An Unbelievably Epic Day of Disc Golf
It’s extremely difficult to express in words the overwhelming amount of emotions that swept over myself, the tournament staff, the volunteers, and the hundreds of fans that made up the galleries during the final rounds of the 2014 PDGA Professional Disc Golf World Championships presented by Keen. I can only assume this sentiment extends to the players as well, as they were the ones being watched, cheered for, and idolized by their onlooking fans. It was surreal to say the least. It was an undeniable sign that the popularity of disc golf is growing on a much larger and more powerful scale than ever before.
Before we delve into the details of the final day, we must first take a moment to thank the tournament staff for the blood, sweat, and tears required to put on such an incredible event. Tournament Director Todd Andrews, his Co-Directors Jeff Hagerty and Jeff Mittl, and a long list of other volunteers put in dozens and dozens of hours of work into making this event happen. As usual, these people all have regular jobs and normal lives meaning that every moment they put into the 2014 Pro Worlds likely took away from something else they could have been focusing on. That, as always, is something worth applauding and we can’t thank them enough for all of their hard work.
With the cuts to the field made after the rounds on Friday, some divisions would have players advance directly the finals, while others would have to play a semifinal round on Saturday morning to narrow down the field. This was based purely on the number of competitors in each division, meaning the most popular divisions would be the ones playing a semifinal round before advancing to the finals.
The finals were played at Blue Lake Park, on a nine hole layout comprised of holes 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 13, 14 and 15. A standard practice at the biggest events in disc golf is to choose a finals course and layout that provides the best accommodation for what is typically expected to be a large amount of spectators that will be in attendance to watch the ensuing battles for the title. Blue Lake was the perfect choice, as it provides a difficult course with plenty of space along the fairways and greens for people to enjoy the competition up close.
The Final Rounds
Berlogar, Hoyman, Takano, Barnes, & Shive
As soon as the semifinal rounds ended for those divisions that had to play them, the finals began for those divisions that did not. These divisions included Masters Women, Grandmasters Women, Senior Grandmasters Women, Legends, and Senior Legends. Of those five division, three of them had really close races going into the last nine holes of the 2014 Pro Worlds.
For starters, Carrie Berlogar #13815 in the Masters Women’s division would start the finals tied for the lead with Anni Kerml #7879. In Senior Grandmasters Women, the battle between Toni Hoyman #18823 and Karen Brown #19400 was just as close, with Toni ahead by just a single stroke. Last but not least, Sadao Takano #65542 would tee off in Senior Legends with a five stroke lead over Carlos Rigby #48542. Those that started out in the lead finished in much the same way, as all three of them took home a world title in their respective division.
Molly Barnes #27303 played amazing golf all week and she went into the finals with a very comfortable 14 stroke lead over Sandy Gast #6440. Molly cruised her way to her world title finishing ahead by the same amount that she started with. In the Legends division, Peter Shive #7240 played a final nine against PDGA member #706, Barry Fischer. Shive had quite the lead going into the finals, but they both enjoyed the fun of competing on one last round of disc golf together, finishing first and second in front of a crowd of fans. Shive already has a long history of PDGA Pro World titles. He's now the second most decorated Pro Worlds Champion with this year's win being his 13th total across multiple age-protected divisions.
Oates & Voakes
The name Voakes goes hand-in-hand with disc golf. Dr. Rick Voakes #2362 along with his wife Sylvia Voakes #3360 likely have more awards, victories, and accomplishments in the sport of disc golf than any other two family names combined. Dr. Voakes started the final round seven stroke ahead of his nearest competiton, Stan Hubbard #46853 and he would finish ahead by seven as well after they both shot the same round of 36 in the finals, two over par.
Jim Oates #3351 left the 2014 Pro Worlds with two major accomplishments under his belt. First and foremost, he went into the final round ahead by just a single stroke over what most would consider a newcomer to the sport, Craig Nielsen #42213. The pressure was on and Oates was able to seal the deal to take home the title, perhaps drawing on his many more years of experience in high pressure situations to oust Nielsen for the win.
