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Posted Thursday, September 08, 2005 by Mike ODonnell

Bensel rules Bethpage State Park
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(Original publication: September 8, 2005)

FARMINGDALE 2 Frank Bensel currently plays out of Century Country Club in Purchase. The fact that he seems to own Bethpage State Park recently is merely a bonus.

Some two months ago, the 37-year-old Bensel claimed the biggest win of his career in the New York State Open on Bethpage's famed Black Course, perhaps the first indication that one of the area's perennial contenders had elevated his game to new heights. The final round of the TaylorMade/Adidas Met PGA Assistants Championship yesterday was further proof.

Playing next door to the Black on the Red Course, Bensel entered the day with a two-stroke lead, fired a second consecutive 66, and with an impressive 8-under total, claimed his second Assistants Championship here in as many years.

No player has been better in area golf than Bensel over the past two years, which explains why he holds a commanding lead in the Met PGA Player of the Year points list 2 and why some of his friends wouldn't mind seeing him find new opponents to pick on.

"I think we should take up a collection and send him to tour school," said St. Andrew's Greg Bisconti, who finished four strokes back in second place at 4-under par. "Just to get him out of here."

The 32-year-old Bisconti especially fell victim to Bensel's stellar play yesterday. For most of the second round, the two players were never more than a stroke apart. But every time Bisconti had an opportunity to pull away, Bensel would answer right back. When they were tied at 4-under on the eighth hole, Bisconti knocked his approach shot to six feet and ended up making birdie. But Bensel sent his approach to five feet, then made the putt to hold on to a share of the lead. Three holes later, Bisconti was a mere three feet from the cup and seemed to be on his way to the first lead of the day. Again, though, Bensel responded, this time from 25 feet to keep pace.

"It's just a matter of good things happening at the right time," Bensel said. "When a putt like that goes in, it's luck. But if you have enough of them you're going to make a few."

Indeed, Bensel continued to give himself opportunities, most notably on the 15th hole. Still tied with Bisconti, his 4-iron from 215 yards landed a mere eight feet from the hole. His opponent ended up making bogey, and when Bensel rolled in his putt, he had a lead that he would never relinquish. After impressive birdies on each of the next two holes, Bensel clinched the $8,500 first-place check with a two-putt par on 18.

"He's taken it to a new level," said Bisconti, who in finishing second qualified for the national Assistants Championship this fall. "He's better than the best guys in this section. He's hitting it awesome and he's putting really well."

What about Bethpage is so appealing to Bensel? For one, it's a place where one needs to drive the ball well, and his play off the tee has always been among his strengths. But as Bisconti said, it may be the improvement of his putting that has enabled him to win four times over the last two seasons 2 that and a confidence that seems to build from one week to the next.

"It's obviously been my best year and my most consistent year," Bensel said. "There have been times when I've played well and haven't closed. But this year I feel a lot more comfortable."

And now with three wins here, nowhere does he seem more comfortable than at Bethpage.

"I'd like to be a member here," he said. "I'll have to talk to the higher-ups."

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