2003 World Golf Teachers Cup

Location: Orange Lake Country Club, Kissimmee, Florida
Individual Champion: Dave Belling (Sarnia, Ontario)
Score: 71-69 – 140
Team Champion: USA

This was truly Belling’s championship, in both the individual and team portion. Trailing by a stroke entering the final round of the individual championship, Belling shot the low round of the tournament, a 69. He then parred the first hole of sudden-death to defeat Mark Harman and win his first WGTF championship. Belling wasn’t done, as the next day he represented Team USA (Belling, although a Canadian resident, is a USGTF member) in the team portion. Team USA and Team Brazil finished 1-2 in qualifying, which meant that they would play six team matches to decide the champion. As fate would have it, a 3-3 tie emerged, necessitating another sudden-death playoff. Belling teamed with Harman to represent the USA against Brazil, and Belling holed a 12-foot birdie putt on the second hold to win the title.

On the surface, the 6th playing of the World Golf Teachers Cup (WGTC), held November 17-19 in Kissimmee, Florida, and sponsored by Train 2 Engrain, seemed like just another in a long line of successful Cup events. But upon further reflection, this WGTC was notable for one big reason: it heralded an important turning point in the history of the World Golf Teachers Federation (WGTF). Consider:

• This WGTC was so large that, for the first time, two golf courses were necessary;

• The WGTC Individual Championship was covered on American national television;

• For the first time, the WGTC had a title sponsor;

• This WGTC was the first to be held after an expansion of member nations in the WGTF;

• The WGTC Team Championship had 12 federations competing, a record;

An historic meeting and dinner between leaders and representatives of nine member nations of the WGTF took place after the first round of play.

Anticipating a record tournament attendance, officers of the United States Golf Teachers Federation (USGTF) contracted with Orange Lake Resort to use its two golf courses, the Legends and the Resort. 188 participants from 16 nations teed it up Monday, November 17 in the first round of the two-round Individual Championship. Seven players were in contention, within three strokes of the lead, after the first day:

Mark Harman, USA 70

David Belling, Canada 71

Sammy Oh, Korea 71

Booth Kates, USA 72

Tim Mangal, West Indies 73

Richard Eaton, USA 73

Brian O’Rourke, Canada 73

In years past, Harman would have been declared the champion, as all prior WGTC Individual Championships were played over just one round. Recognizing that championships of this stature should be held over multiple rounds, this year’s individual title was expanded to two rounds (future Individual Championships will be at least two rounds). Harman still had some work to do if he was to take his third WGTC Individual Championship to go along with his four United States Golf

Teachers Cup titles.

A final round 70 by Harman, establishing a tournament – record four-under par score of 140, seemed to clinch the title, but Belling had other ideas. Playing in extremely windy conditions, Belling produced a 69 to send the championship to a sudden death playoff for the first time. On the first playoff hole, a parfour, Belling’s drive found the fairway while Harman’s wound up behind a tree. Harman punched his approach just over the green before Belling’s 8-iron landed 25 feet from the hole. Harman, using his putter, rolled his ball down the hill five feet past the hole. Belling easily two-putted, putting the pressure on Harman and forcing him into a must-make situation. Alas, Harman pulled his putt wide, earning Belling the Individual Championship in his first WGTC outing.

Kates held strong for the second round, shooting a 74 (148 total) to overtake Oh for the Senior Division title. Eaton shot a final- round 77 (150 total) to earn Super Senior honors. Jill  Finlan claimed the Women’s Division with a two-round score of 159.

Held concurrently with the final round of the Individual Championship was the stroke-play portion of the Team Championship. Six-man teams from 12 WGTF entities, with the top five scores counting, did battle to determine which two would

square off in singles match play for the Team Championship. The format would be #1 qualifying team vs. #2 for the championship, #3 vs. #4 for third place, #5 vs. #6 for fifth place, etc.

To no one’s surprise, team USA qualified first. And to very little surprise, team Brazil qualified second. It was rumored  before the tournament that Brazil would field a very strong team, and it did not disappoint – well, except for maybe the other 10 teams that didn’t qualify for the championship match.

