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McBeth Making a Case For Grand Slam

The USDGC is all that’s left for World Champ Paul McBeth to run-the-table on this year’s 4 majors – a historic run that’s brought on a discussion of how to define disc golf’s Grand Slam.

This season McBeth has been the talk of the disc golf world with jaw dropping play that’s amounted to record breaking rated-rounds (1132-rated final round at the Memorial Championship and then an 1119-rated final round at the Vibram Open).

After his Pro Worlds win, much of that talk has centered on the possibility of a Grand Slam. However, Paul’s season is already one for the books with three major wins, one more than anyone else in a year (the Copenhagen Open, the European Open, and the Pro World Championships).

On the phone driving back from the Vibram Open, McBeth, 23, said he was pleased with his major success, but he’s still moving forward.

“I don’t take the time to look back on it,” said McBeth, adding that he’d prefer to reminisce after he’s done with the sport.

After all, he’s got one more major left ahead of him – one that could cap an incredible season and one that will require another special performance, especially after USDGC defending champion Will Schusterick returns to what’s felt like his home course away from home.

The discussion of crowning a Grand Slam champion is a relatively recent one because it wasn’t until 2006 when the PDGA had at least four official majors for Pro Open singles play, according to the PDGA.

Prior to 2006, the next closest thing was winning both Pro Worlds and the USDGC in the same year, known as the “Kenny Slam” since Ken Climo was the first to do it in 2000, then again and 2002, and was followed by Barry Schultz in 2003.

Though there were many big-time disc golf tournaments before the USDGC’s inception in 1999, the Pro Worlds was it, as far as ‘major-level’ events, said former PDGA Executive Director Brian Hoeniger in an email.

“There wasn’t need for “majors” designation prior to the USDGC in 1999. Pro Worlds was, simply stated … Worlds!” wrote Hoeniger, who now acts as the PDGA International Director.

Many refer to professional tennis and traditional golf as a grand slam model, which consists of winning the season’s four major events that are the same annually.

However unlike those sports, disc golf does not have the same four major events every year. Only the USDGC and the Pro World Championships have returned as Open majors each year.

When the Japan Open was revived in 2002 it was recognized as a major, and was next classified as a major in 2006 along with the European Open. Since then, these two events have been recurring majors, but only every other year (the Japan Open will be returning next year after being canceled in 2012).

The Players Cup in Florida is no longer a major while European events like the Stockholm Open, Copenhagen Open, and Scandinavian Open have popped up as majors temporarily.

All of this, plus the fact that in 2009 and 2012 there were only three majors, has made the idea of an official disc golf Grand Slam somewhat murky.

If McBeth were to win the USDGC, his achievement as of now would only be referred to as sweeping the 2013 Open majors, according to PDGA Executive Director Brian Graham

“The PDGA and the sport of disc golf does not officially have a ‘Grand Slam’ so I am hesitant to use that term until such time that we define what our Grand Slam actually is,” wrote Graham in an email.

However, Graham doesn’t want to downplay the magnitude of the achievement if McBeth executes that sweep.

“It would be monumental. Not since Ken Climo in his prime will we have seen a player so dominate the sport,” wrote Graham. “Add to that the fact that Paul also won the National Tour Elite Series and you will realize what a special year it would be.”

By traditional standards, a disc golf Grand Slam is unclear at best, but disc golf is continually forming its identity. Who’s to say how sweeping disc golf’s majors will be seen in the future. Looking back at traditional golf when Bobby Jones completed the sport’s only Grand Slam in 1930, he did it by winning two amateur events that are no longer included in a modern day slam.

McBeth’s play this year may have pushed the PDGA to begin settling the Grand Slam issue. Graham, who is in favor of forming an official Grand Slam or Triple Crown, said the PDGA Board will be discussing majors at their late September summit, but he could not say how soon any action towards an official Grand Slam would take place.

“… But I don’t think we’re a long way off,” he added. 

“Now that we have television (Beach Sports Network) coverage of our events, the timing could not be better to define and promote a grand slam for our sport,” wrote Graham.

No doubt McBeth has come as close as anyone to realizing such a feat. Before now the closest to come have been Climo, Schultz, David Feldberg, and Will Schusterick with two majors in a year. One has to wonder, though, how many more majors Climo and Schultz would’ve won if more were offered earlier.

No matter the year, winning four majors with so much competition is hard for most to comprehend. McBeth doesn’t let the task’s difficulty bother him, but instead spur him on.

“That just makes it that much more of a goal,” said McBeth, living in Clearwater, Fla.

McBeth’s attempt at a Grand Slam or major sweep, or whatever it’s referred to as should make for some must watch USDGC disc golf. For McBeth, after achieving most of his season’s goals already, it’s just the next thing on the list. 

“That’s all I really have to look forward to now so that’s where all of my focus is going toward.” said McBeth.

-Todd Harrell