NorthRiver Members of All Ages Beaming over their Local Standout Turned Teaching Professional
For Cammie Bentley, the path to forming a career as a LPGA pro within the golf industry is not your conventional one. Growing up in Alabama, Cammie didn’t take up the game until she was 14 years old. Which is much later than most kids who go on to compete in high school, college and beyond.
Bentley has older siblings and they would play every sport growing up. It was her father that was the driving force for her introduction to the game. He found the value of the game of golf from being a business major in college and later on working in the sales world. He wanted that for his daughter and whatever career path she chose to pursue. So when she was 14, he took her to an LPGA event for her to see some of the best women in the world competing.
“At that point, I hadn’t been watching the sport, so I didn’t know any of the ladies competing in particular,” she said of being in attendance that day. “But it was just the fact that there were so many women that were there who played the game. That was something for me that was very unique and it definitely sparked an interest.”
“Once he got me out there, I realized how fun the game was, how challenging it was, so it kind of took off from there and I fell in love with it,” she added.
The realization that the game wasn’t just for men or just for the older population was the beginning of a life-altering path for Bentley. She competed on her high school team and learned the world of recruiting to compete at the collegiate level is a tricky one. Since she realized that some girls she knew, including Emma Talley who is currently on the LPGA Tour, had already been offered verbal scholarships at the time Bentley was first learning the game. By the time she was a senior, there just wasn’t many available scholarships to compete at the division I level, which was her goal.
“In my gut, that was a dream I had,” she explained. “When I knew I wanted to compete in college, I knew I wanted it to be at a DI school, which to a lot of people was a stretch because I hadn’t been playing for very long. But that to me was a challenge and I liked that.”
Bentley in the end was between two Southeastern Conference programs to choose from to join as a walk-on. One of which was her hometown at the University of Alabama, which was near and dear to her heart. The love for the Crimson Tide didn’t just stem from where she grew up, but because family had competed for Alabama athletics. Her aforementioned Father, Alan Gray, played quarterback for Alabama and legendary coach Bear Bryant from 1978-82. So the opportunity to get an education and compete for the Crimson Tide and their golf team was fulfilling a life-long dream.
She walked-on at Alabama and redshirted her freshman year. She played so well that year that she was ultimately offered a scholarship for the final three years of her career with the program.
Bentley’s amateur golf accolades would go on to include:
- Alabama State Women’s Player of the Year – 2013, 2018
- Alabama State Women’s Amateur champion -2013, 2018
- Alabama State Women’s Stroke Play champion -2012, 2013, 2017
- US Women’s Amateur – 2013 & 2015 (advanced to the round of 16 in 2013)
- Women’s Western Amateur – 2014 , Runner Up Finalist winning the “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias Memorial Trophy
- US Girls’ Junior Championship – 2010.
After Bentley graduated and received her Master’s Degree from Alabama, she knew she wanted to continue her path in the golf industry. After getting married soon after completing school, her husband encouraged her to continue to do what she loves and to go after her dreams. In her heart, she realized that she wanted to put more time towards being able to help people than competing. She worked a lot with the First Tee in Tuscaloosa while in high school and college which helped fuel her path to applying for the LPGA Teaching Professionals program.
“I love the fact that I could help people, I could still be a part of golf, so I just went full-fledged into that,” she stated.
She went on to open her own golf instruction business called Ao1 Golf to go with her Class B LPGA Teaching Pro Certification. She is also Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) certified.
Bentley’s success and reputation would be spoken of constantly among many members of NorthRiver Yacht Club in Tuscaloosa during her time at Alabama as well as after.
“Over the years after starting at NorthRiver, I would see Cammie now and again playing golf and she was so well-admired by the membership,” said Paula Mount, NorthRiver Yacht Club Director of Marketing and Regional Director of Sales & Marketing for Troon. “In her collegiate years and then when competing after her collegiate years, members would come up and share articles or updates about how she was performing. So I was following her without following her for years.”
Finally in 2019, a member at NorthRiver, who is a big advocate for women’s golf and sits on a couple local boards, was a driving force for wanting Cammie to join the team at the club. By September of 2019, she joined the staff at NorthRiver and has become ingrained in the community appealing to all ages.
“Our member average age is around 57, it used to be higher but we’ve lowered it over the last few years, but playing devil’s advocate, I thought to myself ‘are these older gentleman who are able to play the most golf at NorthRiver, are they going to be able to get into this with her?’ And they have!”
“I’ve had age-wise, as young as three or four and as old as 91,” Bentley said of the golfers she’s instructed and coached since getting started. “It’s been male and female and all of them have different goals. Some want to play competitively, some just want to stay younger and get out and be healthy. So it’s been so much fun being able to help them.”
She works with every age and every gender, but as a young girl, she is paving the way to grow the game to a demographic she felt she didn’t see a lot of when she grew up, young girls.
“Just here in Alabama, there have been so many more in the younger population who are starting to play and loving it,” explained Bentley. “Like I said, I didn’t see a ton of younger people, especially females when I started playing and it’s something I have definitely seen grow, even in the last year in Tuscaloosa alone.”
“We’re seeing a lot more pony tails out there,” mentioned Mount. “Definitely the most since I have been here at NorthRiver – with young girls coming to experience the game.”
“At that age, it’s all about having fun,” she added. “You’re introducing it to them and it’s all about having lots of colors and games, making it interactive. Sometimes they enjoy being in bigger groups while some prefer private learning but overall, it’s about having fun at that age.”
Bentley has been very diverse in her offerings have been well-rounded from individual to clinics which has won over all genders and ages to this point for the club’s members. It all seems to be coming together for that young 14 year old girl who made a passion for golf, her way of life.
Her next goal in life she’s excited to pursue is to become a Mom. Which will also become a reality for her this coming October!