Friday leads locals in PGA Professional Championship first round

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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (April 25, 2021) 一 ‘Bright and early’ best describes Frank Bensel Jr.’s opening round of the 2021 PGA Professional Championship presented by Cadillac, Club Car and Rolex.

At 7:30 a.m. (EDT) this morning, Bensel was among one of four groups to simultaneously start golf’s largest all-professional national championship, which features a 312-player field (representative of all 41 PGA Sections and 44 states) and is played on two highly-rated golf courses: PGA Golf Club’s Ryder and Wanamaker Courses.

A PGA Assistant Professional from Century Country Club in Purchase, New York, Bensel began on the Ryder Course’s back 9 and it did not take long for him to realize his round had great potential.

“I hit the ball well right from the start. Good drives in the fairway and solid approaches,” said Bensel. “I had a makeable birdie on No. 10 (first hole of the morning), but missed the putt. Then I rebounded on 11. Another good drive, fairway and approach. I made a 15-foot curler for birdie that had about two feet of break. That got me going.”

Bensel’s 65 on Sunday placed him atop a star-studded leaderboard, two shots clear of four players who opened with 67s: Defending PGA Professional Champion Alex Beach, 2017 PGA Professional Champion Omar Uresti, Ben Polland and Tim Pearce.

Five players from the South Central PGA Section (Oklahoma, Arkansas, southern Kansas) are competing. Shannon Friday of Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club is tied for 23rd after a 1-under 71. Life member Jeff Combe shot 73, Trent Rommann of Crestview Country Club in Wichita shot 74 and Tim Fleming of Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club and Riley Seitz of Reflection Ridge Country Club in Wichita each shot 75.

While Bensel’s star shined brightest Sunday on Florida’s Treasure Coast, the first round included additional fireworks.

There were three holes-in-one Sunday, courtesy of 2016 PGA Professional Champion Rich Berberian Jr. (Ryder #12, 9-iron, 166 yds); Fred Sutton of Nampa, ID (Wanamaker #6, 7-iron, 180 yds) and Jason Caron of Oyster Bay, N.Y. (Wanamaker #6, 6-iron, 180 yds).

Of the three, Caron used his ace most effectively. The PGA Head Professional from Mill River Club, Inc. in Oyster Bay opened with an even-par 72 on the tougher Wanamaker Course and is tied for 34th place.

Twenty-one players are within four shots of Bensel, including four former PGA Professional Champions.

“There are so many great players here, this is a deep and talented field,” said Bensel. “Whoever wins here this week will have to play great golf.”

The low round of the day on the Wanamaker Course ー which played 2.8 shots tougher than the Ryder ー came from Kyle Mendoza, a PGA Assistant Professional from Rancho Santa Fe, California, who opened with a 69 and is three shots back. The Wanamaker yielded only 10 sub-par rounds Sunday.

The field will be trimmed to the low 90 scorers and ties after Monday’s round, with the Wanamaker hosting the final two rounds. The low 70 scorers and ties after Tuesday’s third round advance to the final round.

The low 20 scorers earn berths in the 2021 PGA Championship, May 20-23, at Kiawah Island (South Carolina) Golf Resort’s Ocean Course.

The second round of the 2021 PGA Professional Championship will be broadcast live on Golf Channel on Monday, April 26 from 4:00 – 7:00 p.m.


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Ken MacLeod

Publisher Golf Oklahoma | Oklahoma's No. 1 Golf Source