Another beautiful day greeted the players as they arrived at Maple Hill Farm in Leicester, Massachusetts today, readying themselves for round three of the Vibram Open. Today was a big day for all the competitors, as some were focused on making the cut, while others were trying to separate themselves from the pack. Both the men’s and the women’s divisions were tight at the top, and with so many others within striking distance, it truly was moving day. Today was the day we would see players taking more risks as they fought for position going into the final round. If those risks paid off, perhaps they would make the cut or take the lead, but if not, it would be a long ride home. An extra caveat is the fact that the National Tour Elite Series presented by Vibram comes to a close with this event, and a series Champion will also be crowned as the final putt drops.
The day started in the men’s division with a four-way tie at the top between World Champion Paul McBeth, Devin Frederick out of Pennsylvania, 2012 Rookie of the Year Cameron Colglazier, and Will Schusterick. You may remember Paul and Cam battling it out in Crown Point at this year’s Worlds, so this was a rubber match, of sorts. Three strokes back of the leaders was a pack of seven courageous competitors, all pushing to make the lead card on the final day. Another familiar face lurked in the shadows of the leaders in Cale Leiviska, the defending champion of the Vibram Open. Cale played out of his mind today, shooting a ridiculous score of 50; an unofficial 1081 rated nine under par on a course that is extremely challenging. To post such a low score, no mistakes can be made and Cale proved this as he fought for every stroke. Scrambling is the name of the game on the Maple Hill Gold Course. You can’t count on birdying the same hole two days in a row, because each and every hole is demanding and difficult, so you must plot along and jump at opportunities when they present themselves. Apparently Cale had to jump quite a bit today, because he leapfrogged several players and now sits alone in fourth place. Guess what? Paul McBeth played hot today too. Surprise. This has been McBeast’s year, winning the Worlds and leading the NT points race is an extremely difficult thing to do, especially considering the amount of talent thriving on the tour these days. Paul came into the house matching Cale’s score of 50, separating himself from the pack. He now holds the lead by four strokes. McBeth is very comparable to Tiger Woods in his heyday, as he rarely (if ever) gives up a lead going in to the final round. The pressure seems to light a fire under him and he somehow finds the grit and determination to always come out on top. We’ll see if he can do it this weekend. If he can, he will become the newest National Tour Series Champion. Will and Cameron also played steady, and remain on the lead card going into the final round in second and third place respectively. A couple other highlights from the mens groupings in round three include a scorching hot 51 from Carolina boy (and returning pie eating champion) Jeremy Koling to jump him into a tie for 10th, and not one, but two aces today. One from Devin Graham on hole 5, and another from Daniel Marcus on hole 8, an incredible feat considering the few number of holes short enough to actually reach the pin in one throw. Our leaders tee off at high noon tomorrow.
In the women’s division, another tight race had developed, as three women went into the third round tied at 11 strokes above par. Valarie Jenkins, Paige Pierce, and Sarah Hokom were all knotted up, while a charging Kelsey Wilmerding was making the push from the second card just one stroke behind. Val played amazing today. For starters, she simply doesn’t make mistakes. Her ability to scramble for par is unmatched, and even when the course backed her into a corner today, she somehow managed to come away unscathed, while Paige and Sarah were steadily falling behind. An early string of bogeys plagued Hokom and Pierce, and Val finally had the cushion she needed to jump out in front. In fact, Val shot the hot round of the weekend in the ladies division, a 999-rated even par 59, so it would have been hard to catch her no matter what the other two ladies shot. Kelsey Wilmerding continues her big breakout performance after a third round of 61, and sits alone in second place. The lead group of the Women’s division will tee off at 9:00am tomorrow morning. The three ladies contending for the title of National Tour Series champion, Pierce, Hokom and Catrina Ulibarri are all separated by one stroke, so it promises to be a great finish.
Today’s action was once again captured by the tireless discgolfplanettv, and will cover all of the final round drama tomorrow with live coverage beginning at 11:00. Also, be sure to check out PDGA.com for news, highlights, and live scoring. Event photos can be viewed on Flickr. Stay tuned for the finale of the National Tour season, the Vibram Open at Maple Hill!