A Marriage Made At The WAPL

Catherine Dolan walks to the 10th tee alongside her caddie and fiancée, Nicklaus Benton. Dolan and Benton met last year in Bandon Dunes. Ore. at the 2011 WAPL. (Hunter Martin/USGA)
By Cassandra Stein, USGA
June 20, 2012

“No one believes in love at first, until that special person comes along and steals your heart.” - Unknown 

Neshanic Station, N.J. – Love at first sight is a cliché. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen. For Catherine Dolan, who is playing this week at the 2012 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links, and Nicklaus Benton it did.  

“Absolutely, it was love at first sight,” said the 21-year-old Dolan, beaming at her fiancée. It all started in an airport…

Flying to Bandon, Ore., for the 2011 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links and the U.S. Amateur Public Links, Dolan and the 20-year-old Benton first met at the San Francisco Airport. She saw him from a far. He saw her, too.

“My dad even pointed her out at the airport to me,” said Benton, “and said, ‘I wonder if she’s going to the WAPL.’ I said, ‘yeah probably.’ He said ‘She’s good-looking, you better hope she’s going to the WAPL.’”

Soon after both families stood in line together at the terminal. They talked. Since they were chatting, they eventually ended up sitting next to each other on the plane to the North Bend Airport, some 25 minutes north of the golf resort that hosted both championships last June.

“Her mom and my father can talk for hours, and that’s exactly what they did on the plane that day,” said Benton.

“On the plane I tried asking her a few questions to get to know her a little better, but she was so quiet, just sitting there reading her book,” said Benton.

“I don’t even remember getting through one page of that book on the plane. I probably got through two chapters of it that entire week. Let’s just say I didn’t read very much of it,” Dolan said.

At the North Bend terminal, the families went their separate ways. Dolan and her family boarded one shuttle, while Benton was getting on another. It was Dolan’s ‘school girl’ mentality to say to her mom, “Let’s not go on this shuttle. Let’s get on that one.”

She knew what she was doing. They were together again.

Checking in together at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, their families ultimately decided since they had basically spent the whole day together, why not finish it off with dinner as well?   

The next morning at their respective championships, Dolan and Benton realized they would see each other a lot over the next few days. “Our tee times ended up being the same, and then our championship tee times, so we always saw each other. We ended up eating all of our meals together, too,” said Dolan. “It was fate.”

In this day, two people seem to become Facebook friends first before they exchange phone numbers. Luckily, Catherine had a friend request from Nicklaus; therefore she just had to accept.

That night they began Facebook-chatting about the practice round, the course and important things about the championship.

In the middle of that conversation, phone numbers were exchanged. To this day, the love birds still argue on who gave who’s number out first. She says he gave her his number first, but he argues that she gave him her number first.  

Stroke-play qualifying came and went. Unfortunately, the member of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock (ULAR) men’s team didn’t make the cut, but Dolan did. Before Benton left for home, he watched her first match. “It was awesome because we only had known each other for a few days,” she said.

The romance didn’t fizzle there. They decided to keep texting and talking after realizing Arkansas was only a five to six hour drive from St. Louis. When she went back to school at Missouri State University for her senior year, they would be three hours closer.

Throughout the fall semester, it was tough, but they managed to visit each other now and then.

Then came Christmas break, New Year’s Eve and a marriage proposal.

Christmas was like any other day at the Florida vacation home for the Dolan’s. With everybody exchanging gifts, so did Dolan and Benton. “He got me a teddy bear, and said ‘I have another gift for you, but I can’t give it to you just yet. I have to wait for your whole family to get here.’ I was kind of questioning some things in the back of my mind, and I just wanted [the gift] now.”

That came a few days later and appropriately on a golf course. Her family decided to play a round before the New Year’s Eve celebrations. Dolan and Benton were in the last group of the day behind all of her family members. It was the 18thgreen, where her whole family would be. With sparkling bling in his golf bag, he placed the bag on the side of the green.

He asked, “Hey, Catherine, go get something from my bag. It’s in that one pocket.” Recalling that moment, he honestly said, “I don’t even remember what I said. I was so nervous.”

The doting girlfriend she is, Catherine went to the bag to get it. He followed her down to his bag, and dropped to a knee. The question of a lifetime followed, “Will you marry me?”

Dolan said yes.

“He’s great for her. And she’s great for him. They are always happy,” said Ann Dolan, Catherine’s mother, who is here at Neshanic Valley Golf Course for the 2012 WAPL. “He’s going to be a great addition to the family.” 

They plan to wed May 25, 2013, just weeks after Benton graduates from UALR. This week is the first time Benton is on the bag for Dolan full-time after a surprise flight his mother gave him on Sunday evening. Being a caddie and a fiancé can be a difficult relationship. “I got a little testy with him  [Tuesday],” said Catherine. He asked me to stop yelling at him, and I was like, ‘I’m sorry!’” she said. “It wasn’t anything major. We both moved on from it. I went on to birdie the next hole and put a smile back on my face.”

“It’s pretty awesome to have him on the bag. Nicklaus reads greens like no else I know,” she said.

Dolan shot a 4-over-par 148 on Tuesday to make match play against Demi Frances Runas of Torrance, Calif. Dolan fell to Runas in match play today, posting a 70 to Runas' 68 with one hole to play.

This summer she plans to work on her game, while also working at St. Louis (Mo.) Country Club,  which was just named the site host for the 2014 Curtis Cup Match. Dolan and Benton will visit each other regularly throughout the next nine months before moving in together after the wedding.

Right now, her future as a professional is on hold so her fiancé can finish school while she plans the wedding.

 “We plan on staying in St. Louis or possibly moving to Arizona, where Nicklaus’ parents are moving soon,” said Dolan. “Maybe even St. Louis during the winter and Arizona in the summer, so we can work on our games.”

And the honeymoon? Perhaps they can go to Bandon, where it all started.

Cassandra Stein is the USGA’s communications intern. E-mail her at cstein@usga.org   

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