Area Golf: Local golfer still holds hope for PGA
Pierz native Robert Bell teaches golf lessons at Eagle’s Landing in the summer while still holding up hope to get on Tour.
FORT RIPLEY -- Robert Bell remembers one of his first events as a professional golfer on the Canadien Tour changing the way he looked at golf.
He was playing with Cory Renfrew, who played in some PGA events, but kept his Canadien Tour card, and he was seven-under through 11 holes.
“He had it going,” Bell said.
But on hole 12, a par 3, Renfrew hit in a bunker and had a bad lie. He carded a quadruple bogey and Bell will never forget what he saw from Renfrew after getting a seven on a par 3.
“There was no emotion,” Bell said. “It was like nothing happened. He carried on with his own business and when I saw that I was like ‘wow,’ how does he not react like he’s upset.’”
According to Bell, Renfrew bounced back from the quadruple bogey and finished his round at six-under par. Watching how Renfrew didn’t fold after having a devastating moment on the golf course impacted Bell’s young golf career. He wanted to carry himself like Renfrew.
Bell fell in love with golf when he started playing on the Pierz Municipal Golf Course. His mom worked at a local bank in Pierz. In the summertime, she would drop her son off at the course at 9 a.m. and pick up him at 5 p.m. Bell played the course many times a day. He kept his bike at his grandparents house which was a short ride over to the Pierz course.
In high school, Bell became a more serious golfer. At age 15, he started playing in roughly 20 summer tournaments across the state. He slept in the car while his parents drove across the state to competitive sites.
He worked one-on-one with PGA Professional Scott Dirck of Geneva Golf Club in Alexandria to become someone who competed for state championships in high school.
“Once I worked with Scott my game started to develop and I realized that I could play this game at a high level,” Bell said.
His junior year he finished second in the Class 1A Minnesota State High School League tournament. He called the University of Minnesota hoping to join the team after his senior year. He was denied. His senior year he won the state tournament and planned to play at St. John’s University. After purchasing his books, he got a call from the University of Minnesota.
“They said ‘hey we overlooked you and we want to come out to your place and see if you are still interested in playing for us,’” Bell said. “They gave me an offer and it was a dream of mine to play there so I said, ‘Yes.’”
In Bell’s four years at Minnesota, he played for three different coaches. It’s his teammates more than anything he remembers most about his time playing for the Gophers.
“I got blessed with teammates that were world class golfers and friends,” Bell said. “I keep in touch with them all today and I wouldn’t trade going there for anything.”
Now Bell spends winters in Arizona teaching at Tonto Verde Golf Club with some of his college teammates. In the summers he teaches lessons at Eagle’s Landing Golf Club in Fort Ripley.
“It’s too hot in Arizona in the summer,” he said. “The people here at Eagle’s Landing are nice people.”
Bell is going through PGA school to get his teaching license. He is also going through Q-School every September through December to qualify for the Korn Ferry Tour (formerly the Web.com Tour) which is a step below the PGA tour.
Bell spent one year on the Candaien Tour after graduating from the University of Minnesota. He bounced around on mini tours like the Dakota Tour. The mini tours provide a chance to still win money playing golf albeit the purses are smaller. He played in a few mini tour events in Arizona, but the purses in those events are not as big as the Dakota Tour events so he stopped.
He also plays in many Minnesota events. He played in the Monday qualifier for the 3M Open July 1, at Victory Links Golf Course. He shot a two-under 69 with three birdies and one bogey to finish T36. The top four golfers qualified for the 3M Open so Bell will have to wait for his big break into a PGA Tour event another day. He plans on playing in the Brainerd Lakes Area Showcase August 19-22 at Cragun’s Legacy Courses.
The only tournament that matters in Bell’s eyes, however, is the Q-School qualifier for the Korn Ferry Tour.
“Everything I do in the summertime is to prep for qualifying school,” he said.
He feels confident he will get his break down the road to make the PGA Tour.
“I know how tough it is to make it,” Bell said. “But at the same time I know I can play with the best players in the world on any given day. I feel like I am really close to my prime right now. I have a good understanding of my golf swing compared to when I got out of college and I feel like I’m really close. I just need that opportunity to get over the hump.”