Vincent Bender, a golfer at Warrior Run High School, plans on taking his game outside the contiguous 48 states this summer. The sophomore expects to travel to Australia and Hawaii with “Down Under Golf.”
Bender, a Watsontown resident, hopes to compete in two different tournaments near Brisbane, Australia. One of 66 high school students on the trip from June 24 to July 2, he would complete in Team USA against Team Australia for the Down Under Cup.
On the way home, they will make a three-day stop in Hawaii, according to Bender.
“I’m really looking forward to this,” said Bender, who also plans on seeing the sights in Australia and Hawaii.
According to the student, Down Under Sports — a business started in 1989 by George O’Scanlon, a New Zealander who “fell in love with athletics, especially American football,” according to its website — sent a letter to his school inviting him to participate.
Bender said the letter stated that the business, International Sports Specialists, Inc., had seen his scores on the golf course.
“I thought about it for a couple of weeks, and decided it would be a great opportunity to travel,” said Bender, who has never left the country or traveled on an airplane.
In October, Bender made the cut at the District 4 tournament at the Williamsport Country Club. He finished the two-day tournament in a three-way tie for fifth place before winning a three-man playoff hole.
At the Eastern Regional Tournament in Berks County, Bender finished three strokes off the mark needed to qualify for the PIAA Championships.
He struggled on his initial nine holes at the Golden Oaks Country Club, posting a nine-over 45 on the back nine.
“I was in trouble the majority of my starting holes,” Bender said. “I kept hitting my drives to the left and right of the fairway.”
After the turn, he posted a three-over 39 on the front nine.
“My second nine holes, I started hitting the ball much better,” said Bender, who considers his short game his strength.
To secure his spot, the student needs to raise $6,000 by June 1. Bender said that money will cover all airfare, hotel and food expenses.
To date, he has raised $1,000 from family members in different states, local businesses and customers of his brother, who tends bar at a golf course in Georgia.
“I’m getting a little uneasy about it,” Bender said. “But I am confident that different businesses and more family members will donate the money.”