Danbury's Bensel wins Connecticut Open
Frank Bensel of Danbury made his own history on this epic 6,617-yard, par-71 layout Wednesday when his two-under-par 69 gave him an 8-under 205 total and a two-shot victory at the 77th Connecticut Open Golf Championship.
"I spent a number of years working at Winged Foot Country Club. This Brooklawn CC course reminds me of that," said Bensel, an assistant pro at The Century Club in Purchase, N.Y. "All the A.W. Tillinghast courses stress position in the fairways and position on the greens. Brooklawn has always been one of my favorite courses. I really love it now."
Bensel is now a two-time Connecticut Open champ having won previously in 2009. He skipped the 2010 Open due to another golf commitment. Plan on seeing him defend his crown in 2012 at Wee Burn CC in Darien.
"I won't be skipping this Open anymore," said Bensel, who took home the $10,000 first prize as top professional in the final round field of 45 pros and amateurs.
Bensel began the final round leading by two shots and quickly birdied No. 1 (8 foot putt) and No. 4 (chipped in from 20 feet off the green) to go 8 under. He also birdied No. 15, but bogied No. 16.
"I knew that shooting even par (71) wasn't going to get it done," Bensel said. "My drives were in play all the time. I found no trouble. My par saves on Nos. 12 and 13 were key."
McCarthy used just 23 putts with 13 1-putt greens in his seven-birdie, two-bogey round. McCarthy was 7 under thru 16 holes but lipped out on a birdie on No. 17 and bogied No. 18 due to a plugged lie in the fairway.
"Eight under was the score I wanted to get to. Which was a lot to ask," said McCarthy, who received $750 in merchandise credit as top amateur. "I changed from a crosshanded to a righthanded grip on my putter recently and it has helped."
The 29-year-old Balin was 7 under thru 14 holes, but bogied No. 15 when he chunked a wedge instead of putting.
"I knew I just had to keep making birdies," said Balin, who won $5,000 as 2nd best pro.
That cash will come in handy when he competes in the PGA Championship for the second straight year.
"I understand how everything works this time. My time management will be better," Balin said. "And this time we're playing on a traditional style course that suits my game better."
Amateur Dave Szewczul of Tunxis Plantation (70) was fourth at 5-under 208. Pro Jack McConachie of Pine Valley (72, $3,000) - playing in the final twosome with Bensel - was in fifth at 210.
Bobby Gage of Candlewood Valley (69, 211, $2,500) tied for sixth. Jason Caron of Greenwich (72, 212, $2,000) was eighth while amateur Brian Murphy of host Brooklawn (73, 213, $375 credit) and Brian Lamberti of Danbury (72, 213, $1,800) were in the tie for ninth.
"I wasn't sharp but I putted and hung in," Caron said. "I'm playing the Rhode Island Open next."
"I played 27 holes in five under par this week. The other nine hurt," Murphy said. "Considering this is my only golf tourney I'm playing all summer, I was happy I made the cut."
Other Fairfield County golfers couldn't mount a charge over the narrow, sloping fairways and treacherous sloping greens.
Pro Mike Ballo Jr. of Stamford and Woodway CC shot a second straight 71 to tie for 17th at 216.
"I made par putts but not birdie putts," said Ballo Jr., who won $1,285. "I have the Met Open qualifier, the Rhode Island Open and Providence Open on my schedule."
David Pastore of Greenwich had a final round 77 for 219 and a tie for 26th. Pastore elected not to play in a U.S. Amateur qualifier Wednesday at Glen Arden CC in Bedford Hills, N.Y.
"I wanted to finish this tournament. The U.S. Amateur qualifier was bad scheduling on my part," Pastore said. "The Met Amateur at Piping Rock in August is next up for me."
Pro Reed Howard of Greenwich had a 75 to tie for 30th place at 220.
"It was a rough day," Howard said. "The Met Open qualifier and a Mini Tour event in North Carolina are next."
Four-time Connecticut Open champ Kyle Gallo shot 72 for 215 and a tie for 15th place.