PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Frank Bensel completed a sweep of the three PGA Winter Championship tournaments for which he is eligible by capturing the 58th annual PGA Stroke Play Championship, Jan. 25, at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie.
He will have to wait a few years to have a shot at the next two.
Bensel, 42, a PGA assistant professional at Century Country Club in Purchase, N.Y., pulled away midway through the front nine of the final round and equaled the low score, a three-under par 69. He finished at nine-under 279 on the Wanamaker Course, winning by five strokes, to earn $5,000 from the $51,865 purse.
Three behind at the start of the final round, Bensel spurted ahead with birdies at the par-3 fourth and sixth holes, the par-5 seventh and par-4 eighth to overtake third-round leader Bob Sowards of Dublin, Ohio.
A two-time former PGA Stroke Play Champion, Sowards tied for second at 77-284 after getting off to a shaky start with bogeys on the first two holes. "It was just a tough day," said Sowards, the 2004 PGA Professional National Champion. "I started badly, missed some short putts." He had three birdies altogether, two on the last three holes after the competitive aspects of the day had been settled.
Chad Proehl of Urbandale, Iowa, pulled even with Sowards on a final-round 72 on four birdies and four bogeys. "I thought I might have a chance if I got off to a good start," Proehl said. "Then I bogeyed the second and third holes." He birdied the difficult 18th hole, something that neither Bensel nor Sowards could do, for his best finish in five years of Winter Championships play.
Both Proehl and Sowards are PGA teaching professionals, Proehl at Sugar Creek Golf Club in Waukee, Iowa, and Sowards at New Albany (Ohio) Country Club. They received $2,475 apiece. Sowards won the Stroke Play in 2005-06, the Match Play Championship in 2005. He had also competed on the PGA and Nationwide Tours from 2008-10.
Tied for fourth at 285 were Rob Labritz of Pound Ridge, N.Y., who shot the only other 69, and former champion Rick Schuller of Chester, Va. "It was just a tough test of golf today with the wind and set-up," Schuller said. He made a late move, enough to concern Bensel, with birdies at 15, 16, and 17 but bogeyed the par-4 18th.
"It was a tough day but I hit the ball well and kept it in play," Bensel said. "We were playing right behind Schuller and I saw him make three birdies in a row but it was hard to get information on how things stood," other than those in his final threesome.
After a bogey and birdie at the ninth and 10th holes, Bensel said the key was two-putting for par from more than 100 feet at the short 11th, from one side of a double green to the other. "And then I made some good par putts at 12, 13 and 14," he said.
Previously, Bensel won the Match Play in 2004 and the Senior-Junior with Kevin Morris in 2006 and 2008. He will have to wait until he is 50 to be eligible for the Senior Stroke Play Championship, even longer for the Quarter Century Club Championship.
Bensel also won the PGA Assistants Championship last November on the Wanamaker and the Westchester PGA Championship earlier in the year.
There were 168 entries in the PGA Stroke Play Championship. After one round each on the Wanamaker and adjacent Ryder courses, the 36-hole cut came at six-over 150, the new 54-hole cut at 20-over 236. The last two rounds were conducted on the Wanamaker.
The PGA Match Play Championship, the final tournament of this year’s PGA Winter Championships, is Feb. 1-6 on the nearby Dye course.
The presenting sponsors of the PGA Winter Championships are Premier Golf and United Rentals. The supporting sponsors are PGA Village Verano, PGA Golf Club and Golf Pride.
PGA of America Winter Championships
58th PGA Stroke Play Championship
PGA Golf Club, Port St. Lucie, Fla.
