PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- It was a dramatic final round last year, as Frank Bensel of Purchase, N.Y., closed with a final-round 66 to cap an improbable comeback and win a second consecutive title in the 2011 National Car Rental PGA Assistant Championship presented by COBRA PUMA GOLF.
Bensel, who began the final round in a tie for 24th and eight strokes back of the leaders, won by a stroke over a group of five that included Scott Berliner of Albany, N.Y., Tyler Hitchcock of Orlando, Fla., and Richard Terga of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
NATIONAL CAR RENTAL PGA ASSISTANT CHAMPIONSHIP
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All three players will look for redemption in this year's PGA Assistant Championship, Nov. 1-4, at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
Aaron Clark of Springfield, Mo., and Ryan Sikora of Greensburg, Pa., who also finished just a stroke back of Bensel, are not scheduled to compete.
Berliner had at least a share of the lead after each of the first three rounds, but the PGA assistant professional at Normanside Country Club in Delmar, N.Y., closed with a 75.
"I think I came out too aggressive in the final round and I let it kind of slip away," said Berliner. "But I was able to get back into the tournament and gave myself a chance. No. 18 on the Wanamaker Course seems to be my nemesis and I missed the putt on that hole to get into a playoff."
Both Hitchcock and Terga entered the final round two strokes off the lead and closed with matching 73s.
Hitchcock, a PGA apprentice at Walt Disney World Golf in Kissimmee, Fla., who was making his first appearance in the Championship, was pleased with his second-place finish.
"Finishing second in an event like that [PGA Assistant Championship] is a huge accomplishment and something I am very proud of," said Hitchcock. "But I am looking to improve on that second-place finish this year."
Terga, a PGA assistant professional at the John Webster Golf Academy in Palm Beach, Fla., had a chance to tie Bensel and force a playoff, but his pitch shot for birdie from just off the green lipped out of the hole and he made par.
"I was disappointed with my finish for sure, because I really had a chance to force a playoff or even win if I played a little better down the stretch," said Terga. "I was shocked that Frank [Bensel] came back and won and that no one was able to catch him. It really was an incredible finish."
Since 1996, PGA assistant professionals and apprentices have come to PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Fla., for this National Championship. The 2012 field will feature the top-4 finishers from last year's Championship as well as 122 players who advanced through their PGA Section Championships.
Also at stake is a spot in the 46th PGA Professional National Championship, June 23-26, 2013, at Sunriver (Ore.) Resort.
Following the first 36 holes of play, the field for the final two rounds will be reduced to the low 70 scorers and ties.
The winner of the 2012 Championship will collect $9,000 of the $100,000 purse.
For nearly 40 years, the National Car Rental PGA Assistant Championship presented by COBRA PUMA GOLF has produced outstanding PGA Professionals who have gone onto successful careers in teaching and administering the game, as well as competing at the highest level.
Past competitors or champions include: Loren Roberts (Champion, 1979); Fred Funk (Champion, 1984); Rich Beem (third, 1998); Jeff Freeman (T-7, 1998); and Tim Thelen (Champion, 2009).
In 2012, National Car Rental became the title sponsor of the Championship.