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Make it a Double

It’s not often that you get to see top disc golfers in the world playing doubles and it’s even rarer to see it happen at one of the most beautiful disc golf courses in the country. Today marked the official start of the 2014 PDGA Professional Disc Golf World Championships as 32 men and 32 women united to form some of the most talented mixed doubles teams in the world. Pier Park is a staple of Portland area disc golf and its layout provides a challenging but fair mix of holes. It’s the perfect venue for doubles and we can only assume it was the obvious choice for the action we were fortunate enough to witness today.

There are several different formats that can be used for doubles, e.g. Best Shot, Worst Shot, Alternate Shot, etc., and within each format there are dozens of variances that can be played as well. Each round at today’s Mixed Doubles event was assigned its own unique format, Best Shot for round 1 and Alternate Shot for round 2. We can only imagine the scores that would have come in if one of the rounds was Worst Shot. The hundreds of enormous evergreens at Pier Park would have showed no mercy, we assure you.

The rules for Best Shot were essentially the same as they always are but with one exception. Typically in Best Shot both players on the team throw from the same lie (or the same tee) and they choose which one of their throws they’d prefer to use for the next shot. This can sometimes lead to a situation where the tee shot being chosen as the best is dominated by one player. The exception added to the Best Shot round this morning was put into place to help prevent that from happening.

During the morning round of Best Shot, the rules were as follows: A team consists of two players, Player X and Player Y. If Player X’s tee shot is selected as the best shot on back-to-back holes, the tee shot of player Y on the hole that immediately followed was required to be used. In that case, Player X can still choose to tee off but the tee shot would not count in any way, even if it is an ace. This helps even the playing field and it forces teams to strategize on the fly.

Pier Park is fairly small and the morning round went by quickly. The variation added to the Best Shot format was working well. If you walked by a tee pad there was often discussion between the teammates about whether or not they should use a drive, even though one was clearly the better of the two. On hole 15 we walked up just in time to watch Jeremy Koling #33705 throw a perfect drive, easily one of the best of the day on what is considered by many to be the most difficult hole on the course. He then turned around and said “Too bad it doesn’t count!” He and his partner Paige Pierce #29190 had chosen his tee shots on holes 13 and 14, meaning Paige’s drive on hole 15 was required to be used.

As the scorecards came in, two teams had shot the hot round of 44, 10 under par. The first team was Will Schusterick #29064 & Ragna Bygde #8559. They would be joined on the lead card by Michael Johansen #20300 & Holly Finley #51277. The next best score was 46, shot by not one, not two, not three, but seven different teams. That was followed by a 5-way tie for the third best score, just one stroke back at 47.

The second and final round was played in the Alternate Shot format with one minor addition to the standard rules. The teammates were required to always alternate tee shots. To simplify that, it essentially meant that the men would tee off on all the odd numbered holes and the women would tee off on all of the evens. Standard alternating shots were taken from there until the a putt was made.
Will and Ragna didn’t waste much time pulling away from the competition, carding birdies on holes three and four. Ricky Wysocki #38008 and his partner Sarah Hokom #34563 were slowly gaining ground on the front nine, as were Pierce/Koling. Despite their best efforts, none of the six teams that had live hole-by-hole scores up and running on would ever come closer than two strokes off the lead, just as they had started.

The players gathered around the scoring tent watching the staff slowly but surely tally up the team totals. Pierce and Koling felt fairly confident that they would finish the day in second place, but they knew a few teams were still out there that could so some damage in Alternate Shot. One of the teams that was mentioned specifically by Koling as a concern was the dynamic duo of Nate Doss #11794 and Val Jenkins #17495. He was right to be concerned.

After starting off the afternoon as one of the five teams that were tied for 9th place, Nate and Val would shoot the hot round of 49 (also shot by Eric McCabe #11674 & Liz Dorries #31162) jumping them all the way up to second place. They finished the day just a single stroke away from forcing a playoff against Will and Ragna.

Tomorrow is another day of fun here in Portland as we get to put the competitors to the test during the field events at Blue Lake Park. Starting at 9:00am and running all the way until 4:00pm (PDT), the players that opted in will compete in the Putting Competition, the Skill Shot Challenge presented by EDGE, and of course, the Long Drive Competition.

If you’re in the area, stop by Blue Lake Park and watch as some of the best disc golfers in the world put their skills on display. If you’re not in the area, follow @PDGA and @PDGAWomen on Twitter to see updates, pictures, and videos from the day.

Congratulations to Will Schusterick and Ragna Bygde, the 2014 PDGA Pro Worlds Mixed Doubles Champions!

Photo credit: Craig Nielsen #42213

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