GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP - Mark Benevento had one of the best nine-hole averages in South Jersey last season.
The 2013 first-team Press All-Star also is dominant in 18-hole events, with a handful of top-5 finishes already on his resume.
On Monday, the St. Augustine Prep junior showed he's pretty good in a rare 14-hole format, too.
Benevento was one of four local golfers to finish in the top 10 of the Garden State Cup at Blue Heron Pines Golf Club.
He finished third in the prestigious invitational with a 2-over par 58 in the rain-shortened event.
"I'm pretty happy, but I still think I could have done better," Benevento said.
Peddie's Kyle Sterbinsky became a two-time champ with a 1-under par 55.
Ryan Shae finished in second with a 57 to help Don Bosco Prep to the team title, knocking off four-time defending champion Bergen Catholic 239-241
The Prep (248) finished third in the 20-team tournament that featured 100 of the top golfers in the state.
"I feel like the strokes meant a lot more," Benevento said. "Like I told my team, 'Count every shot. Just go out there and do the best you can – every shot counts.' "
Benevento didn't have a birdie in the round.
"I heard that someone came in with a 34 on the front, and I started pin-hunting a little," Benevento said. "I couldn't get anything to drop though."
Southern Regional's Jackson Fiel finished fifth with a 3-over 59.
St. Augustine Prep's Mike Toner and Middle Township's David Hicks each came in with 4-over par 60s. Toner took eighth and Hicks ninth based on a match of cards.
Fiel said Monday was the first time he ever played Blue Heron, but that he felt right at home in the soggy conditions.
"They're my favorite conditions to play in," Fiel said. "I feel like I pick up a couple (strokes) on the field when it's like this, so I was happy."
Fiel was a first-team Press All-Star last season after qualifying for the Tournament of Champions.
He had a pair of birdies Monday and said he took confidence from a second-place finish at last season's Galloway Challenge at Galloway National Golf Club with many of the same top-tier teams.
"I'm getting used to playing with these guys," Fiel said. "It's getting to the point where I feel like I can compete with them, so it's good to start being more comfortable."
Toner turned in his best career finish in a tournament.
"I wasn't really going right at pins," Toner said. "I was just trying to go to the middle of the green and two-putt for par. I knew there wouldn't be a lot of low scores with the conditions, so I just wanted to get out of the there with par."
The Hermits were tops among the five area teams in the field.
Mainland finished tied for fifth behind 62s from Colin Roche, Anthony Godleski and Henry Jungels.
Southern finished 14th, Middle Township 16th and Wildwood Catholic 18th.
"We have unlimited potential," Toner said. "We can win anytime we go out. We can win any match, any tournament."
Hicks finished tied for second last season as a sophomore and said he left a few strokes out on the course this time.
"It's always nice to finish decently, but you always want more," Hicks said. "Especially when you know it was out there, but next time, next event."
Hicks was the Press Golfer of the Year last season and will be among the favorites every time he enters a tournament this season.
"My short game was decent," Hicks said. "I left a couple out there and still placed OK, so if I can start hitting the ball a little more solid. ... There are a lot of events left, so it was a good start."
Contact John O’Kane:
Top five teams (and local schools)
1. Don Bosco Prep 239
2. Bergen Catholic 142
3. St. Augustine Prep 248
4. Peddie 249
5 (tie). Mainland Regional and St. Peter's 253
14. Southern Regional 277
16. Middle Township 278
18. Wildwood Catholic 285
Top 10 individuals (par 56, 14 holes)
1. Kyle Sterbinsky, Peddie 55
2. Ryan Shae, Don Bosco Prep 57
3. Mark Benevento, St. Augustine Prep 58
4. Zach Egermayer, Bergen Catholic 58
5. Jackson Fiel, Southern Regional 59
6. Nick Cappetti, Burlington Township 59
7. Gabe Estevez, Don Bosco Prep 59
8. Mike Toner, St. Augustine Prep 60
9. David Hicks, Middle Township 60
10. Harry Brenner, Peddie 61
Area teams (top four scores count)
St. Augustine Prep (248): Mark Benevento, 58; Mike Toner, 60; Davis Tuttle, 63; Jimmy Pagliaccetti, 67; Luke Sliwowski, 68.
Mainland Regional (253): Colin Roche, 62; Anthony Godleski, 62; Henry Jungels, 62; Ryan Hodgdon, 67; Nick Lawless, 70.
Southern Regional (277): Jackson Fiel, 59; Chase Clark, 74; Tristan Leming, 73; Matt Rizzo, 71; Gerald McNee, 79.
Middle Township (278): David Hicks, 60; Sean McMiller, 70; Presley Brawn, 71; Chris Devico, 77; Miranda Mangano, 77.
Wildwood Catholic (285): Blake Vogdes, 63; Pat Vogdes, 71; Jake Ferry, 73; Ana Pelayo, 78; Sean Loughran, DQ.