Finishing in a tie for fifth place at the PIAA Class 3A Championships, and playing a big role in his Unionville squad winning the Class 3A state team title, Connor Bennink is a solid choice for the 2017 Daily Local News Boys Golfer of the Year.
In the PIAA individual championships, Bennink shot two rounds of 2-over-par 73 at Heritage Hills Golf Club in York, to finish with a total of 146, three strokes back of winner Liam Hart of Holy Ghost Prep. While on the surface, his scores at Heritage Hills looked like the model of consistency, Bennink had to rebound from a triple bogey in the first round on hole No. 6.
“I think that the key to my strong play at states was my mental toughness,” said the Unionville junior. “I was able to bounce back from mistakes and not let the round slip away, especially after that triple bogey.”
Bennink finished his final round on a high note, sinking a 20-foot putt for birdie on the 18th hole.
“I was feeling a little frustrated [on the 17th hole] when I realized I wasn’t going to finish first after being in the hunt,” said Bennink. “But to make that putt for a birdie in front of a big crowd was really cool — it’s my strongest memory of the tournament.
“States was a really great experience and the tournament was run really well. I was able to be there for four days and it was a lot of fun.”
The following day, Bennink shot another 73 at Heritage Hills in the PIAA 3A team competition to help his Unionville squad finish first. He credited his Indian teammates for his fine performances throughout the season.
“Our team was obviously really strong this season, and this made it really competitive for me, because you’re not only playing the other teams but also playing for position on our team [during the season],” said Bennink. “This pushed me and my teammates to be the best we could be, and it worked out for us in the end.”
Bennink was the only state qualifier from the Ches-Mont League, and was able to come through in the qualifying rounds when he needed to. In the first round of the District 1 tournament, he shot a 2-over-par 73 at Turtle Creek and was in danger of missing the cut. But in the second round, he fired a 1-under-par 71 to make the cut by two strokes.
“I thought my best round of the season was my second round of districts, where I think my short game was really working,” said Bennink. “I really needed that good round to make the cut and advance.”
Bennink’s favorite club is his putter, a 34-inch-long Taylormade TP collection Berwick.
“I think that my putting is the strength of my game and this putter has really helped me a lot this year,” said Bennink. “On the other hand, I’ve been working on my driving recently because I think that I could really improve in that area.”
Bennink’s favorite golfer is Webb Simpson, but he really admires Tiger Woods.
“I really believe in the mental side of golf,” said Bennink. “[Woods’] mental toughness and discipline, as well as confidence, are things that I try to incorporate into my game.”
Bennink, who would like to major in engineering in college, has not committed to a college yet, but some of his current favorites are Saint Joseph’s University, Loyola (Md.) and the University of Richmond.
Come next spring, Bennink will be playing varsity volleyball for Unionville.
“I started playing volleyball to keep in shape over the winter and just have fun,” said Bennink.
Then next fall, he will be hitting the golf course for Unionville for his senior campaign, in hopes of capturing another PIAA state medal — and maybe first place.
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