19th Annual United States Golf Teachers Cup Results
October 22-23, 2014
Boulder Creek Golf Club, Boulder City, Nevada
BELLING CONTINUES TREND AT US CUP
A definite trend has developed the past few years at the United States Golf Teachers Cup: If you want to win the overall title, you must be Canadian and 50 or over. No others need apply, or if you do, you better find a way to knock off the older crowd from north of the border.
First, it was 71-year-old Bill Hardwick from Aurora, Ontario, a seasoned competitor who still drives the ball in the 270-yard range, who took home the title in 2012. Then, it was 50-year-old Grant Gulych from Port Stanley, Ontario, who outlasted the field in difficult conditions in 2013.
Dave Belling continued that trend as the Canadian, a newly-minted senior golfer at the age of 50, shot a US Cup record 8-under par 136 to win the 2014 edition of the USGTF’s national championship tournament October 22-23 at Boulder Creek Golf Club in Boulder City, Nevada. The win made Belling the third multiple winner of the US Cup along with James Douris and Mark Harman, as he previously captured the championship in 2004 at Carter Plantation in Louisiana. Belling also won $3,000 for his efforts, and the tournament featured a purse of $18,000.
For Belling, it marked a return to the top of the USGTF heap for the longtime competitor. He has played in every US Cup since 2003, absent only last year in Tunica after taking a new position as general manager of Fountain of the Sun Country Club in Mesa, Arizona. Being settled in for a year allowed Belling to arrange his schedule so he could play once again.
Turning 50 seemed to energize the Canadian, who said, “I had high expectations for the week; I came to win.” And win he did: Belling won by five shots, the second largest margin of victory in US Cup history. Jerry Moore in 2008 won by a record seven shots at Sandia Golf Course in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The week officially kicked off on Tuesday, October 21, with a try at a $5,000 putt. Seventeen golfers advanced by making a 10-foot putt on the practice green at Boulder Creek, and Jeffrey Keefer was the only one to make a putt from the next qualifying distance, 15 feet. With a gallery of approximately 100 looking on, Keefer’s attempt from 40 feet to win $5,000 just missed on the left side. It was a good kickoff to the week.
A field of 106 players teed it up on Wednesday for the first round of the US Cup. Past champions in the field besides Belling included Hardwick, Moore, Gulych, Harman and Christopher Richards, making this the strongest field in US Cup history. In addition, Jim Perez, Cole Golden, Bruce Sims, and defending two-time Open division winner Matt Smith posed formidable threats. Others champions in the field included 2010 Canadian Golf Teachers Cup titleholder Bob Richardson, former USGTF Central Region winner Nate Deakin, and current USGTF Northwest Region champion Ryan Ortega. It was a daunting task to pick a favorite before the start of the tournament.
Belling set the tone in the first round, firing a stellar 3-under 69 on the El Dorado and Coyote Run nines at Boulder Creek. Although, it wasn’t as easy at it seemed.
“The El Dorado nine doesn’t set up well for me,” said Belling. “It doesn’t fit my eye. I bogeyed both of the par-5s, and was 1-over after my first nine.”
Everything fell into place on the back nine as Belling ripped off a 32 to take a two-shot lead into the final round. Nipping at his heels at 71 were Vito Cisternino, Ricky Orsborn, and Kirtis Tyler. Golden was another shot back at 72, followed at 73 by Hardwick, Harman, Richards, Moore, and Mark Startup.
After the first round was completed, guest speakers Dr. Michelle Cleere and Wayne Player spoke to the competitors. Cleere spoke about teaching your players ways to beat their mental demons using a three-step approach, while Player, a USGTF Level III member, talked about being fit and eating healthy foods, along with inspirational stories from his many experiences in the golf world. Both speaker were well received by those in attendance.
As for the US Cup, with so many former champions and fine players within striking distance, Belling figured he had to up his game if he wanted to win.
“I knew I had a lot of firepower ahead of me,” Belling remarked about playing in the final group on the final day. “I had great respect for the players in front of me. I knew someone would come at me with a 68 or 69, so I knew I had to be at 70 or better to win.”
Belling got off to a slow start as he three-putted the first hole during the final round for a bogey. Tyler, also playing in the final group, struck the ball well but wasn’t able to sink the putts he needed. Nevertheless, he cut the deficit to one shot heading into the back nine as he was -2 to Belling’s -3. Cisternino shot 39 and Orsborn shot 40 to fall out of contention. Hardwick, playing two groups in front of Belling, posted a 34 to make the turn at -1 for the championship. It looked to be a three-man race on the final nine.
Except, Belling had other ideas. Starting on the 11th hole, the Canadian birdied four of the next five holes to seal the deal. A closing 67 gave Belling his record score and comfortable margin of victory.
What did the win mean to Belling?
“I get my badge back,” he joked, referring to a story in the Winter 2005 edition of Golf Teaching Pro that described him as the “new sheriff in town” when it came to WGTF events. “It was nice to play well and be competitive. Being a little more solidified in business and in my personal life helped. I also have a great team at the club surrounding me.”
The Open division championship was settled for the second consecutive year with a sudden-death playoff. Richards, Startup, and Golden all tied at 2-under 142, necessitating extra holes. After Golden hit his approach to four feet to set up a sure birdie on the first playoff hole, Richards nailed a 25-foot birdie putt to stay alive. Startup was eliminated after failing to also birdie the hole. Richards then won on the second playoff hole when his 14-foot par putt found the bottom of the cup, and Golden’s own effort from 13 feet went astray. It was Richards’ second Open division title.
The Ladies division was won by Florencia De Rolz from Guatemala, who was the runner-up in that division in 2006 at the same course. She fired rounds of 84-82 – 166 to win the title over runner-up Sharon Bagdasarian.
Hardwick won the Super Senior division for the second year in a row, finishing with scores of 73-68 – 141. Cisternino was the runner-up at 71-77 – 148.
The Legends division was won for the second consecutive year by Walt Abraham, who fired scores of 80-76 – 156, to win by three shots over first-round leader Versie Adams, who finished with 78-81 – 159. Belling also took the Senior division title, defeating runner-up Mark Shimamura, who turned in scores of 74-70 – 144.