His second accomplishment was as high of an honor as can be received in the world of disc golf. On the evening of Thursday August 14th, Oates was inducted into the Disc Golf Hall of Fame. As with all Hall of Fame members, the amount that Oates has put in to the sport far outweighs whatever he’s received in return. Congratulations to Oates for his victories at the 2014 Pro Worlds. We can’t wait to hang his plaque next to all the others in the Hall of Fame at the International Disc Golf Center.
Climo vs Schultz
Of all the matchups that took place during the week, this one was by far the closest. Ken “The Champ” Climo #4297 and Barry Schultz #6840, both now competing in Masters, spent an entire week fighting back and forth for the lead. At no point during the seven full rounds of disc golf that they played were they ever more than two strokes apart. They were joined by Patrick Brown #25713, Jay “Yeti” Reading #15864, and Jonathan Baldwin #18114 for most of the week on the lead card.
It really couldn’t have been much closer, as Climo and Schultz took the tee of the final round tied for the lead. Climo made a few mistakes early in the round leaving himself down by two with just three holes remaining. Even The Champ knew he was in trouble, stating at the awards ceremony that he knew there was a chance going into the 7th hole that his shot at another world title had come to an end.
What ensued during the remaining three holes will go down as one of the great comebacks in disc golf history. Climo threw perfect drives and upshots on each of the remaining holes, leaving himself with birdie putts that were well within his range, or were simply tap-ins. Schultz did his best to fight off The Champ but would lose a stroke on all three holes in a row. On the final hole when we turned the corner and saw that Schultz had a 60 foot putt for birdie, Climo’s face lit up.
He whispered to his caddy, “That’s gotta be at least 50 or 60 feet.” His caddy replied with “Yeah, if he doesn’t bang the chains on this one, it’s over.“ They both held their breath as Schultz let go of the putt…he missed. The look on Climo’s face was priceless. He smiled and said “Wow.” As he walked up to his Teebird that was sitting inside of 10 feet from the basket, you could feel the excitement from the gallery building up. They were all watching a truly historical figure in the sport win yet another world championship. Climo tapped in for birdie, ran to grab his putter, and literally jumped for joy as he pumped his fist into the air, yelling as the gallery roared with excitement.
It’s the kind of moment that gives you goosebumps just thinking about it. Climo now has 14 total Pro Worlds titles, 12 of which were in the Open division (nine of those 12 were in row) and two in Masters. It's going to be tough for anyone to ever match that, and he's still more than capable of winning more titles in the years to come.
Allen vs Pierce
Watching Catrina Allen #44184 and 2X World Champion Paige Pierce #29190 duke it out to the very end is nothing new if you’ve been following women’s disc golf in the past two years. These two have had more tournaments come down to a tooth and nail fight for the win than any other two competitors on the pro tour, without a doubt. The 2014 Pro Worlds would be no exception.
The only difference between what we’re used to seeing with Allen and Pierce and what we witnessed during the 2014 Pro Worlds was the presence of a third figure who also had a shot at the win, Ragna Bygde #8559. Bygde held her own all week, finishing several rounds during the week as the Open Women’s leader. The finals would come down to the three of them, joined by Ohn Scoggins #48976.
Allen started the final round with a three and four stroke lead over Pierce and Bygde, respectively. After the first few holes, it seemed that every time one of them gained ground on Allen, she would get it right back. The turning point came when Allen took a triple bogey on the dreaded fifth hole of the finals (Blue Lake course hole #7), a tree-filled par 5 dogleg that finishes to an elevated basket where a missed putt usually means another very difficult putt. Allen struggled to nail the putt and lost two strokes to both Pierce and Bygde with four holes remaining.
Despite the triple bogey, Allen was able to make it to the last hole with a two stroke lead, making her putt from inside the circle for par to take home her first Pro Worlds title in front of a huge group of fans. We look forward to seeing them all again at the United States Women’s Disc Golf Championships at the Internatinoal Disc Golf Center, now just a few weeks away.
