Golf: Carefree Belt cuts loose in bid to join elite

Alex Belt
Alex Belt
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It Is always a good sign of a man in complete control of his game when he has lost count of how many wins he has had.

“I think it’s 24 this year,” says Alex Belt, a 29-year-old professional who decided last winter to play more care-free golf.

Belt’s laidback manner has yielded victories in the tour championship on a Spanish satellite tour at the start of the year, a host of wins on the PGA North order of merit that eventually led to him winning that money list, and a triumph at the Yorkshire PGA matchplay championship at Moortown last week, when he defeated Leeds Golf Centre’s Andrew Herridge.

“Every aspect of my game has improved,” says Belt, who started out at Bridlington Links but is now connected to Snainton Golf Centre and the De Vere chain of hotels that includes Leeds’s Oulton Hall.

“I understand myself a bit better and I understand my game bit more.

“I’ve improved through sitting down with my psychologist, working with my swing coach and working with my putting coach.

“The ability was always there, it was just the other things that needed polishing.

“Even course managerment and the way you prepare for a tournament, that can help massively. You cannot just rock up to an event and hope to play well.

“Having the ability to not care so much has been key, though; you can become quite deadly when you’re not putting too much pressure on yourself.

“What I’ve done well this year, whether I’ve had a bad result or a good one, is I’ve stopped thinking about it that night.

“The only thing I’ve taken forward is a memory I can use in the future, for instance if I’ve got up and down on 18, that’s a good memory to call upon when I need it.”

He may need to recall such moments as his season, and his aspirations for the future, come down to the crunch over the coming weeks.

At the end of October Belt heads to Egypt to play in the EuroPro Tour finals, when five places will be up for grabs on next season’s Challenge Tour.

His main goal though is November’s PGA play-offs, when the top 23 regional golfers in the local orders of merit do battle for four cards on the European Tour.

The consolation prize even if he finishes in the top 10, is a place at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth next May.

But as he approaches 30, and in the form of his life, Belt knows now is the time to seize the moment and make the step up to the big leagues.

Not that he will be putting any undue pressure on himself.

“The odds of getting a Tour card through the play-offs are a lot more favourable than trying to do it through qualifying school,” says Belt, who only started taking golf seriously in his early 20s.

“There’s different paths to becoming a European Tour golfer. Look at the average age of Ryder Cup players.

“I won a EuroPro Tour event last year and thought that was a stepping stone, even if I haven’t necessarily pushed on at that level.

“That win last year probably created high expectations, and that doesn’t do very good things for you.”

Ben Hutchinson receives the Yorkshire amateur championship trophy for 2016 from then YUGC president Jonathan Plaxton after his victory at Moortown.

Past president Jonathan Plaxton to take over from Keith Dowswell as YUGC secretary