Showdown at Swope
Another National Tour Elite Series tournament concluded today as the last putt hit the chains at the Kansas City Wide Open presented by GripEQ. The final round was played at Swope Park DGC on the Missouri side of Kansas City. Swope Park itself is a true treasure of the Midwest. Amazing disc golf course, check. Zoo, check. Beautiful ball golf course, check. Outdoor concert venue, check. The park has it all, and today a gallery of 400+ gathered to watch some of the best disc golfers in the world take on the course in pristine condition. The weather was great, the tournament ran smoothly, and the players gave it their all on every hole.
Paul McBeth dominated the field today and quickly took the lead away from Nikko Locastro and never looked back. His track record of final round comebacks this year is like nothing this sport has ever seen. At the Memorial Championships he was on the chase card going into the final round at Fountain Hills when he ran off 17 birdies and set the all time single round rating record. At the Texas State Championships he shot the best score of the entire tournament, rated 1083, on the final round and propelled himself to 2nd place. At the Stead Ed Masters Cup he was down several strokes to Philo Brathwaite, and ended up winning the tournament by 2 strokes. When he is on, there's no stopping him. Today was one of those days. He finished the round at 14 under par (with a double bogey mind you) shooting an unofficially rated 1077 and winning the tournament by 4 strokes over Locastro.
There were two rounds today, but only for 7 of the 80+ open division players. After the full round this morning at Swope was completed, the top 4 men and the top 3 women played a "final 9" in front of the biggest gallery of the year thus far. The men stayed pretty much where they were at when the round started. Paul Ulibarri would finish in 4th place, Locastro in 3rd, Nate Doss in 2nd, and McBeth in 1st. 9 holes wasn't going to make much of a difference with the amount of strokes that set them apart at the start of it. The women on the other hand...that's a different story entirely.
Paige Pierce went into the final 9 with a 3 stroke lead over Catrina Ulibarri after leading the entire tournament. They were joined by Valerie Jenkins, who sat a few strokes behind Catrina. Paige carded a birdie on hole 1 while Catrina took a par and it seemed like Paige was going to run away with it. Hole 2 proved that theory wrong quickly. Hole 2 is an island hole, and Paige slipped on the tee causing her disc to fade hard left, missing the island. She then threw from the drop zone and again she ended up out of bounds forcing her to throw from the drop zone once more. She made the island and then made her putt and finished the hole with a 6. Catrina threw a flat and straight midrange off the tee, making the island, and then also making her birdie putt from the edge of the circle. In a single hole, Catrina gained 4 strokes on Paige and tied up the score.
They would duke it out the remainder of the round. They took the same score on holes 3-9 and were forced to go to a sudden death playoff, starting back on hole 1. Hole 1 plays as a par 4, with a narrow opening between two trees 200' or so down the fairway. Out of bounds lines marked by paint and flags line the fairway all the way to the basket. Paige and Catrina shook hands before teeing off and Catrina was set to tee off first. When she let go of her driver, she knew she was in trouble.
Her disc was flying straight towards the tree on the left of the gap on a turnover line. Miraculously, it turned over right through a tiny V-shaped gap in the tree without touching anything at all and she landed safely in the fairway. She couldn't believe what just happened and you could see the shock on her face as she came back to take seat so Paige could throw.
Paige threw and released the disc a half a second too late and it flew towards the tree on the right of the gap. Unfortunately for Paige, she wouldn't get the luck that Catrina did. Although most of the crowd had no idea, she ended up out of bounds just outside the painted line in front of the tree. Her upshot looked like it had a chance to go in and save a birdie, but it landed just short. Catrina layed up and tapped in for the win.
It was an awesome finish for what was already a fantastic tournament. Only 2 events remain in the National Tour Event Series, the Beaver State Fling in two weeks, and the Vibram Open in August. Ricky Wysocki will be back in the picture for the Beaver State Fling and he will be battling against Paul McBeth for the points lead. Catrina, Paige, and Sarah Hokom are all in the running for the lead as well. There's a lot more great disc coming this summer and it's all happening faster than most people can keep up. Check PDGA.com/events to find the next tournament near you!
Photos from this weekends event can be found on the PDGA Flickr Page.