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Met PGA: Siwanoy refuses to be overpowered

GlenArbor director of golf Rob Labritz watches an eagle putt on the 18th green at Siwanoy C.C. during the first round of the Met PGA Championship. He came up just short, tapped in for birdie and signed for an opening-round 68.

GlenArbor director of golf Rob Labritz watches an eagle putt on the 18th green at Siwanoy C.C. during the first round of the Met PGA Championship. He came up just short, tapped in for birdie and signed for an opening-round 68.

BRONXVILLE – On a calm day made for scoring, the number of players in the red could be counted on three hands.

The game has changed in ways unimagined when Jim Barnes won the inaugural PGA Championship at Siwanoy Country Club nearly 100 years ago. Even so, the golden-age wisdom of Donald Ross held up fine.

So maybe it’s not a test equal to some of the other landmark designs in the region at 6,537 yards, but it’s one heck of a pop quiz.

Frank Bensel was atop the leaderboard Tuesday following the opening round of the Lincoln Met PGA Championship. The longtime Century assistant shot a 5-under 66 and leads by two.

“The course played well,” he said. “It allows different kinds of players to be involved. You have to hit a lot of different shots and those greens are really good.”

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A three-year restoration was completed here last summer.

“We attempted to bring the course back to the original Ross design as much as possible,” Siwanoy head professional Grant Turner said. “The greens were expanded significantly. The fairways were widened a bit. The approaches were expanded slightly. It’s a fun golf course, a playable golf course, one that is deceptively difficult.”

It made sense to bring the Met PGA Championship here to cap the organization’s season-long centennial celebration.

“That’s pretty cool,” said Bensel, who was bogey free and only had one pulse-raising putt for par. “We have so many great golf courses with historical significance around here and that makes the week a little more interesting.”

GlenArbor director of golf Rob Labritz came in leading the player-of-the-year standings and is two shots off the lead. He’s tied for second with Fresh Meadow head pro Matt Dobyns and Golf Club of Purchase assistant Patrick Langan.

Only the low 60 and ties after Wednesday move on.

“It was a good practice round for me,” Labritz said. “It was the first time I’ve set foot on this course in 20 years, but my caddie was here a couple weeks ago doing all of the yardages. The changes they made are phenomenal. It’s a really solid course.”

There were five players at 2-under, including retiring Old Oaks head pro Bobby Heins, who is 65 years old. He’s played in 14 major championships and has won 35 tournaments, but never this one. Heins is tied with Paramount head pro Steve Scott, Southward Ho assistant Matthew Belizze, Mill River head pro Jason Caron, Willow Ridge assistant Kyle Baehler and Wykagyl assistant Paul Selvaggio.

A plaque near the first tee at Siwanoy C.C. commemorates the inaugural PGA Championship played at the club nearly 100 years ago.

A plaque near the first tee at Siwanoy C.C. commemorates the inaugural PGA Championship played at the club nearly 100 years ago.

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