Defending champ Mike Belbin made his move Tuesday at the PGA Assistants’ Championship of Canada, firing a seven-under-par 64 at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge Golf Club.
Belbin, who won last year’s championship at Cherry Hill Club in Ridgeway, Ont., has a three-shot lead into Wednesday’s final round.
He could become the first back-to-back winner of the event since Serge Thivierge in 1979-80.
“I’ve put myself right where I want to be,” said Belbin, who plays out of Edmonton’s Royal Mayfair Golf Club. “I’ve got a chance no matter what happens and I’ve got an opportunity to win it two times in a row, so it’s pretty special.”
Belbin’s Wednesday round included a stretch of two birdies and two eagles through the first six holes to finish the front nine with a 29.
Belbin said playing partner Billy Walsh of the Fairtree Golf Centre pushed him hard throughout a round that saw temperatures in the high teens and gusty winds on Jasper’s inward nine.
“Billy is nice to play with because he makes a lot of birdies and I try to make a lot of birdies and it seems that when he and I play together, I end up playing some pretty good golf.” said Belbin.
Walsh’s 66 was the second-lowest of the day and he’s one of four players tied for second at eight under.
“It was a good round, but Mike was two better,” said Walsh. “I had two great guys to play with and we all played well, so it kind of keeps you going. You look at good shots, you hear good contact and it spurs you on.”
Mark Strong (Vancouver Golf Club), Jacob Patte (Oshawa Golf Club) and Gary Hartford (Riverside Golf Club) are also three back.
After 36 holes, 27 players are under par.
For the third time in the last four years, Alberta (Belbin, Blair Buttar, Tyler LeBouthillier and Brack Little) captured the InterZone Team Championship with a two-day total of 407.
Team Ontario (Ed Maunder, Reg Millage, Keir Smith and Walsh) finished second, seven shots back.
Tuesday’s cut came was six over, with 61 players advancing to Wednesday’s final round.
For the leaderboard, click here.