Three Westchester pros won coveted spots in the PGA Championship, the second of the year’s majors, to be played next month on the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, SC. They earned their berths by finishing in the top 20 of the field of 312 players in the PGA Professional National Championship played at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, FL.
Topping the Westchester contingent is Frank Bensel, an assistant professional at Century CC in Purchase, who finished second in the tournament, three strokes behind the winner, Omar Uresti. Bensel had led the 72-hole tournament after the first round and trailed by only a stroke after the second, but fell back in a difficult third round. Bensel came back strong in the final round with four birdies in his initial 10 holes and a birdie-birdie sequence on 15 and 16, but it wasn’t quite enough to overcome Uresti’s lead.
Bensel is a long-time champ in Westchester, having won the Westchester Open twice, as well as the Met PGA Championship, the Connecticut State Open three times, and the PGA of America’s Assistant’s Championship three times. Bensel was the Met PGA Player of the Year in 2005. This will be his third trip to the PGA Championship—a feat he has accomplished in three different decades. Bensel was in the field in 2012, the last time the major was played on the Ocean Course.
Rob Labritz, director of golf at GlenArbor GC in Bedford, will be one of two of the most experienced of the 20 PGA Professional at Kiawah Island. Labritz will be competing in his eighth career PGA Championship. This year will mark his third consecutive appearance. In 2019, he won low club pro honors in the championship at Bethpage Black and, in 2010, he won at Whistling Straits, making him the only two-time club pro winner since the PGA of America limited the Championship exemptions to 20 players in 2006.
Rounding out the Westchester team will be Alex Beach, an assistant professional at Westchester Country Club in Rye, who will be making his fourth straight appearance in the championship. Beach won the 2019 PGA Professional National Championship as well as the Assistant’s Championship in the same year. He also competes on the Korn Ferry Tour.
The Westchester trio joins two other Met Section perennial standouts, Danny Balin of Fresh Meadow CC and Pete Ballo of Silvermine GC.