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Blake Hathcoat and Mikey Slesinski win the Billy Bell Cup
Blake Hathcoat (left) and Mikey Slesinski (St. Mary's photo)
Blake Hathcoat (left) and Mikey Slesinski (St. Mary's photo)

A third year tournament at Modesto's Del Rio Country Club didn't just increase their field by being one of the only June competitions during the pandemic.

They tripled it.

Players who competed in either of the first two Billy Bell Cups know how amazing the namesake's design at Del Rio Country Club is. It's a private, 27-hole facility with gorgeous tree-lined fairways, challenging players off the tee, and everywhere else with healthy rough and fast and firm targets.

The first two years were played with Mid-Am and Senior Divisions; this year the committee added an open flight and the further increased interest. Winning by a single shot was the St. Mary's College team of Blake Hathcoat of Fresno and Mikey Slesinski of La Quinta.


Blake Hathcoat and Mikey Slesinski
In Thursday's first round, the pair had everything going, both posting the equivalent of 67 (with the usual concessions after a partner is in the hole) and a best-ball of 8-under 64. Slesinski lit it up early, recording five birdies on the first six holes. And when his putter cooled down, Hathcoat tossed in three birdies of his own.

On such a challenging course, you would think that would leave teams behind them giving chase. But top Northern California Mid-Ams Nick Moore (Monterey) and Matt Cohn (San Francisco) were able to post the same, setting up a battle of the Mids and young guns in the final round.

On Friday, there were plenty of times when Hathcoat and Slesinski could have let things get away, as neither player shot lower than 74. But sometimes it's all about the ham and egg, and they were able to do plenty of that.

"Both of us were able to buckle down and come through when the other wasn’t having a great hole," said Slesinski in an AmateurGolf.com interview. "We both knew going into the tournament that the nine holes on the Bluff were more suited for scoring low so we made it our goal to play those holes well."

Slesinski went on to call the river nine -- being used for the first time this year at the Billy Bell Cup -- more difficult.

"A combination of hard visualization and tough pins made that nine harder to score on," he said. We really had to focus on where the best leave was after our approach shots because as the greens got firmer, leaving it above the hole was a no-go.

Despite both players posting rounds of 74 and 75 on their own, they only took one team bogey, and that consistency gave them the edge over Moore and Cohn (11-under 133) , and the Turlock team of Paul Smith and Teddy Schrier who matched the low final round of 66 to tie second.

SENIOR & SUPER SENIOR DIVISIONS

As close as the open division was, the senior was even closer. Randy Haag and Joey Ferrari posted 7-under for 36 holes to tie the always formidable team of Jeff Wilson and Todd Barsotti - two former University of The Pacific teammates.

Haag and Ferrari claimed the title on the second playoff hole.

The Super Senior division was not as close, Jeff Burda and Ron Johnson shot out to a nice day big lead and won by four strokes over Charles Ricesin (Lodi) and Scott Anderson (Bakersfield).

Jim Knoll, who almost all the senior golfers in Northern California rely on for his weekly golf reports, had nothing but praise for the superintendent and tournament and pro-shop staffs:

"The course was in fantastic shape," reported Knoll in his email update. "And after living in seclusion for the last couple of months, it was great to see everyone again and to be able to compete."

Indeed. In just three short years, The Billy Bell Cup has arrived.

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ABOUT THE Billy Bell Cup

Started in 2017, this 36-hole four-ball stroke play event is named in the honor of one of the West's most prolific golf course architects, William Bell, who designed DRCC's original eighteen holes, Oak and Bluff in 1947. There will be three flights: Open (18 years and older), Senior-Amateur (55 years and older) and Super Senior (65 years and older). Open to mid- amateurs within an index 7.4 or lower and seniors with an index 9.4 or lower. Maximum of 60 teams, 20 per flight.

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