Stepinac Alumni Frank Bensel wins the Met PGA

Posted Friday, May 14, 2010 by Michael O'Donnell

Frank Bensel wins PGA

Posted Friday, May 14, 2010 by mdougherty
 (2 of 2)

Frank Bensel, left, and Rob Labritz watch Bensel's tee shot on the ninth hole Thursday during the Met PGA Championship.

Frank Bensel, left, and Rob Labritz watch Bensel's tee shot on the ninth hole Thursday during the Met PGA Championship. (Frank Becerra Jr./The Journal News)

Bensel starts fast, wins Westchester PGA



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SCARSDALE — The ball momentarily road a gust of wind, took a couple of cooperative bounces on the green and came to rest three feet above the hole.


It was the perfect start.

Frank Bensel only needed one impressive swing to go 1-up in the MasterCard Westchester PGAChampionship finale Thursday at Fenway Golf Club. He drove the quirky first hole, a par 4 that measures a mere 285 yards. It was only a 3-wood for Bensel.

The chase was on.


Rob Labritz eventually caught up, but he was never able to move past the Century assistant who posted a patient 2 and 1 win. Bensel also won this event in 1999 and 2006. The last person to win three titles in the Westchester PGA was friend and mentor Kevin Morris.

"I guess I've been fortunate in these events," Bensel said after collecting the $4,250 check.

Clearly, there is more to all of the success. While he considers his methodic style better suited for stroke play, a steady can apply quite a bit of pressure in match play. Labritz knew any and all mistakes could prove costly against Bensel.


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The director of golf at GlenArbor put his drive just off the back left corner of the first green, rolled a delicate right-and-left chip to five feet, missed the late-breaking putt for birdie and quickly conceded the hole.


"I got off to a good start in every match this week," Bensel said. "A shot like that definitely gets you going, gives you a little momentum in the right direction. It's nice to get up 2, that's a real boost because at least you have a cushion if you make a couple of mistakes.

He did exactly that, going 2-up with a birdie at No. 3.

And then came the aforementioned mistakes. Bensel only made two bad swings, but that provided enough of an opening for Labritz to fashion a comeback. It was all square after five holes. Bensel, though, got back in front in a hurry with a par from the back edge of the sixth green. Labritz came up short and was left with a bad stance. He pitched to within eight feet and missed the up-and-down.

The wind seemed to be an issue at several points in the round.


Labritz had offseason shoulder surgery to remove bone spurs, and was determined to avoid ticklish downhill putts.

"I haven't played a whole lot since October so I was trying to give myself as many uphill putts as I could," said Labritz, who beat Golf Club of Purchase's Carl Alexander 1-up in the semifinals earlier in the day. "Obviously, if you make a mistake against Frank, he's going to capitalize."

Bensel made another birdie at the ninth and turned 2-up, but Labritz immediately got one back at the 10th with a birdie from eight feet below the hole.


The momentum didn't carry over.

"Basically, that's why I won the match," Bensel said. "Every time he came back, I got the next hole. I think it had to be a letdown for Rob to get one and then give one right back."

Labritz came up short at the 11th, a 200-yard par 3, and hit a bad chip that rolled back down the front of the green. He eventually conceded a par to Bensel and was again 2 down. There was an opportunity to apply pressure on the next two holes, but Labritz couldn't make anything happen while Bensel was flirting with the ever-present tree line.

"I was very fortunate not to lose 12 or 13," said Bensel, who beat Fenway's Heath Wassem 5 and 4 in the semifinals.

The match was almost over after Labritz flew an 8-iron from 166 yard over the green and took a bogey on the 14th to go three holes down. He was shaking hands with a fellow player-of-the-year candidate on the 17th green.