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A Will to Win

The finale of the Beaver State Fling was yesterday at Milo McIver State Park in Estacada, OR, just outside of Portland.  Mother Nature was cooperative all weekend, as the rain that crushed the area weeks prior ceased just in time to finish over 200 hours of mowing, turning the overgrown jungle of the east and west Riverbend disc golf courses into a pristine venue, more than suitable for a weekend of National Tour golf.  Co-tournament directors Jeff Mittl and Jeff Hagerty and their amazing team of volunteers and staff once again treated the players to one of the most exciting and well-run events of the 2013 National Tour Elite Series presented by Vibram.  As the battle for the Drive for the Championship nears an end, players were anxiously seeking a way to climb to the top of the standings.

The Grandmasters and Masters divisions finished just as we thought they would, as Jim Oates cruised to a 16 stroke win with a final total of -14.  He was the only player in his division to complete the tournament under par, as his closest competitor, Marcus Roberts, finished at +2.  Ken “The Champ” Climo won with ease as well, as his consistent play earned him a nice check and another win at a large event.  The race for second in the Master’s division was a good one, however.  Jay “Yeti” Reading started the day a few shots in front of San Francisco’s Patrick Brown, but Pat would put the pedal to the metal early and often.  The west course at Milo is a true risk vs reward style track, and if a player is hitting all of his lines off the tee and making putts, some serious ground can be gained.  That is exactly what Patrick did in the final round of the weekend.  He finished the round at 10 under par, catapulting him into second place, a mere one stroke ahead of the four time world putting champion Reading.  Teresa Embree won the Women’s Masters Division, while Steve Lee took home the Senior Grandmasters win.

In the women’s division, Sarah Cunningham played smooth and solid all weekend, and waltzed to a victory over Paige Pierce by 4 strokes.  Sarah shot lights out all weekend, and just when Paige would gain some ground, Cunningham would drain another birdie to put her further into the lead.  Paige summed it up at the awards ceremony when she stated, “I thought I played pretty well this weekend, but Sarah didn’t miss any putts at all.”  By consistently making putts from inside (and outside) of the circle, and dropping forehand drives right where she needed to be, it is clear that Mrs. Cunningham is a force to be reckoned with on the NT circuit.  She finished the tournament with an impressive total of one over par, which was very close to 1000 rated golf on some very difficult courses.  The round of the day belonged to Valarie Jenkins, shooting an unbelievable 59, or two strokes below par, landing her in a tie for third place with another world champion, Des Reading, at +8.  A consummate professional, Valarie thanked the staff and volunteers for a job well done, and her competitors for driving her forward throughout the weekend.

In the Open group, Will Schusterick began Sunday on top by two strokes after being pushed by Nate Doss and Dave Feldberg in the round prior.  The fireworks began right away, as it appeared that Will was having trouble finding the bottom of the basket with his putter.  He missed a few putts early, and the gallery was starting to wonder if this would be Feldberg’s year (he has finished second in this event several times in the last few years).  Local hero Nate Doss also made a charge early, and at one point during the round all three men were tied at the top.  Never count out last year’s Player of the Year Ricky Wysocki, however, who was also making a move.  Additionally, from the second card, a buzz was swirling that Adam Hunt of Oklahoma was making a serious charge for the title.  After 11 holes, Hunt was -9 and threatening the lead card, as they watched him drain big putts right in front of them.  Going into the last few holes, it was still unclear who was going to win until, on the difficult par 4 16th hole, Will was buried in the rough after his approach shot came up short and he had to straddle to his right from his knees just to find a look at the basket.  He floated his birdie putt around a branch right into the center of the chains, and with a huge fist pump and a roar of appreciation from the gallery, found himself with a three stroke lead with only two to play.  From there, he cruised in with pars for the win, just two in front of Nate, who birdied the last hole to put him in sole possession of second place.  As Will’s last putt fell into the basket, he stretched his hands toward the sky, elated with his victorious achievement.

Next year, we will see Milo again for the Beaver State Fling, and the 2014 professional World Championships, but for now, we will have to rest on the fact that this particular venue has played host to some of the most exciting and dramatic finishes in recent disc golf history, and it provides a setting that is picture perfect and next to none.  Kudos to both of the Jeff’s (Mittl and Hagerty) as they have once again set the standard for how an NT should be run.  The players look forward to it every year, and it is obvious why.  For a complete listing of the results, click here.  Check out photos from the weekend on Flickr, and be sure to watch the season finale at the Vibram Open at Maple Hill at the close of the summer.  Until then!