By Mike Dougherty
PURCHASE — The slightly off-kilter silver trophy was going home again with Danny Balin, who claimed the Lincoln Met PGA Championship on Thursday for a third consecutive year.
Of course, a few stops were planned along the way.
The 31-year-old Burning Tree assistant closed this one out with a 68 in extremely firm and fast conditions at Century Country Club to finish with a 4-under total of 209. Frank Bensel came in a close second on his home course, posting a 2-under total of 211.
Nobody else in the field got into red numbers.
“It’s been a good couple of days,” said Balin, who started the final round two shots off the lead. “To win it three times in a row is an honor, especially in the Met section. We’re known for the best players and best teachers and the best golf professionals. And to get my name on this trophy yet again, for three in a row is just awesome.”
There are legendary names like Gene Sarazen, Paul Runyan, Craig Wood, Claude Harmon, Doug Ford and Gene Borek engraved on the sterling trophy.
Balin is the first player with three straight wins in the championship.
Century got more difficult with each passing day, so he was patient to the very end. There was some clutch scrambling coming down the stretch before a laser 7-iron approach on the 18th green set up a tap-in birdie.
“When the greens are this firm and fast, they become so much more difficult,” said Bensel, who captured this championship in 2009 and has finished as runner-up each of the last three years. “You have to be more conservative. If you miss a green, it’s hard to get up and down. Hats off to Danny, he’s a great player. You can’t fake it around here.”
GlenArbor director of golf Rob Labritz shot a 1-over 72 to finish in third place at even-par. St. Andrew’s assistant Greg Bisconti signed for a 69 to finish in fourth at 2-over.
“You gotta rely on every part of your game,” Balin said. “I definitely did that coming down the stretch.”
Bensel kept the pressure on all day. He nearly had a hole-in-one at the 13th, a tricky par 3 over a pond. There was a bogey at the 16th, a birdie at the 17th and then a scrambling par that included a crafty up-and-down from the right side of the green right before an hour-long weather delay.
Lincoln Met PGA Championship
At Century C.C. – Par 71
1. Danny Balin, Burning Tree 72-69-68-209
2. Frank Bensel, Century 71-71-69-211
3. Rob Labritz, GlenArbor 70-71-72-213
4. Greg Bisconti, Saint Andrew’s 72-74-69-215
5. Mark Brown, Tam O’Shanter 71-75-70-216
5. Mark Mielke, Mill River 71-73-72-216
5. Christopher Toulson, Sunningdale 71-73-72-216
5. Charlie Meola, Saxon Woods 69-73¬-74-216
5. Paul Dickinson, Montauk Downs 73-68-75-216
5. Rob Corcoran, Poxabogue 72-67-77-216
5. Steve Scott, Paramount 64-76-76-216
12. Terry Slater, Pound Ridge 73-72-72-217
12. Carl Alexander, Golf Club of Purchase 71-72-74-217
12. Darrell Kestner, Deepdale 72-70-75-217
15. Scott Ford, North Hills 73-75-70-218
15. Christopher Marinaro, Muttontown 74-72-72-218
15. John Guyton, Metropolis 74-69-75-218
15. Sean Farren, The Creek 72-70-76-218
15. Kyle Baehler, Sunningdale 72-68-78-218