Tuesday, 11 October 2011 20:11
by Gord Montgomery
Mike Belbin doesn’t hesitate to admit that perhaps there was a little divine intervention as he finally walked away with as the winner at the Canadian PGA Assistants’ Championship a couple of weeks back.
Belbin, who works and plays out of the Royal Mayfair in Edmonton, doesn’t really need much help to go low but at the same time, the pro admitted he could feel the presence of his dad, Ron, who passed away two years ago, walking with him as he closed in on his first-ever such title.
“He and I had a handful of conversations when I was out there,” the son said of accepting that guidance from above by his dad, a highly respected professional himself in Alberta for over four decades.
“I do that a fair amount,” Mike continued. “He creeps into my mind a lot. Yeah, I’d say I had a little bit of help there. I started to get a little emotional on 17 when I knew for the most part it was over.
“Having that three-shot lead going down 17, and once I hit the drive safely there, yeah, I had a tear in my eye because it would have meant a lo to him and it means a lot to me.”
Belbin went wire-to-wire to earn the victory in a tournament he feels is the pinnacle for assistant pros in the country – sort of their Masters, if you will.
The Edmonton pro has been close in this event before – finishing as the runner-up once and in the top-10 numerous times, so the victory to him was special. “I don’t know the last time an Albertan won this championship,” he said. “It’s an important championship to me.”
He tore up the back nine at the Cherry Hill Club in Niagara Falls, Ont., going around in 11-under par. On the front side of the course he was even par overall but that didn’t matter in the end.
One of the huge advantages Belbin had was his length off the tee, which he said is “between 280 and 300 yards.”
That allowed him to carry the numerous fairway bunkers scattered throughout the Cherry Hill, which other players had to play around rather than over more often than not.
“If you put the ball in those bunkers, too close to the front edge, you don’t have a shot. I stayed out of them all week. If you have a little curve to your ball it could bring those bunkers into play but I hit it straight and took them out of play,” the winner said of making use of his advantage.
Belbin’s drives also put him in wedge range on the par 4s which allowed him to set his approach shots down relatively close to the hole, helping him to a pair of 67s the first two days. He managed a (-1) the final day, but that was still more than enough to carry him to a three shot victory over Bryn Parry of Vancouver.
“I didn’t play the front nine well on Day three. I made a couple of little mistakes on seven and nine making bogey, but for some reason I really played well on the back nine all week.
“I shot 3-under on the back that last day, with birdies on 10 and 12,” to wrap things up.
As for leading from start to end, Belbin said, “You know what? I never even thought about that until it was over and someone told me. I do like to lead and the reason I like that is I make a fair amount of birdies and put pressure on the guys who are two, three four back. They’re not going to win a lot of holes with pars.”
That was especially true at this event, one that has extra special meaning to the winner.
“It means a lot,” he began. “It’s hard to explain. I’ve been a PGA member for a long time and I try to represent the Mayfair, and the province of Alberta, the best I can.
“Dad passed just short of two years ago and this title would have meant a lot to him and it means a lot to me.”
What it also means to the Edmonton pro, who is of course a force on the Alberta professional golf scene, is a bump in the national rankings from being in the top-20 to now being in the top-10, an end result that both father and son will relish in.
And it also likely means his dad is prouder of his son now that he has captured a title both cherished so much.
By Gord Montgomery
About the writer: Gord Montgomery is the sports editor of two weekly newspapers in the Edmonton area and is a member of the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. He has written for Inside Golf for the past four years with the majority of his coverage in north and central Alberta. He can be reached at email@example.com.
More articles by Gord Montgomery