McBeth vs Wysocki
Never in the history of disc golf has there been a more exciting finish in front of a bigger gallery than what we were fortunate enough to witness during the Open division’s final round at Blue Lake featuring Paul McBeth #27523, Ricky Wysocki #38008, Nate Doss #11794, and Paul Ulibarri #27171. As someone who has spent years working for the sport, it was one of the most jaw-dropping sights these eyes have ever seen.
From the moment the round began to the moment it ended, the already huge gallery of hundreds of people continued to get bigger and bigger. By the time the playoffs between McBeth and Wysocki began, roughly 1000 people were lining the fairways and greens, screaming and cheering at the top of their lungs for every drive, approach and putt. It felt like a dream. It was a gallery so much bigger than we’ve ever seen, that my gut reaction was denial. “This can’t be happening. This is unbelievable.” It turns out it was happening, and it was incredible. It’s something we can only hope we’ll have to get used to dealing with at the future PDGA Major and National Tour events to come.
The group of men that made it to the finals had been playing together since the day prior. They pushed themselves to outplay the competition, pulling away from the chase card to the point where it was obvious going into the finals that they were going to finish first through fourth overall. We just didn’t know what the order would be. It didn’t take very many holes during the final round to see that the world title was going to end up in the hands of McBeth or Wysocki.
Wysocki would start the round two ahead of McBeth. He gave up a stroke right off the bat on hole one, carding a bogey while McBeth tapped in for par. He would lose another stroke on the third hole, this time due to a uncharacteristic missed birdie putt. With six holes to go, two of the best players in the world were tied…again.
They would trade the lead twice more due to out of bounds penalties and with just two holes remaining, Ricky Wysocki was down by one to the defending world champion. His only chance to tie it up would be an eagle on the 8th hole (course hole 14), a 960 foot par 5. You wouldn’t believe how quiet 1000 people can be when someone has a world championship hanging on a 90’ eagle putt. Ricky let go of his putter on a wide and high hyzer line. The only thing you could hear as it glided through the air was the clicking of camera shutters. BOOM! Nailed it! The gallery went absolutely insane.
They both made birdie putts from inside the circle on the final hole and with that, the only word that could make the afternoon even more exciting was yelled out to the gallery…”PLAYOFF!”. The spectators all made their way back to hole one, many of which were sprinting and jumping through the tall weeds to get a better view from the fairway. As Paul McBeth said, “It [the gallery] was HUGE when the playoff started. The walk to the tee pad of hole one was EPIC!!!!”
You couldn’t have asked for a better 30 minutes of disc golf for the playoffs. Every throw and putt was followed by an absolute outpour of cheers, screaming, and yelling from the fans. McBeth and Wysocki both hit huge putts under the highest pressure possible, effortlessly. 40 feet, 50 feet, it didn’t matter. The crowd held their breath for every one of them, and as soon as the putts went in they took off sprinting to the next fairway and green. Describing it as “EPIC” still doesn’t do it justice.
After four holes of amazing golf, they were still tied. Whoever made the first real mistake was going to lose, and then, it happened. Wysocki’s approach on the fifth hole of the playoffs hit a tree and was brought down before it really had the chance to take flight. McBeth had already played his approach and he was a good 300 feet ahead of Wysocki with just an upshot remaining to the green.
Wysocki nailed his putt to elevated basket from 30 feet, meaning McBeth would have to make his putt for the win. Wysocki knew he was done for, as McBeth is the last person in the world you'd ever want to be up against that needed to miss a putt. McBeth blew on his fingers, gripped his putter, and nailed the birdie putt. The crowd erupted. McBeth had done it. He’d done what only Ken Climo had ever done in the sport. He’d won three Pro World Championships in a row in the Open division.
Congratulations to McBeth and Wysocki both for putting on one of the greatest shows the stage of disc golf has ever seen. It’s a day that will live on for years.
Thank you again to all the fans that came out and watched, all of the staff, the volunteers, all of the sponsors, and anyone else involved in making the 2014 PDGA Professional Disc Golf World Championships presented by Keen one of the greatest weeks of disc golf in the short history of this amazing sport.
Photo Credit: Stuart Mullenberg, #MoreStuOnTour!!!
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