‘I have a taste for the big time’ - Belt

Alex Belt at Wentworth
Alex Belt at Wentworth
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Alex Belt hopes he will eventually be able to find the positives from his time at the world-famous PGA Championships.

Belt was some way off making the cut after two five-over-par rounds, but he has vowed to learn from his experiences alongside some of golf’s biggest names, and come back stronger.

His involvement at Wentworth was made even more memorable because he spent his 36 holes in the company of Byeong-Hun An, the South Korean rookie who blew away the field to take the title.

Belt, who is from Bridlington but currently represents Snainton Golf Centre, said: “The dust hasn’t settled yet but I have a taste for it. They say this is the fifth major and it is not a million miles from being bigger than The Open.

“I think 114,000 people came through the gates and the size of the tented village was huge. It feels like a major.

“It will be good to look back on and I know I will learn from it. As I played my final hole, I was playing in front of a huge grandstand of people and all eyes were on me. You have got to have a system to mask that out because it is irrelevant to your task.

Alex Belt

Alex Belt

“You can seriously make yourself look stupid, but I was pleased with how I managed to control my emotions.

“It is like being thrown into the lions’ den because it tests everything, but I think I passed the mental parts of the week, whereas other parts didn’t go so well.

“I will try to learn from the experience and I enjoyed it as much as I could. If I had played at my best and been 10-over-par, then I would have had something to worry about. But I know I only gave a three-and-a-half out of 10 performance.”

Before the event, Belt had admitted that the championships was the biggest event he had qualified for in his golfing career.

The course was so demanding. In order to get a score going you had to play quite defensively. If you were too attacking, it could eat you up.

Alex Belt

He lined up alongside world number one Rory McIlroy and Ryder Cup heroes Lee Westwood and Jamie Donaldson, and at one stage on the first day he was tied with the trip on one-under-par.

But being at such a high-profile event with more experienced opponents eventually took its toll and the atmosphere at Wentworth was an eye-opener for the 29-year-old.

Belt said: “It’s unbelievable. You are walking round alongside multi-millionaires and that is hard to ignore.

“You have to have another layer of thick skin because it is a hard environment to explain.

Alex Belt and his family at Wentworth

Alex Belt and his family at Wentworth

“It’s a bit like your first day at school, but the support from people who made the journey down from Bridlington was brilliant.

Despite the unfamiliar surroundings, Belt settled well on day one, starting with a run of three pars and then making a birdie on the fourth hole.

“I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be on the first tee and I performed quite well on the first five holes,” he added.

“Then, I thought I was doing a lot better than I had expected and maybe that was what caused my bad run.

“I played a couple of bad shots and made a couple of bad decisions and it cost me.

“I hit the water from the middle of the fairway on the eighth and had a four or five-hole spell which wasn’t pretty.

“But I pulled it back and created a few chances, but it wasn’t to be.”

It was a run of six shots dropped in five holes around the turn on day one that proved to be Belt’s undoing, and he carded a five-over-par 77.

“After the first day, qualifying wasn’t impossible. I was hoping the cut would be at two or three-over, and I would have been disappointed to have been three-under for the second round and missed the cut.

“But the course was so demanding. In order to get a score going you had to play quite defensively. If you were too attacking, it could eat you up.”

Another 77 on day two meant Belt could put his feet up over the weekend and watch the top end of the field battle it out. And by Sunday afternoon, his playing partner from the opening 36 holes was in control.

An finished on 21-under-par, breaking the tournament record by two strokes and moving into the world’s top 60.

Belt, who is ranked 1,564th in the world, said: ““He was class, an emotional robot. But to be the youngest US amateur champion, you must have a good pedigree.”

However, An marked Belt’s scorecard incorrectly in the second round, adding an extra shot to his total.

“I told him ‘you teach me how to play golf like you do and I’ll teach you how to score’.

“But it was great to be play with the eventual winner. I could have played with a couple of guys who had a nightmare, but to see how he and his caddy integrated and the decisions they made was an experience.

“Without a doubt, he will go on to be a household name. He has all the qualities, a natural frame, he putts well, he chips well and he hits the ball a long way.”

Belt returns to the calmer surroundings of the Europro Tour this weekend, and is hoping for success at Burhill, a course where he has managed three top-five finishes in recent years.