Representing the United States were Harman, Belling (although Canadian, he’s a member of the USGTF), Ron Longoria, Jim Perez, Mike Stevens, and Jerry Moore. Luiz Martins, Luiz Menezes, Bill Picca, Jack Correa, Gregory Mann, and Antonio Araujo teed it up for Brazil. Since both teams scored very closely in the stroke-play qualifying, it seemed more than likely that  there could be a 3-3 tie in the match play portion- and that’s exactly what happened.

To break the tie, each team picked two players to shoot it out in sudden-death, best-ball (or four-ball) format. Harman and Belling were chosen for the USA, while Martins and Menezes w e re selected for Brazil.

After both teams parred the first hole, Belling, Harman, and Martins hit drives that found the fairway, while Menezes flared his tee shot out of bounds. Belling and Harman hit second shots that landed just short of the green, while Martins hooked his ball into the deep left rough. This proved to be Martins’ undoing, as he was unable to get his approach pitch close. Belling pitched to 15 feet, while Harman pitched to six feet. After Martins missed his 30-foot birdie putt, Belling again provided overtime heroics by draining his birdie putt, giving Team USA its fifth championship in six tries.

Thrilling golf wasn’t the only highlight of the week. Title sponsor Train 2 Engrain, maker of perhaps the most versatile training aid available for golf teachers, recognized that the WGTC would provide a good avenue to market and demonstrate its fine product. Along with Train 2 Engrain, representatives from over two dozen golf-related companies were also on hand to showcase their products and services. Leaving the tournament competition aside, Train 2 Engrain and the other companies made attending the WGTC more than worthwhile on their own.

In 2001, the WGTF began an expansion of member nations. Previously, Europe had been represented by one entity, but with the individual nations clamoring for federations to call their own, allowing each country to have a WGTF presence made sense. From Europe, Great Britain fielded a team, and France and Germany combined to form a team. Other nations or entities competing in the team competition were the USA, Brazil, Korea, Canada, Holland, Australia, Taiwan, Canada, continental Asia, and the Hispanic team.

For the first time, leaders and representative from nine WGTF member nations attended a historic summit and dinner, held after the first round of play. In attendance at the summit were Sammy Oh (Korea), Dave Reid and Bob Bryant (Canada), Rob Tol and Ignace Adriaanse (Holland), Dieter Lang (Germany), Thomas Wartelle (WGTF Coordinator), Luiz Martins and Bill Picca (Brazil), Ben Schmulian (South Africa), Gary Cooney (Australia), and Geoff Bryant, Bob Wyatt, Mark Harman, and Robert Kleabir (USA).

Each representative had important words to contribute to the growth and direction of the WGTF. Among them, Lang said that, aside from the United Nations, the WGTF re p resented one of the very few multi-national organizations – and certainly, a much more friendly and cohesive bind. Oh pointed out the strength in numbers he has in South Korea. Hudson has changed the name of his federation to “World Golf Teachers Federation of Great Britain” to reflect the international connection of his organization.

Martins provided perhaps the best evidence of the WGTF’s influence. He is also president of the PGA of Brazil, and it is now a requirement that any prospective PGA member there must attend the certification class of the Brazil Golf Teachers Federation. In addition to being a fine player, Martins also has been a fine leader for both organizations in his country, and has off e red to host the 2005 WGTC.

What do you think? Would you like to see the next WGTC held in South America? We would like to hear from you on this matter. The WGTC alternates between the United States and an international location. In previous years, the international  location was always Spain, but with the growth of the WGTF, other locations will now be considered.

If you would like to weigh in, please e-mail your comments to USGTF National Course Director Mark Harman at markusgtf.com. Based upon your comments and the logistics of setting up the next WGTC, we hope to announce a location in the not-too-distant future.

If you were fortunate enough to attend the 2003 WGTC, you were able to witness first-hand the WGTF’s growth. If you did not attend, we hope to see you at the Cup in 2005 – wherever that may be.

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