photo courtesy of Nelson Long
Frank Bensel walked away with yet another championship trophy this week. The Century CC assistant pro captured the title at the Lincoln Met PGA Championship played at Metropolis CC in White Plains, besting a field that included the premier professional players in the NY metro area. Bensel lapped the field, winning by five strokes.
A first-round 67 not only gave Bensel the early lead but forced everyone else to push hard in difficult conditions in the second and third rounds, when winds swirled and the scores ballooned. His 210 total was even par, making Bensel the only player to come close to red figures. Second place was five strokes over par, a score shared by Josh Rackley of Tam O’Shanger, Matt Dobyns of Fresh Meadow, Scott Ford from Glen Oaks, and Mark Brown, also of Tam O’Shanter.
“We were playing in US Open conditions,” Bensel says. “Superintendent David McCaffrey did a superb job of making a hard golf course even tougher. The rough was high, the greens were hard and fast.”
A strong short game and strategic course management made the difference. “I putted really well. I don’t believe I three-putted anytime during the three days,” Bensel says. “I also hit the ball well. I didn’t use a lot of drivers because it was all about good positioning off the tee.” The short par-three 15th hole has to be Bensel’s favorite. He birdied it twice, including during the last round to give him the five-stroke lead heading home.
Even with an all-but-sure win, he played it safe on the short par-four 17th, where the Met PGA had moved the tee up to about 280 yards, a tempting distance for the long-hitting Bensel. “On the tee box,” he says, “I put my hand on a club with a cover, and my caddie just shook his head.”
Seven other Westchester pros swept the top 10 in the tournament after the three-way tie for second place. They included Carl Alexander (Golf Club of Purchase), David Young (Sleepy Hollow CC), Chris Case (Mount Kisco CC), Paul Selvaggio (Westchester CC), Kyle Baehler (Willow Ridge), and James Ondo (Apawamis Club). Sixty-six-year-old Bobby Heins, who retired last year as head pro at Old Oaks CC, went into the final round in second place, but faded to a T-7 finish in the swirling winds.
Bensel was happy to be back in the winner’s circle after a short drought. His last championship trophy came from the Met PGA Assistant’s Championship in 2015 in Bethpage. Winning has been a habit throughout the 49-year-old’s career. In 2014, he won the Connecticut State Open for the third time. He’s also won the PGA of America’s Assistant’s Championship three times and was Met PGA Player of the Year in 2005.