A Historic First by Bensel at USGA’s 1,001st Championship

By David Shefter, USGA

| Jun 28, 2024 | Newport, R.I.

A Historic First by Bensel at USGA’s 1,001st Championship

Talk about a ONE-of-a-kind achievement at one of golf’s historic landmarks. Frank Bensel Jr., a teaching professional who splits time between Florida and New York, registered one of the rarest feats on Friday morning in the 44th U.S. Senior Open at Newport Country Club, making consecutive holes-in-one on the par-3 fourth and fifth holes.

According to the National Hole-in-One Registry, the odds of having two aces in the same round is 67 million to one.

The USGA had never witnessed consecutive holes-in-one in the 129 years of conducting championships.

“First of all, I've played a lot of golf in my life, and just to see a hole-in-one in a tournament is pretty rare,” said Bensel, 56, who teaches at Mirasol in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and Century Country Club in Purchase, N.Y., during the summer. I'm out here trying to play well and make the cut, and at the time, it was pretty important for me to do that.

“So, the first one was great. That got me under par for the day. And then the second one, I just couldn't believe it. To even think that that could happen was amazing.”

In the 1987 U.S. Mid-Amateur at Brook Hollow Golf Club in Dallas, Texas, Don Bliss made a pair of aces in the first round of stroke play 16 holes apart. In the 1971 Martini International during the nascent days of the European Tour, John Hudson pulled off consecutive aces at Royal Norwich Golf Club in England on a par 3 and par 4. The last player on the PGA Tour to register multiple aces in a round was Brian Harman in the 2015 Barclays at Plainfield Country Club.

Unfortunately for Benzel, seven bogeys over his final 12 holes led to a 4-over-par 74 and a likely missed cut (9-over 149). Still, he left Newport a lot more recognizable and likely a few more customers seeking some lessons. The two aces gave him 14 overall for his career, many of which have come in competitions.

When Bensel arrived at the 173-yard, uphill fourth hole, his 14-year-old son/caddie, Hagen (yes, he’s named for 11-time major champion and World Golf Hall of Famer Walter Hagen), suggested a 7-iron, but Frank decided on a knockdown 6-iron. When he made contact, he thought it was a good shot, yet he never saw it land on the green. His nephew, Jack Davenport, of White Plains, N.Y., was the first to yell and the noise got louder from the many friends and family surrounding the green.

Bensel, competing in his first U.S. Senior Open, chose 6-iron again on the 202-yard fifth, only this time he saw the entire shot. It landed right of the flagstick and trickled into the hole.

The USGA presented Frank Bensel (left) and his son/caddie, Hagen, were presented a commemorative sign for his historic feat on Friday. (USGA/Kathryn Riley)

The USGA presented Frank Bensel (left) and his son/caddie, Hagen, were presented a commemorative sign for his historic feat on Friday. (USGA/Kathryn Riley)

“Anytime you play in a major tournament, it's great,” said Bensel, who qualified for the 2007 U.S. Open at Oakmont and has played in three PGA Championships and two Senior PGA Championships, including 2021 at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla., where he carded a second-round 67 to make the cut. “This will be remembered obviously forever and ever. This could be the highlight.”

Bensel grew up in Westchester (N.Y.) County and played briefly at Jacksonville University in Florida before transferring to Maryland, where he didn’t play on the team. He eventually got into the teaching side of the game and previously worked at Winged Foot Golf Club, site of six previous U.S. Opens, from 1997-2000 before moving over to Century C.C. Now residing in Jupiter, Fla., he spends much of the year at Mirasol Golf Club. Hagen is a rising sophomore at Cardinal Newman High in West Palm Beach.

Having his son on the bag and family in the gallery made Friday’s achievement that much more special.

“He's a great caddie,” said Bensel of his son, who was hoping to find a course to play on Friday afternoon. “He loves golf, and we love spending time together. He's a great reader of greens, and his eyes are a lot better than mine. I've been able to trust him a lot on the reads.

“Whereas a few years ago I wouldn't necessarily listen because I thought maybe I'd read them better, but he can definitely read the putts. He knows my game really well. He's been caddying for me for a while. It's great to just experience things like this with him because he loves being here and we love spending time together.”

Of course, making a hole-in-one means one thing in the golf world: buying drinks. When asked his beverage of choice, Hagen replied, “a lemonade.”

Others among his party weren’t sure if Frank now had to buy two rounds instead of one. Bensel seemed more than eager to oblige to his supporters, especially now that his weekend would not include a tee time at Newport.

“The original plan was to get some sleep and get ready for tomorrow, but won't need to do that. We're going to have a good time and kind of lay back. We're going to just enjoy it.”

No matter what transpires, it’s ONE day Bensel will never forget.

David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at dshefter@usga.org.