Minnesota Golf Association

Rasinski Continues to Roll; Belisle, Schmitz and Polk Also Winners to Start MGA Players

August 17, 2020

By Nick Hunter
  HASTINGS, Minn. – Riding momentum from his win Sunday at the Minnesota Public Golf Association State Public Links Championship, former University of Minnesota golfer Noah Rasinski picked up a pair of wins Monday during the first day of competition at the 42nd Minnesota Golf Association Players’ Championship at Hastings Golf Club.
“It was nice to play well this weekend. Today was good, I struggled a little bit and I’m tired from the last two days, but I made enough pars to get it done,” Rasinski said following his second victory Monday. “I knew my game is in a good spot, so I kept at it and kept making par.
“I’m used to longer and bigger golf courses, but it’s definitely testing my short game. Even if you go in the trees, it’s fun—I like to get a little creative and punch some shots up there. I’m usually a 12, 13, 14 [greens in regulation] guy, but it’s hard to do that with these small greens and tight fairways. A lot more thought has to go into where you’re putting your shot out here.”
Tied through nine holes during his opening match against Jon Pederson early Monday, Rasinski eagled the par-5 10th and won the 11th with a par to take the lead but watched Pederson scratch his way back to tie the match. Carding a par at the last, Rasinski slipped past Pederson to move on and avoid a playoff for the second straight day.
Facing Jordan Hawkinson during the Round of 32 during Monday’s afternoon session, Rasinski won three consecutive holes, helped by his birdie from 10 feet at the third, taking a 3-up lead into the turn.
Reaching the par-5 10th green in two, Rasinski two-putted for birdie to take a commanding 4-up lead and cruised over the final eight holes to earn the victory, 3 and 2.
“I’ve always been a fairways and greens guy, so it wears people down when you’re not making bogeys and that’s what I try to leverage usually,” Rasinski said. “Once I got up this afternoon, my mindset was to not make a mistake or let him back into it by doing something stupid.”
Rasinski will now face Jesse Polk, who is playing on his home course this week at Hastings. Polk ousted both Mitch Scrimgeour and Daniel Niemi to reach the Round of 16 early Tuesday.
In a battle of 2019 MGA Junior Boys Co-Players of the Year, Cecil Belisle used a late birdie on his front nine to build a 2-up lead over Ian Simonich and hung on to advance to Tuesday’s Round of 16 with a 1-up victory.  
“I hit the driver well and put the ball in the fairway—it’s tough to make bogeys when you’re in the middle of the fairway. The more you can hit the fairway and put in on the green, the more confident you’re going to be,” said Belisle, a two-time Class AA individual champion while at Red Wing High School. “Give [Simonich] credit, he got in late last night and stuck in there, so he battled hard.”
Simonich, the 2019 Minnesota State Junior Boys’ champion, claimed the 88th Pine to Palm Championship Sunday before falling to Belisle late Monday, playing 10 rounds since Tuesday.
Belisle, whose most recent win came at last year’s Resorters Tournament, will begin his second season at Minnesota State University-Mankato later this year. Entering the week, the always competitive Belisle said expectations are, per usual, very high.
“I expect to win every tournament I go to. If you don’t have that mentality, why show up?" he said. "To me it’s been an off summer, so I expect to play well and finish strong and hopefully come out with a win.
“I just need to stay in the moment and stay in my routine—the swing is there. I just need to let it happen and let them make the mistakes. I like to make a lot of pars. In stroke play I don’t have a lot of rounds where I make five birdies, so in match play, par is tough to beat.”
Belisle will face University of St. Thomas golfer Matt Armstrong, who provided one of the biggest surprises of the tournament on the opening day, knocking out defending champion Andrew Israelson, 3 and 2, to reach the Round of 16 Tuesday.
“I played really solid today and I putted out of my mind. If I didn’t hit fairways, I was able to get it onto the green and up-and-down for par,” Armstrong said Monday. “I basically made everything inside of 15 feet.
“[Israelson] is a great guy to play with. He had a rough front nine and I took advantage of that. On the back, he started to heat up and I just tried to hold him off.”
The former Eden Prairie High School golfer Armstrong jumped out to a 4-up lead over Israelson, helped by his birdie at the par-4 second. Israelson showed signs of life with an eagle at the 10th and trimmed Armstrong’s lead to two by winning the 12th.
The two would trade wins at the 13th and 15th holes before Armstrong closed out the match with a birdie at the 16th, rolling in a 6-footer for the win.
“I was steady and didn’t really lose focus. Golf’s a fun game—there’s no reason to overstress it,” Armstrong. “I need to keep the ball in the fairway. My wedges are good, and my putter is good, I just need to get the ball in play.”
Monday’s Round of 32 pitted two former U.S. Mid-Amateur champions against one another as Sammy Schmitz and Austin Eaton were tied through 12 holes before Schmitz pulled away late to claim the victory, 2 and 1.
Schmitz won the 2015 national championship at John’s Island Golf Club to earn an invitation to the 2016 Masters Tournament, while Eaton was victorious at the Sea Island Golf Club in 2004 before playing in the 2005 Masters. Schmitz, the only former MGA Players' champion remaining in the field, will face Stellan Orvick during the Round of 16 Tuesday.
Among the day’s other winners, Will Hickey’s Round of 32 was highlighted by his eagle from 144 yards at the par-4 fourth, going on to defeat Jesse Larson, 1-up. Hickey will face Shane Barnes during the third round Tuesday.
Topher Baron won four consecutive holes to stage a late comeback victory over Andrew Peter, 1-up, to advance to the Round of 32 against Peter Capouch. Tony Vincelli earned a 4 and 3 win over Gage Stromme and will face Jamie Quesnel early Tuesday.
The 42nd MGA Players’ Championship continues Tuesday when the Round of 16 gets underway at 7:30 a.m. at Hastings Golf Club.


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