Wanamaker Course, 7,048 yards, par 72
Frank Bensel, Purchase, N.Y., $5,000 70-74-66-69—279
Chad Proehl, Urbandale, Iowa, $2,475 72-68-72-72—284
Bob Sowards, Dublin, Ohio, $2,475 68-69-70-77—284
Rob Labritz, Pound Ridge, N.Y., $1,600 74-71-71-69—285
Rick Schuller, Chester, Va., $1,600 68-72-72-73—285
Craig Hocknull, Gilbert, Ariz., $1,300 70-66-74-76—286
Samuel Kang, Rockaway, N.J., $1,100 71-72-67-77—287
Mark Brown, Glen Head, N.Y., $916.67 73-70-71-74—288
Scott Ford, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., $916.67 74-67-73-74—288
Matthew Sita, Glen Cove, N.Y., $916.67 72-68-70-78—288
Robert McClellan, Butler, Pa., $770 73-69-75-72—289
Bob Rittberger, Garden City, N.Y., $770 71-76-68-74—289
Kevin Shields, Pittsburgh, Pa., $770 73-73-70-73—289
Jeff Sorenson, Blaine, Minn., $770 75-70-69-75—289
Rick Karbowski, Berlin, Mass., $700 74-72-74-70—290
Micah Rudosky, Cortez, Colo., $700 72-77-69-72—290
Don Berry, Brooklyn Park, Minn., $700 69-73-74-74—290
Brian Cairns, Bloomfield Hills, Mich., $645 73-74-73-71—291
Chris Dachisen, Warren, N.J., $645 71-69-75-76—291
Sonny Skinner, Sylvester, Ga., $645 70-71-73-77—291
Craig Stevens, Dallas, Ga., $645 71-70-73-77—291
Sean Gorgone, Casselberry, Fla., $615 76-72-73-71—292
Danny Balin, Rockville, Md., $615 73-74-70-75—292
Frank Esposito, Florham Park, N.J., $575 67-77-76-73—293
Dwayne Randall, Findley Lake, N.Y., $575 74-69-77-73—293
Gary Rusnak, Santa Rosa Beach, Fla., $575 74-71-75-73—293
Jason Stilley, Paducah, Ky., $575 70-76-74-73—293
Nash Haxel, St. Louis, Mo., $575 72-76-70-75—293
Tim Weinhart, Johns Creek, Ga., $575 71-75-77-70—293
Mark Mielke, East Norwich, N.Y., $530 75-74-71-74—294
Larry Emery, Carterville, Ill., $530 70-76-75-73—294
Roy Vucinich, Moon Township, Pa., $530 77-72-72-73—294
Kevin Savage, Syracuse, N.Y., $530 74-72-76-72—294
Ken Martin, Wellington, Fla., $530 71-76-75-72—294
Gary Robison, Canton, Ohio, $530 74-74-71-75—294
Kyle Sanders, Lee's Summit, Mo., $530 75-74-68-77—294
Frank Dully, Salem, Mass., $500 74-73-73-75—295
Mark Faulkner, Marion, Ill., $500 78-71-70-76—295
John Aber, Pittsburgh, Pa., $500 72-75-72-76—295
Dennis Colligan, Cazenovia, N.Y., $500 73-72-71-79—295
Simon McGreal, Greensboro, N.C., $500 74-74-76-71—295
Jeff Olson, Powell, Ohio, $472.50 70-71-79-76—296
Charles Frost, Pineville, N.C., $472.50 71-73-77-75—296
Louis DeKerillis, Southampton, N.Y., $472.50 75-74-72-75—296
Chris Tucker, Fort Mill, S.C., $472.50 70-72-80-74—296
Len Bush, Sea Cliff, N.Y., $472.50 78-69-76-73—296
Bobby Heins, Purchase, N.Y., $472.50 73-73-77-73—296
Nicholas Beddow, Shirley, N.Y., $437.50 69-75-76-77—297
Joe Cordani, North Dartmouth, Mass., $437.50 76-72-73-76—297
Chris Krueger, Rehoboth Beach, Del., $437.50 71-76-73-77—297
Matt Seitz, Hutchinson, Kan., $437.50 78-70-74-75—297
Bill Andrews, Portsmouth, N.H., $437.50 71-73-74-79—297
Sam Arnold, Cincinnati, Ohio, $437.50 71-76-76-74—297
John Seltzer, Ann Arbor, Mich., $437.50 74-76-73-74—297
Patrick Langan, Ridgefield, Conn., $437.50 78-72-73-74—297
Colin Amaral, Port St. Lucie, Fla., $407.50 67-77-75-79—298
Todd Smith, Matthews, N.C., $407.50 72-78-71-77—298
Brian Gaffney, Rumson, N.J., $407.50 77-70-71-80—298
Bob Darling, Lewiston, Maine, $407.50 78-72-72-76—298
Eric Barlow, Port St. Lucie, Fla., $382.50 72-74-74-79—299
Jaysen Hansen, Toledo, Ohio, $382.50 74-70-78-77—299
Ben Stewart, Dayton, Ohio, $382.50 76-69-78-76—299
Blanton Tessin, Vail, Colo., $382.50 76-71-77-75—299
Gary Ostrega, Westfield, N.J., $382.50 79-71-77-72—299
Mike Laudien, Stony Point, N.Y., $382.50 73-77-78-71—299
Tom Sipula, Port St. Lucie, Fla., $362.50 72-75-77-76—300
Mike San Filippo, Hobe Sound, Fla., $362.50 72-75-77-76—300
Sean Quinlivan, Huntington, N.Y., $355 74-72-79-76—301
Jeff Hull, Watkinsville, Ga., $350 69-76-82-75—302
Mike Devlin, Springfield, Mass., $340 76-72-76-79—303
Gary Groh, Highland Park, Ill., $340 74-75-77-77—303
Michael Zaremba, Pueblo West, Colo., $340 75-75-76-77—303
Brett Melton, Washington, Ind., $330 73-77-77-77—304
Phil Bowers, Woodbridge, Va., $325 79-71-74-81—305
Todd Cook, Methuen, Mass., $320 74-76-80-76—306
John Thompson, Charlotte, N.C., $315 79-70-78-80—307
Peter Serafimoff, New Smyrna Beach, Fla., $310 76-74-83-76—309
Todd Rice, Gulf Breeze, Fla., $305 75-74-84-85—318
Glen Davis, Delmar, N.Y., $300 76-74-86-83—319