The first time Greenwich resident and golfer Frank Bensel qualified for the PGA Championship was back in 2004 at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisc. There, Bensel, a club pro at Century Country Club in Purchase, N.Y., failed to make the cut after scoring 76-76 for a two-round total of 152. Now, eight years later, Bensel is back in the PGA Championship -- and he is hoping the second time is a charm.
Bensel spoke to Greenwich Citizen recently about his game, the tournament and what he has to do to play well.
You play out of Century Country Club in Purchase, N.Y. What is your role/title at Burning Tree?
My role at Century is golf instructor/assistant professional.
As a teacher of the game, what is the most common mistake you see made by amateur golfers?
Probably gripping the club incorrectly. The grip is the most important aspect of the swing.
Do you have, say, a Top Five tips for amateur golfers?
Learn a swing that is repeatable under pressure.
Become the best putter you can.
Practice chipping and putting a lot.
Get the right equipment.
Compete in many tournaments.
What is the one part of your game that you need to work on the most?
My short game.
What's the lowest score you ever carded?
A 61 at Century.
How about your longest drive? Is there one memorable one that sticks out in your mind?
I hit a great drive on the last hole at Bethpage in the New York State Open. I knew I would win if I hit it well. I didn't win, though.
Six with one in the New York State Open at the Albany Country Club.
What are some of your favorite courses to play?
Winged Foot, Bethpage and Shinnecock.
How about a course that you haven't played, but would love to?
You recently qualified for the 94th PGA Championship, Aug. 9-12, at The Ocean Course in Kiawah Island, S.C. by finishing in the top 20 at the 45th PGA Professional National Championship, which took place June 24 to 27, at Bayonet Black Horse in Seaside, Calif. What did you do right at Seaside?
I struck the ball very well and I was mentally strong. It is a grind, and you have to focus on the present rather than thinking of the PGA or the TV coverage.
What does qualifying for the PGA Championship mean to you?
It is the ultimate goal for a PGA member. It means your among the best club pros in the country.
Is this the first time you qualified?
No, 2004 at Whistling Straights.
Have you ever played The Ocean Course in Kiawah Island?
Yes, in the PGA PNC several years ago.
What can you tell us about the course and how is it suited to your game?
It's a very difficult course, and you have to control your ball in the wind. I usually am pretty good tee to green in the wind.
What do you have to do to play well at the PGA Championship?
Avoid big numbers, and play with confidence.
What would you consider a successful appearance?
Making the cut would be successful -- but I would love to finish top 25.
It will be hot and I will wear sunscreen and bug spray. I predict a good showing by the Club Pros.