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Stage Set for 2017 Pro Worlds


Photo by Stu Mullenberg, The Flight Record.

With Field Events now completed and the courses primed for competition, the only item left on the agenda before the opening round of the 2017 PDGA Professional Disc Golf World Championships is a good night’s sleep. 210 of the most talented professional disc golfers representing nine countries are on site and ready to battle for the most coveted title in the sport; World Champion.

For the first time since the inaugural event in 1982, the Open and Open Women’s divisions have been split from the rest of the professional divisions to feature them exclusively for what we have historically referred to as Pro Worlds. This resulted in the creation of a new world championship for the age-protected professional divisions, the upcoming PDGA Pro Masters World Championships in Grand Rapids, Michigan this August.

Disc golf has continued down a path towards becoming a true mainstream sport over the last decade and with that comes the necessity to make the hosting of its most prestigious event more accessible to more venues and locations. Perhaps the most significant outcome of reducing the field to two divisions is that far less land is needed for the competition. More specifically, fewer courses.

For the competitors, having to learn, travel to, and practice only two courses makes a huge difference. It gives them more time to hone in their skills and form a plan of attack for each and every hole they’ll be competing on. For the hosts, fewer courses means that more time and energy can be put into shaping and perfecting the courses that will be used. This concept is already in place for many of disc golf’s biggest events, as it should be.

For the future, a reduction of the field and the acreage needed opens the doors to the dozens of already-existing high-quality clubs, cities, organizations, companies, etc. that may have been interested in the past but either never were considered or never put in a bid in the first place due to their inability to meet such vast requirements.

The Competition

There is simply no title more desired or more significant in the world of disc golf than that of World Champion. The dream of rising to the top is one that’s had by every competitive disc golfer at some point in their career, and for the 200+ competitors here in Augusta, Georgia this week, the time to make that dream a reality is now.

At the 2016 Pro Worlds in Emporia, Kansas, the Open division saw a new champion for the first time in four years as Ricky Wysocki #38008 finally put an end to the World Championship dominance of Paul McBeth #27523. Shooting five rounds in a row that averaged an official rating of 1058, there was simply no stopping him.

The McBeth vs. Wysocki story is one that disc golf fans have all grown to know and love over the years. They sealed their fate as one of the sport’s greatest rivalries after their incredible sudden death playoff during the 2014 Pro Worlds in Portland, Oregon, where Wysocki fell to McBeth after six nail-biting holes. Nearly three years have gone by since that amazing day and there have been countless battles between the two of them since, including another sudden death playoff, once again in Portland, Oregon, just two weeks ago at the 2017 Beaver State Fling.

Wysocki will be teeing off tomorrow and for the rest of the week with a target on his back and McBeth is just one of the many world-class disc golfers here that has him in his sights. In fact, McBeth is just one of many former World Champions gunning for the title.

The current Women’s World Champion, Valarie Jenkins #17495 has the chance at this year’s event to do what only three players have ever done as Open or Open Women’s competitors; become a 5X World Champion. After a runaway victory during the 2016 Pro Worlds Final 9 in Emporia, Jenkins joined the ranks of a very elite few, cementing her name in the record books for the fourth time (2007, 2008, 2009, 2017).

If Jenkins were to finish at the top of the leaderboard once again here in Augusta for her fifth, she’d match what only Elaine King #3090 and Juliana Korver #7438 have done since the Open Women’s division was added to Worlds in 1983. The third disc golfer with five World Championship titles is none other than Ken Climo #4297. Referred to by most as simply “The Champ” for understandable reasons, Climo has an unbelievable and most likely unattainable 12 World Championship victories in the Open division, including a streak of nine in a row from 1990-1998.

Much like Wysocki, Jenkins will have several former World Champions attempting to dethrone her this week, Elaine King included, the likes of Catrina Allen #44184 (2014), Sarah Hokom #34563 (2012), and 3X Women’s World Champion Paige Pierce #29190.

