Stepinac Alum Frank Bensel takes on the US Open

Posted Thursday, June 14, 2007 by Sam Wienman

Century's [ Stepinac's] Bensel thinks he can compete

(Original publication: June 14, 2007)
OAKMONT, Pa. - Frank Bensel has two rounds of major-championship golf to his name, a pair of 76s that led to a missed cut in the 2004 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.

They were two rounds in which the 39-year-old Century Country Club assistant and Yonkers native fared respectably, but obviously not well enough. The important part now is that Bensel remembers how to handle the added stress of playing inside the ropes of a major. And as he prepares for the first round of the U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club today, it's an experience Bensel intends to draw on.

"Just the nerves and getting over the initial part of being in a U.S. Open," Bensel said yesterday before his final practice round at Oakmont. "I think once I get out there and get on the course, I'll feel pretty good. I know I can compete. I played OK at the PGA, but I could have done a lot better. And I felt good out there."

The harrowing part for Bensel is that Oakmont looks to be a far more stern test than even Whistling Straits, although every other player in the field will have to navigate the same terrain.

And unlike the PGA Championship in 2004, when Bensel qualified for the field by way of the 20 spots allotted to club pros, here he was put through the same 36-hole sectional qualifier as some of the best players in the world.

"Some people probably don't feel that club pros should be in the PGA," Bensel said. "I feel that they should, but here, there's no question about it. It's the Open. Everybody signs up. I don't know how many thousands of people tried to qualify, but we're in the top 156, so let's go out and do your best."

That last part is paramount for Bensel. Already a decorated player at the local level - including wins in the New York State Open, the New York State PGA, and the Westchester PGA - he is beyond the point of just being here to lap up the experience.

On the range yesterday with his caddie and friend Mike Laudien, the head pro at Philip J. Rotella Golf Course in Thiells, Bensel was mere feet away from where Tiger Woods was practicing. But with his own work to do, Bensel barely looked over.

"That doesn't really faze me that much," Bensel said. "It's fun to be in it and be inside the ropes. But posting a score is what's going to be the best thing about it."