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Golf: Red Wing's Belisle wins Class 2A state championship

Red Wing sophomore Cecil Belisle won the class AA boys' individual championship with a two-day score of 139, two shots ahead of second place. Alec Hamilton / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 4
Belisle walks up to the tee as his head coach, Nate Gale, looks on. Alec Hamilton / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 4
Cannon Falls junior golfer Addison Bahr sticks his tongue out as he putts on the 18th hole at the class AA state tournament. Alec Hamilton / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 4
Belisle tees off as a large crowd looks on. This was Belisle's second trip to the state tournament. Alec Hamilton / RiverTown Multimedia4 / 4

JORDAN — Red Wing sophomore Cecil Belisle is the Minnesota Class 2A boys' individual state golf champion. While quite a mouthful, it's an amazing accomplishment for someone barely halfway through high school.

Belisle was tied for first at the end of day one when he shot a four-under-par 68. However, on a Day 2 that in general saw scores rise a few strokes for everyone, the sophomore was able to be consistent and scramble when needed to shoot a one-under 71. To put it simply, it was unlikely that anybody would score low enough on Day 2 to overtake him, so the rest of the field needed to rely upon him dropping even more strokes than the rest of them. Cecil did not oblige.

"My iron shots weren't as good today as they were yesterday," Belisle explained. "But my putter really saved me, I had a lot of lag putts, longer putts where I was able to get it close."

This was not the first, or even second time Cecil had made the state tournament and faced the pressure. This season was the third time he's qualified and he finished tied for third last year. Through the first seven holes of the back nine, he was able to scramble to save par as he battled tee shots that went left and that he said were more of a hook than an actual draw. His tee shot went into the sand on the par-3 17th and he eventually made bogey, but Belisle responded in a big way. He birdied the par-5 18th to help secure his state championship.

While Cecil said he was aware that he had a chance to win it with a good last round, he said the biggest challenge over the two days was staying consistent, especially on the Day 2 back nine.

"(The biggest challenge was) keeping momentum going, making all those par putts," he said. "I think the green speed really got me, especially for the long ones. I just was not lag putting as well as I wanted to be, but I was putting tremendous inside of 10 or five feet."

He acknowledged that he was aware of the stakes coming into the last few holes, but said that he couldn't afford to think about it until he was done with the round.

"I had to wait until I made my last putt on 18, if I didn't make birdie on the last hole I would have really been under stress," Belisle said. "The last couple holes I wasn't trying to think about it too much. Just when I came in and saw the scores, I was like ok, it's starting to look good."

Going forward, while he said he wants to defend his championship and continue with his individual achievements, next on his list is his team.

"Winning it as a team some year, we have a bunch of young guys so I think we can do it," Belisle said. "We just have to have them (his teammates) grow, get longer, get better and practice more. I really hope we can win it as a team one year."

As for when it will sink in that he's a state champion?

"It won't sink in until tomorrow or tonight, when I can get home and I can finally relax and enjoy it more," Belisle finished.

Head coach Nate Gale said Belisle's victory is not only huge for him, but also for the program as a whole.

"It's big on the boys' side," Gale said. "The last 20 years the girls' have been amazing. I think this is big for the younger kids, seeing someone of Cecil's build, that he's just a normal kid and this is possible. He's just a sophomore, so in the next couple years hopefully we can build off this and get here as a team next year. Red Wing is kind of known as a baseball and basketball town, I think it's going to help our numbers and hopefully some younger kids in town see it and build an interest in boys' golf."

Gale also said that what sets Cecil apart is his work ethic.

"First he just works his tail off," he explained. "He's been golfing since he could walk. He practices a lot, he's never afraid to ask questions or get help. He wants it and he goes out and gets it, he doesn't stop until he does what he wants to do. Some of the kids, they practice and when practice is over golf is done for the day. Cecil will come to practice after school from three to five, go home and eat and then go back out to the course until dark every day. On weekends he's out there all day long, it's his passion and it's what he's good at, but he spends a ton of time on it."

Bahr finishes 44th

Cannon Falls junior Addison Bahr finished the state tournament tied for 44th. Bahr was the model of consistency as he shot two first-round 39s for a Day 1 78. On Day 2 he added another 39 on the front and then a 42 on the back for a second-round 81. Overall he shot a 159, which was just 14 shots off of the top-10 and 20 back from Belisle.

Alec Hamilton

Alec Hamilton is a sports reporter and general assignment reporter at the Hastings Star Gazette. He is a journalism graduate of Drake University.

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