PORT ST. LUCIE – When the team of Frank Bensel of Jupiter and Anthony Aruta of Staten Island, N.Y., bogeyed the 12th hole Thursday, they knew they had one option if they wanted to win the PGA Senior-Junior Team Championship.
“We had to run the table,” Bensel said.
They almost did just that, making birdies on the next five holes on the Wanamaker Course to rally from a four-shot deficit for a two-shot victory in the PGA Senior-Junior Team Championship at PGA Golf Club. Their third consecutive 10-under 62 left them at 35-under 253 and they split the $10,000 first prize.
“Today was the Frank Bensel Show,” said Aruta, the PGA Head Professional at North Shore Country Club on Long Island. “He was a machine.”
Bensel hit a 5-iron to 20 feet on the 17th hole and made the birdie to give them their first outright lead of the 72-hole event. Bensel opened the round with an eagle on the first hole and added five birdies.
“We knew we had to shoot 10- or 11-under and hope the guys in front of us didn’t do that,” said Bensel, who teaches at The Breakers in Palm Beach and Century Country Club in New York.
At the same time Bensel birdied No. 17, Georgians Tim Weinhart and Luke James – who started the final round with a four-shot lead -- bogeyed the par-5 16th hole, when Weinhart’s birdie putt lipped out and he missed the 5-foot par putt to drop to 33-under.
“I let my partner down several times,” said Weinhart. “I had it inside 50 yards on 13 and 16 and made a 5 and a 6. The par-5s did us in.”
Weinhart and James played the first 63 holes in 33-under, the last nine holes in even-par. Weinhart taught James since he was 15 and they admitted they were pressing on the final nine.
“There’s a fine line between trusting and trying,” Weinhart said.
Weinhart and James tied for second with Walt Chapman (64) and Casey Flenniken of Knoxville, Tenn., and Chad Proehl (64) of Urbandale, Iowa and Jay Giannetto of Marshaltown, Iowa. Proehl-Giannetto were hurt by a second-round 70 on the Dye Course.
“That kind of did us in, but we had a chance,” Proehl said.
Defending champions Craig Bowden (64) and Brett Melton of West Chester, Pa., tied for fifth with Hiroshi Matsuo (64) of Boca Raton and Austin Davenport of Jupiter at 31-under.
The PGA Winter Championships are presented by GolfPass and PrimeSport.