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Deja vu: Red Wing's Belisle tops Conn to win MGA Players Championship

For the second time in three years, Cecil Belisle won the Minnesota Golf Association Players Championship by beating Ryan Conn 5&4.

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Cecil Belisle
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MINNETRISTA — Good things come in pairs for Cecil Belisle.

Entering this week, the Red Wing native was a two-time Minnesota high school boys golf state medalist (2017, 2019) and a two-time Division II junior college national medalist (2021, 2022).

Now Belisle can add two-time Minnesota Golf Association Players Championship victor to that list.

The former South Mountain Community College (Phoenix) star beat Ryan Conn, 5 & 4, in the final match of the 2022 MGA Players Championship on Wednesday at Burl Oaks Golf Club. It’s the same score by which Belisle beat Conn in 2020 when he won his first Players.

Wednesday’s match also marked the first championship rematch in the 44-year history of the event.

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“That was just a coincidence,” Belisle smiled and said to MNGolf.org following his victory on Wednesday. “It was meant to happen because I’m holding the trophy, but what happened in the past is in the past.

“I played solid, especially the final round—no bogeys. Ryan started off hot and had a couple mistakes here and there. I was steady, focused and determined. In match play, it’s grind-mode. I grind when I practice; I grind when I work out and I grind in school. That’s what this tournament is and why I think I do well.”

Last season Belisle — who is committed to Division I University of Kansas, where he’ll be a junior in the fall — closed out his freshman season at South Mountain Community College with a NJCAA individual national championship individual title before claiming the Minnesota State Open in a playoff over 2021 MGA Men’s Player of the Year Derek Hitchner and two-time champion Ben Greve.

Belisle earned a second straight national title to cap off his sophomore campaign last month prior to Wednesday’s win, his eighth state championship title.

Beginning the championship match on the 10th hole, A patient Belisle took advantage of back-to-back bogeys by Conn at the 14th and 15th holes to take a 2-up lead before a third bogey by Conn at the 17th.

Conn rolled in a critical birdie putt from 18 feet at the par-4 18th to pull within two of Belisle through nine holes.

But an unrelenting Belisle continued to get up-and-down for par and smother any momentum Conn could muster.

Back-to-back bogeys for Conn at the second and third gave Belisle a 4-up lead and the 2019 MGA Junior Boys’ Co-Player of the Year claimed his second Players’ Championship win by sinking his birdie chance from four feet at the fifth to win, 5 and 4.

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Walking six rounds in three days in high temperatures took its toll on the 21-year-old Belisle, and his foot, this week.

“I’m proud of how I stayed in the moment,” he said. “It didn’t matter how much my foot hurt, I don’t know what’s wrong with it, but it hurts. Not letting that, or the blisters get to you. Ignoring that and keeping it steady—the want and the will."

Belisle continues to pile up MGA championships. He was a part of the 2017 MGA Junior Team champions, while claiming medalist honors at the event. In 2019, Belisle added a win at the Resorters Golf Tournament to his resume.

Wednesday’s result marks yet another close call for the soon-to-be 40-year-old Conn, whose only MGA victory came at the 2019 Amateur Four-Ball Championship with partner Hunter Rebrovich at The Classic at Madden’s.

Herzog reaches Match Play semifinals

Another Red Wing native had a strong showing at an MGA event this week.

Leah Herzog, a former Minnesota Miss Golf (2019) who now plays for the University of Minnesota, advanced all the way to the semifinals of the MGA Women’s Amateur Match Play Championship at Burl Oaks.

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Leah Herzog

Herzog had a bye in the tournament’s opening round — as did Lake City native Lexi Geolat — then beat Kyra Venne 4&2 in the round of 16. Herzog, playing out of Mississippi National, topped Isabelle Lynch 1-up in the quarterfinals before falling to Leah Skaar of Minnewaska Golf Club, 4&2, in the semifinals.

Taylor Ledwein of New Prague defeated Skaar in the finals, 1-up.

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Geolat and Austin’s Megan Thiravong were both defeated in the round of 16.

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