104th Minnesota State Open Goes Into Extra Holes
By Nick Hunter
Rebounding from back-to-back bogeys early in his round Thursday, Cecil Belisle drilled his birdie chance from 12-feet on his 54th hole to force a playoff with two-time champion Ben Greve and Pepperdine University golfer Derek Hitchner, before sinking a second birdie opportunity on the first playoff hole to win the 104th Minnesota State Open at Chaska Town Course.
Following his win at the Minnesota Golf Association Players’ Championship last season at Hastings Golf Club, Belisle now becomes the eighth player in state history to claim wins at both events, and just the second golfer since Ryan Peterson to win the Players’ Championship and State Open in consecutive seasons.
“I thought I hit the ball great the first two rounds,” Belisle said. “The ball-striking and getting better at being unattached to the outcome and focusing on each shot before I hit it. I kept telling myself it’s not over until the ball drops on the 18th hole, so I just kept going.”
“This is the biggest tournament my brother [Fritz] has caddied for me. This win is good for my resume, but it’s more important for the relationship between me and him.”
Entering the final round, one shot off the lead, Belisle stumbled trying to reach both the second and third greens, which led to a pair of bogeys. Belisle would hit his second from 230 yards at the par-5 seventh to three feet and rolled in his eagle to draw even for the round and within two shots of the lead.
Left with six feet for par at the par-4 10th, Belisle made what he called the most important putt of his final round.
“That putt was big, and it changed my mindset – I didn’t really see a putt go in like that on the front nine and that really got me going,” he said.
After getting up-and-down to save par from four feet at the 14th, Belisle reached the par-5 15th in two and two-putted for birdie to pull within one shot of the lead.
With Greve in trouble at the 18th, Belisle quietly stepped up and made a 12-footer for birdie at the 18th to force the playoff. On nearly an identical line at the 18th in the playoff, Belisle again sank his putt, this time from six feet to claim his seventh win in the state.
“I wasn’t very confident early this morning. I was thinking too far into the future and was putting too much pressure on myself,” Belisle said Thursday. “It got better when I got to the course and around this environment and then kept getting better every hole.
“I was behind pretty much the entire day. I was steady, but I just didn’t think I hit it as well and wasn’t as focused as the first round. Even yesterday – I made my putts and hit some shots, but it wasn’t like the eight birdies I made [Tuesday].”
Belisle claimed his first three state wins in 2017, winning the Class AA individual title to close out his sophomore season at Red Wing High School. He claimed the MGA Junior Team Championship later that summer, earning medalist honors as well.
Capping off his senior season with a second Class AA individual title in 2019, Belisle then added a Resorters win to his credit. He defeated Ryan Conn, 5 and 4, at last June’s Players’ Championship for his most recent win in the state before beginning his collegiate golf career at South Mountain Community College in Phoenix.
The 105th Minnesota State Open returns to Bunker Hills Golf Club for the first time since 2018, where McCain earned his second title at the championship.