If anything can make a National Tour win sweeter, it’s how Matt Bell (PDGA# 48950) did it: fighting hard. Bell’s big comeback victory wasn’t a case of other players beating themselves, exhibited by the fact that Bell led the tournament in birdie percentage at 44%. No, the Delaware Disc Golf Challenge saw Bell attack one of the most intimidating courses on the East Coast, and come out will his first National Tour win as the reward.
After the win, Bell said, “I didn’t realize the pressure I had put on myself to win an NT until it happened, and when it did I felt all that pressure lift off my shoulders. It feels like such a relief I can hardly explain it.” Which makes sense. It’s not like this is Bell’s first win, just the first NT. But with wins at the Utah Open and Oakland City Disc Golf Championships, Bell is no stranger to big events.
At the start of this year’s DDC, weather was an issue throughout Round One, rainstorms turning the beast that is Iron Hill into a water monster. The rains, accompanying crowded fairways and constant uphill shots, saw higher scores from the field at large. Bell didn’t get off to a bad start by any means, shooting a 67 (-2), and only trailing 1st place by 3 strokes. But that 67 knotted him in a 6-way tie for 9th place after Round One. Still, even though nowhere near out of the tournament, Bell had conceded strokes to the likes of Ricky Wysocki (38008), Eagle McMahon (37817), and James Conrad (17295), which doesn’t sound particularly fun. Then again, true competitors come out swinging when their backs feel the wall.
Round Two came with much better conditions and a more comfortable Matt Bell shooting in them. Though Väinö Mäkelä (PDGA# 59635) won the day, coming in with a red-hot 60 (-9), Bell tied Joel Freeman (PDGA# 69509) for 2nd, shooting a 62 (-7), and taking a stroke back on Round-One leader Ricky Wysocki.
So, trailing Wysocki by 2 and Mäkelä by 1, Bell had to shoot a great round to jump two great players. And that’s exactly what he did. Bell went birdie/bogey on holes 1 and two respectively, but didn’t surrender a stroke to Wysocki, who parred both. But then Ricky went on a 5-hole birdie streak that was broken up by an eagle on hole 8, which was followed by another birdie on hole 9. After that kind of front 9 from Ricky, things could have crumbled for anybody. The thing is, Matt Bell has been coming to the Delaware Disc Challenge for a few years, putting in the work at the course, and committing to the championship mentality that every. Single. Shot. Matters. That mindset is what led Bell to victory, bringing in the hot round on day 3, scrambling to get up and down for birdie 4 of 4 times, drilling clutch back-to-back C2 putts on holes 14 & 15, and then knocking birds down on his last three holes like he was playing Duck Hunt, going fairway, C1, basket on each of them.
That ability to keep punching through the course, the perseverance to chop Iron Hill up (literally, it’s a serious elevation course, go play it if you doubt) paid off huge for Bell. Wysocki shot three up on his back nine, whereas Bell played his game to the end, proving that consistency is king in this sport, and that there is no course too tough for a player of Bell’s caliber to attack.
Written By: Andrew Katz