest and companionable, and had a great sense of the history of the game, relishing playing on historic courses, such as J.F. Abercromby's Addington.
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