When doubt starts to creep into Cecil Belisle's mind, he only needs to think back to the final golf meet of his high school career.
The 2019 Class AA state championship was a meet the Red Wing native had thought about every day for a year. After winning an individual state title as a sophomore in 2017, Belisle finished third in the state as a junior, despite shooting a lights-out 4-under-par 32 on his final nine holes.
A year later, he started the state meet with a triple-bogey.
"I made an eight on the first hole of the tournament, but I knew I still had 35 holes to go," Belisle said. "I came back and made six birdies that day. I had faith in my game and faith in His plan. I let it all happen, played my game and didn't focus on what anyone else was doing."
That mental toughness carried Belisle to his second individual state championship.
He credited Red Wing boys golf coach Nate Gale with helping him learn to stay patient and focused on the course. Belisle brought that mindset with him to Minnesota State University, Mankato, last fall, and he'll bring it into this week's 117th Minnesota Golf Association State Amateur Championship at Edina Country Club, Monday through Wednesday.
Belisle placed ninth in the state's most prestigious amateur championship last summer and he has his eyes on a better finish this week.
Last year at Somerby Golf Club in Byron, Belisle struggled in the first round of the three-round tournament, shooting a 7-over 79. He overcame that over the final two rounds, shooting 1-under 71 in the second round a sizzling 66 in the final round. His cumulative score of even-par 216 left him just two shots out of the top four.
"Yeah, after last year, yeah I do want to win it," he said. "I learned that you're never out of it. You can always make a run of birdies or hole out a couple of holes in a row. It's never over. There's always that guy out there who wants it really bad. That was me last year. My goal was just to get back to even, then it was like 'wow, we're making a run here, why not keep going?'
"It's not over until it's over."
HELPFUL TIME OFF
The State Am will be Belisle's third tournament of the summer, after a long break from playing competitively. The COVID-19 pandemic didn't allow him to get on the course as soon as he would customarily do so in the spring. And he red-shirted at MSU, Mankato, last fall, practicing with the team, but not playing in tournaments.
The red-shirting experience didn't always sit well with the ultra-motivated 19-year-old, who has always been his own toughest critic. But he turned it into a positive, pushing himself to try to do more work each day than his teammates.
"I tried to be a leader even though I was a freshman," Belisle said. "I'd show up first to practice and be the last to leave; show up to workouts first and be the last to leave. I tried to outwork the person on either side of me. No matter how much or how hard they worked, I wanted to work harder."
Belisle is happy to be back playing competitively. He made the cut at last week's Minnesota State Open Championship at Royal Golf Club in Lake Elmo, a championship run by the Minnesota Section PGA. He followed an opening-round 76 with rounds of 71 and 73 to tie for 42nd place in the 156-golfer event.
"I played OK last week," Belisle said. "There was a lot of learning and that's good for (this) week. It'll be a big jump forward. It was just some mental things -- not physical things, I know how to play the game and how to hit the shots I need to hit -- it's a matter of picking the shot routine I want, picking a target to hit at and committing to it fully."
The Edina Country Club sets up well for Belisle's game. The course is relatively short -- a par-72 scheduled to play at 6,810 yards -- with tight fairways. He said he played there last Friday and "the rough is pretty gnarly. People will be looking for their ball if they hit it five feet off the fairway."
He also knows a score he'll likely need to get to if he's going to add the State Am to his collection of medalist honors.
"I think 5- to 7-under will win it," he said. "There's not a lot of trees, but they're in tough spots. Doug Hoffmann (the MGA Rules and Competition Director) wants it to be hard, and I like that.
"I've played there a couple times. When I played there last fall it had the best greens I've ever putted on. You're going to have to have filthy hands around the green and keep it below the hole, because it'll be fast."
Live scoring for the championship is available all week at mngolf.org.
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2020 STATE AM
What: The 117th Minnesota Golf Association State Amateur Championship
Where: Edina Country Club; 6,810 yards, par 72 (35-37)
Longest hole: No. 10 (561 yards, par 5)
Shortest hole: No. 4 (130 yards, par 3)
Number of entries: 156 golfers qualified for the championship through local qualifiers at 11 different sites in June.
Local qualifiers (Round 1 tee time): Cecil Belisle, Red Wing G.C. (1 p.m.; Hole 10); Matt Erredge, Northern Hills G.C. (2:10 p.m., Hole 10); Thomas Huettl, Lake City G.C. (1:20 p.m., Hole 10); Nick Jarrett, Somerby G.C. (1:20 p.m., Hole 1); Spencer Kronbeck, Mississippi National G.C. (8:40 a.m., Hole 10); Anders Larson, Pine Island G.C. (1:20 p.m., Hole 1); Brian Moehnke, Pine Island G.C. (8:50 a.m., Hole 1); David Morgan, Mendakota C.C. (8:10 a.m., Hole 10); Josiah Nelson, Northern Hills G.C. (1:30 p.m., Hole 10); Matt Turner, Westfield G.C. (2:30 p.m., Hole 10).