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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Seven questions with Justin Belland ’25, men’s golf

Justin Belland ’25 tees off at the Ralph Meyer Golf Course in the Duke Nelson Tournament.
Justin Belland ’25 tees off at the Ralph Meyer Golf Course in the Duke Nelson Tournament.

Justin Belland ’25 from Montréal, Canada, is playing in his first season on the men’s golf team. In this installment of “Seven Questions,” Belland discusses his introduction to golf, his journey to varsity athletics, and his hopes for the future.

Owen Park: How were you introduced to the sport of golf?

Justin Belland: I was introduced to golf by my father when I was about eight or nine. He was the person that bought me my first set of clubs, and we were lucky enough to be members of a course where I’m from in Montréal. Some of my earliest memories of playing golf are of my father and I going to the course on weekends to hit balls on the driving range.

OP: Has golf always been your main sport?

JB: Initially, my main sport was ice hockey. I played hockey in the winter and played golf in the summer. All of the motions and skills in hockey naturally translated to golf, and that allowed me to take my golf game to the next level. Eventually, I stopped playing hockey in my senior year of high school because it interfered with my academics. It was at that point when I realized not only that golf was a sport that I was really good at, it was also one that I could play seriously without having to sacrifice my academics.

OP: Did you always plan to play varsity golf in college?

JB: Not at all. While I was working on college applications, I wasn’t thinking about playing any varsity sports at all. Trying to compete on the golf team was a decision I made in my first semester at Middlebury. When I got here, I realized that sports are a pretty big deal at Midd, and I said to myself: “Hey, I’ve played golf pretty competitively for the last few years, and I’m pretty confident in my abilities.” I decided to email the head varsity coach for the golf team to ask him for a shot to walk on.

OP: You recently competed in your first tournament. What was it like playing there?

JB: So the most recent tournament — the Duke Nelson Tournament — was our first home tournament of the year, as well as my first varsity tournament ever. Because we were the hosting team, every single member automatically qualified to play. Unfortunately, we came up short by one stroke, finishing in second place to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), which was pretty disappointing. Second place wasn't terrible, but it was still a tough loss.

OP: What would you say were some of the most challenging parts of playing in the Duke Nelson Tournament?

JB: Golf is a sport where it’s easy to start feeling vulnerable when you’re out on the course. For me, this was especially true since it was my first tournament. Additionally, I knew that my scores would be posted for everybody to see which, from previous experience, can really ramp up the pressure to perform better. Honestly, I found that once I got out there and started to relax, everything just came to me naturally.

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OP: Do you have any pre-game rituals or warmups you did for the tournament?

JB: I wouldn’t say that I have pre-game rituals. Before matches, I usually stretch and roll some puts. I like to get a feel for everything — my stroke, my coordination with the club, making sure my motions aren’t too tight, making sure everything is in sync.

OP: Is there anything you’re looking forward to in the future for men’s golf?

JB: Obviously, the main goal is to win the NESCAC Championships and National Championships. I want to be a part of the team that will allow us to achieve those goals. We’re on this team to win; that’s why we play. We want to win championships.