PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – Frank Bensel of Purchase, N.Y., made history Sunday at PGA Golf Club, becoming just the second player to win three PGA Assistant Championship titles.
Under blustery conditions on the Wanamaker Course, Bensel closed with a 3-under-par 69 for a 10-under-par 278 total and cruised to victory by six strokes in the 37th National Car Rental PGA Assistant Championship presented by COBRA PUMA GOLF.
Bensel, who previously won the Championship in 2010 and 2011, joined Kyle Flinton of Edmond, Okla., who captured the National Championship in 2002, ’03 and ’05.
“All three victories have been very different,” said Bensel, PGA assistant professional at Century Country Club in Purchase, N.Y. “It was great to win my first in 2010. I finished an hour before the leaders in 2011. And this one feels good because I was in the final group and played really well.”
Charles Frost of Charlotte, N.C., finished second after a final-round 76 for a 284 total. Jeff Seavey of Homosassa, Fla., and Ray Franz Jr. of Mt. Pleasant, S.C., tied for third at 286.
Bensel, 45, trailed Frost and Jeff Schmid of Columbia, Mo., by one stroke heading into the final round. But an eagle on the par-5 first hole and a birdie on the par-4 second hole gave him the lead for good.
“I hit some good shots and got in the right position on the first two holes,” said Bensel, who celebrated his sixth wedding anniversary on Sunday in style. “The greens were absolutely perfect. I got a good feel for them throughout the week. Obviously an eagle-birdie start is not quite what you would expect, but it worked out well.”
Though Bensel would have earned an automatic spot in the 47th PGA Professional National Championship, June 22-25, 2014, in Myrtle Beach, S.C., by winning the PGA Assistant Championship, he already had earned a berth by finishing in a tie for fifth at the 2013 Metropolitan PGA Professional Championship earlier this year.
“I feel fortunate to have played this well this many times in such a great event,” said Bensel. “I love this golf course and I really love playing in Florida.”
Frost, PGA assistant professional at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, N.C., was not able to overcome a pair of double bogeys on his front nine, but did battle back with two birdies on the back nine to finish alone in second.
“I’m proud of how I played this week, for the most part,” said Frost, 37. “I’m not happy about how I finished, but it still feels good to finish second.”
Frost was very impressed by the play of Bensel in the final round.
“Frank’s front nine was probably the best nine holes of golf I’ve ever seen,” said Frost. “I’ve played golf with guys who have shot 59 before. He made it from everywhere and hit it close seemingly on every hole. And the wind was howling and really tough. It was cool to watch.”
Schmid, the 36- and 54-hole leader, finished in a tie for seventh place.
Ashley Grier of Hagerstown, Md., the first female to compete in the Championship since 2011, shot 76 in the final round and finished in a tie for 33rd place.
The 126-player field for the National Championship featured three of the top four finishers from last year's Championship as well as 123 players who advanced through their PGA Section Championships.