Day one of the United States Womens Disc Golf Championships started out today in grand fashion. Portland, Oregon is home to several incredible courses, so the task of narrowing them down to the two courses being used in the event was an extremely difficult task for tournament director Rebecca Duffy. The amateur field was set to tackle the short, technical, and majestic track at Pier Park, while the Pro divisions would test their merit at the lengthy Blue Lake Regional Park. These two courses are the perfect representation of Oregon disc golf and highly suitable for the ladies involved in the USWDGC. One (Pier) challenges the mental game and the putting touch, while the other (Blue Lake) attacks the physical and strategic endurance. When the players arrived to their respective courses today, they were treated to some tremendous weather, despite the grim forecast. With a cool breeze passing through the towering fir trees of the Oregon forest, the ladies got underway.
In the Amateur divisions, two shotgun-start rounds were played at Pier Park today. The Advanced division is packed with tons of talent, and the ladies put it on display with some great scores. Jackolyn Halstead was the front runner in this division, coming in to the event with a player rating of 892. She satisfied the critics and came out on top after two rounds were complete. She carries a slim two stroke lead into tomorrow, where they will face the demanding layout at Blue Lake. Close behind her is Oregon local, Sarah Henderson. The Advanced Masters Women have a tight race going on. Nichola Landry is on top by only one stroke over Cathy Yerby. These two will be sure to battle it out all weekend. Cindy McMahan is at it again in the Advanced Grandmasters division, as she currently holds a seven throw lead over Terri Duncan. Tracy Lacue sits just one back of Terri. The Intermediate division hosts a tight race going into the third round. Only six throws separate the top four competitors, and its anyone’s title to grab. Sai Ananda is on top for the moment, only two throws ahead of her closest competitor, Robin Sampson. Mistakes must be limited for these ladies tomorrow, as there are others waiting to climb the ladder on their way to the top.
The Pro divisions had only one round today, but one time around the course at Blue Lake can feel like five rounds. This 10,000+ foot course plays host to some breath-taking views, as Mt. Hood looms in the distance and can be seen from several holes on the course. It is still covered in snow, to give you an idea of the drastic weather variances in the Pacific Northwest. The women in the Grandmasters division are again chasing behind Sandy Gast. Fresh off a win at the World Championships this summer in Crown Point, IN, Sandy again displayed some great touch around the greens today and floated into the clubhouse with a scorching-hot round of 64, or three strokes below par. Friends and fellow competitors Kathy Hardyman and Lisa Warner are in second place, but sit eight throws behind Gast. In the Masters division, we find a familiar face. Des Reading has been around the block a time or two (or at least long enough to win this event once or twice), and decided to test her mettle in the Masters field this year. With no Yeti in sight, she continued her impressive play this year, tying the hottest round of the day with a stellar score of 57. That is -10. Yes, that’s right; ten shots below course par. It is no mystery why she is one of the most recognized names in the game, and certainly the woman to beat in the Master’s Division at this year’s USWDGC.
Then we come to the Open Women. This year, we have seen some incredible play from the ladies. We watched Paige Pierce win a World Championship. We saw Catrina Allen (2012 USWDGC Champ) win the National Tour Points Series (again). We saw Kelsey Wilmerding come from a name unknown to a top finisher at the Vibram Open just a few weeks ago, and we have even seen Val Jenkins leap into the lake at the Maple Hill Farm at that same event. So who would be your pick to win this event? It is hard to pick a clear cut favorite with so many talented golfers in the field this weekend. Certainly some names come to mind, but when you put all these ladies in the same place at the same time, anything could happen. At the end of the day, it was Catrina Allen who began her weekend with a bang and a score of -10. The top five ladies are all separated by only three strokes, so certainly there is time to make up some ground, as there are still 54 holes of golf left. Catrina is trying to defend her title after her win last year in Alabama. Almost-local Val Jenkins is only one back.
At lunchtime, some dignitaries from the city of Portland including Emily Hasenauer and Meyer Freeman from the Oregon Sports Authority and Dan Kromer of Oregon Parks and Recreation stopped by for some lunch and a demonstration. The city of Portland is so very excited to host the Professional World Championships next year in 2014. The courses being used in the USWDGC are two of many in the Portland area, and it is a town that is entirely suitable to host an event the size of the Worlds.
For a complete listing of the scores, click here. Be sure to check in to pdga.com throughout the weekend for scores, live updates and live scoring. For photos of the action today, look at the PDGATour Flickr page. Only once a year do we get the privilege of seeing so many of the game’s best female competitors battle it out for a National Championship. Stay current here, with the PDGA. See you tomorrow!