In the last decade or so, Pierce and Jenkins have been the two most dominant pro women in the sport, combining for seven World Champion titles along with dozens of other PDGA Major and PDGA National Tour victories. Coming off a shaky year in 2016, Pierce has been playing the best disc golf of her life, and arguably the best disc golf ever played by any woman in 2017.

Pierce began the year with a 20-stroke victory at the Aussie Open in January with a final score that was strong enough to qualify for the 2017 United States Disc Golf Championship, a feat that has only been done by a handful of other women in the USDGC’s brief but important history. In the 15 additional events she’s competed in since, she’s racked up 12 more wins including all four of the PDGA National Tour events, three A-Tier events, and five B-Tier events.

If her performance at the 2017 Beaver State Fling just two weeks ago was any sort of indicator of how she’ll be playing here in Augusta, the other women will have their work cut out for them. Finishing with a final score of 234 (-10) through four rounds (all 996-1020 rated) on two of the toughest courses in the world, Val Jenkins even made a comment about it while accepting her trophy for 2nd place, 18 strokes back. “This girl is just playing on a completely different level,” said Val while standing on the podium and pointing towards Paige.

The Courses

The 2017 Pro Worlds will take place on two amazing and beautiful championship disc golf courses that will prove to be as challenging as they are aesthetically pleasing. The first is a staple item when it comes to world-class disc golf; the WR Jackson Memorial Disc Golf Course at the International Disc Golf Center. The second is probably new to most of the competitors and will serve as the home for the round on Thursday (Round 2) and the final round on Saturday (Round 4); the Marine/Navy Disc Golf Course housed within Fort Gordon.

The WR Jackson holds the #1 spot for many touring pros when it comes to choosing a favorite course, and rightly so. Cut in the heart of the woods of Wildwood Park in Appling, Georgia and one of three courses that are just a few steps off the back porch of the International Disc Golf Center, the WR Jackson should definitely be a bucket list course for those that haven’t played it, if it isn’t already.

Crafted by legendary course designer John Houck #1688 of HouckDesign, the 9681’ par 68 WR Jackson is both extremely difficult and perfectly fair at the same time. A bad score on the Jackson is a result of playing poorly, period. The lines are all there, and most of the holes provide several different paths to the green and present several different levels of risk. Finishing ahead of the pack requires a combination of precision golf and knowing exactly when and where to run the riskier routes.

The Marine/Navy Disc Golf Course is an absolute monster that comes in at 10057’ from the long tees (par 67) and 8883’ from the short tees (par 66). Finishing well requires endurance, power, and patience as this course features several of the longest holes in the event.

The combined distance of holes 3, 9, and 18 alone, 3031’ (1067’, 1060’, 1004’) would satisfy many course designers looking to install a nine-hole course! Keep in mind, this is not a ball golf course layout. This is not a wide-open venue. Trees, elevation changes, and other general obstacles are aplenty. Power and distance off the tee are great tools to have in the bag, but if they aren’t complemented by precision and accuracy, the Marine/Navy Disc Golf Course will ambush your scorecard with bogeys.

Course Info & Resources

Coverage

With neither the WR Jackson DGC nor the Marine/Navy DGC being positioned well for the powerful cell signal necessary for live round coverage, we’ve opted instead for a live aftershow presented by SmashBoxxTV to follow shortly after the conclusion of each of the four rounds. The live show will feature clips from the action that took place that day as well as player interviews, special guests, round analysis, and more.

In addition to the live aftershow, we’ve also brought in Jomez Productions, Central Coast Disc Golf, and Prodigy Disc to give the world as many opportunities as possible to watch top-quality post-production video for the lead cards in both the Open and Open Women’s division.

Last but not least, there are a ton of ways to follow along each day including live, hole-by-hole scoring on pdgalive.com, as well as updates, pictures, and videos via the PDGA on Facebook@pdga and @pdgalive on Twitter, @pdga on Instagram, and PDGA Tour on Snapchat.

We’re just hours away from the opening round of the 2017 PDGA Professional Disc Golf World Championships!

Tee times are posted!

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