STL Open and the Final Four!
The 2012 St Louis Open had a great finale with a power-packed final four: Paul Ulibarri, Will Schusterick, Cale Leiviska, and hometown favorite Nikko Locastro. All four have player ratings of 1035 and over! Coming into the final day, a couple of these players had to play their way into the final four. Their skill came through as these four all met in the safari finale out of 23 open pros playing. In the finale, the lead changed hands twice and there were two other ties for the lead.
But first, let's talk about the St. Louis Open: it was the 7th annual and hosted by the St. Louis Disc Golf Club. Our mission is to help promote the sport of disc golf in the St. Louis area and we did, as 200 players gathered in the heart of the midwest on a summer-like weekend. Of the 200 players, 80 were from outside of the state of Missouri as 16 states were represented. Sizable divisions were Intermediate with 64 players, Advanced with 49 players, and Advanced Grandmasters with 18 players. Special events included a doubles competition on Friday afternoon hosted by LS Discs, Friday night cave golfing at the Crystal City Underground, and a Saturday evening disc golf clinic hosted by three of the four members of the Non-Stop Disc Golf crew (Locastro, Schusterick, and Leiviska).
Four courses were in play in the area and all four were in their long settings in preparation for the tournament. Saturday's weather was hot (92 degrees) and humid (50%). The pros played the Jefferson Barracks historical park in the morning with Locastro and Ulibarri grabbing the early leads with 9-under par, 1050-rated rounds of 48. On Saturday afternoon, the pros played the par 66 Sioux Passage Park course and Schusterick shot the hot round with a 12-under, 1057-rated 54. Coming on strong was Brian Miller from Fort Wayne, Indiana with a 55, while Nikko fell back with a 60. Standings after the first day had Will Schusterick in the lead with a 104, followed by Ulibarri and Miller with 105s, and then Leiviska and Locastro with 108s.
Sunday shaped up as a repeat of Saturday's weather and Nikko was going to play one of his old 'home' courses at Endicott Park. Nikko turned up the heat in this round and shot a blistering 12-under, 1083-rated round of 45... which included a bogey. Schusterick kept pace with a very strong 9-under, 1055-rated of 48. Leiviska jumped past Ulibarri with a strong 7-under for a 50. The final four was now set with Schusterick still holding onto the lead with a 152. Nikko's round brought him within one throw, at 153. Leiviska and Ulibarri rounded out the final four with a 158 and 160, repectively.
The safari final 9 stretched out over the whole Endicott Park and was estimated to be 4425 feet in length and a pro par of 34. It was designed by Assistant TD and local pro, Greg Dohogne. It had a nice touch of finishing at a flagpole right next to tournament headquarters with a nice viewing area for the big gallery that was following the pros throughout the course.
Nikko set the pace on the first hole by making a 45 foot 'putt' for a deuce, while Will hit a tree early and missed a 40-foot putt to take a four. This put Nikko in the lead by one throw. Nikko added another throw to his lead on the next hole - a long tunnel shot with the basket elevated at the end - to go up by two. Will charged back on the next two holes and after four holes, the two were tied for the overall lead. After tying on the 5th hole, Nikko took the lead on the sixth hole and hoped he could ride it out. Again, Will came back and won the seventh hole to tie for the overall lead. Now with two holes to go, the pressure was on! The eighth hole goes from woods, across a baseball field, and back into the woods, Will had an easy par four putt in front of him while Nikko had a 50-footer for a possible birdie, and with this hole close to the tournament headquarters, a crowd had gathered. Nikko took his time, let it fly, and slammed it home to take the lead for the third time in the last eight holes. Will tried to force the tie on the last hole at the flagpole but could not get his approach shot to go in, and Nikko flipped in a short putt to win the tournament!
The gallery was sizable and really enjoyed the show. Nikko received congratulations from Will, Cale, and Paul, and a lot of cheers from the St. Louis fans. It was Nikko's fourth victory in a row at the St. Louis Open, and he received a nice 'Arch' trophy. (made from one of the elevator cables that was replaced in the St. Louis Arch)
This is disc golf at its best and our young pros are doing a great job of representing and promoting the sport. Thanks to our volunteers and three neighboring clubs who helped with the event. Come join us next year for the 8th annual STL Open!
Written by: Dave West, Tournament Director; Photos by: Ted Spies, STL Disc Golf Club Web Administrator, and Dave West