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Memorial Drama

The Memorial Championships presented by Discraft finally came to an end on Saturday after 4 long days of competitive play in Scottsdale and Fountain Hills. The Open divisions were the only ones who played a 4th round, and of those divisions only some of the players had a chance at cashing after 50% of the field was cut after Friday’s round at Vista Del Camino.
Paige Pierce started the day with a 9 stroke lead over Valerie Jenkins, after 3 days of huge drives off the tee followed by excellent putting left her sitting at 12 under par. Catrina Ulibarri started the day in 4th place at 5 over par, which left her 5 strokes to gain for her to have a shot at 3rd place. She fought hard and outplayed Sarah Hokom for the round shooting a 957 rated –3 for the round, but missed a putt on the 18th hole that would have tied up the score. Paige never gave Valerie much of a chance to make a run at the lead and Val never gave Sarah and/or Catrina a chance at knocking her out of 2nd place. Paige took home the title after shooting -4 on the day, beating Val by 2 strokes and giving her an impressive 11 stroke victory.

The MPO division was….well…just crazy. Will Schusterick, Garrett Gurthie, Gregg Barsby, and Ricky Wysocki started the day on the lead card after great rounds all week put them all within a few strokes of each other. The second and third cards were stacked with all-stars as well. Nikko Locastro started the day on the third card after an unfortunate finish the day before. He took a 7 on the par 3 16th hole after back-to-back putts hit the chains, spit out, and rolled down the hill all the way to out of bounds. Nikko shot a 1087 rated –13 on Saturday and jumped all the way from the third card to finish 4th place for the tournament.

Gregg Barsby played great all 4 days of the tournament, including a 1093 rated round 1 on Wednesday at Vista Del Camino that put him on the lead card. His ability to throw precise and powerful forehands and backhands, combined with great upshots and putting, kept him within range of winning the tournament outright all week. In the end, he would finish 3rd overall after a 1059 rated final round and a grand total of -44 for the tournament.

“I knew I’d have to shoot in the 30's to catch him.” Said Paul McBeth about Will Schusterick after the tournament ended. Think about that for a moment. How often do you think to yourself that you’ll need to shoot in the 30’s to catch someone. Probably never, because very few people would think to themselves they need to shoot 17 or 18 under par, and actually believe they can do it. McBeth followed through with his plan and birdied 17 out of the 18 holes on the course, breaking the course record and finishing with an 1126 rated round!

On the tee of the 18th hole, Will and everyone else around quickly caught wind of McBeth’s record breaking round, which left him only 1 stroke off the lead when Will stepped up to tee off. The pressure was on and he needed a great drive to assure him the victory. With hundreds of people in the gallery lining the fairway, Will fearlessly crushed a midrange right at the basket, flying over almost 400’ of water on a perfectly straight line before sliding straight towards the pin. He was left with a 15’ putt for birdie, and hit it. He had won The Memorial for the first time and he celebrated with the other members of the Prodigy team.

I was just as happy as Will, because for me, it meant I could finally put down the phone and stop tweeting for the first time in 4 days. I sat down on the grass near hole 1’s tee pad and was overjoyed to be finished. My enjoyment was quickly interrupted as dozens of people came rushing over to hole 1, yelling something about a sudden death playoff. What?! Why?! How?! Who?! More tweeting?!

Yes, more tweeting. In the excitement of winning, Will turned in his scorecard without adding up his strokes. For doing so, he took a 2 stroke penalty and was now tied at -48 with McBeth. The gallery swarmed hole 1 as Paul McBeth stepped up to the tee. Hole 1 is a 400’ par 3 that requires an over the water shot to a basket sitting right up against the water’s edge. Too short and you’re wet. Too deep and you could skip OB, and even if you don’t go OB, you still have a terrifying downhill approach towards the water. Paul played his drive long and safe, forcing Will to either do the same, or try to park it for the win.

Will opted for the latter. He put a backhand drive out over the water and after watching this hole dozens of times over the past few days, it was clear to me that he was on a perfect line. Spectators knew it too, and they started cheering for him while it was still in midair, fading towards the basket. It hit the ground about 30’ off to the right of the target and softly skipped right up to the pin. Parked. McBeth played an upshot but landed short, and Will confidently ended the drama with a short putt for the sudden death victory.

Will would have been pretty upset with himself if he had lost, as the difference between 1st and 2nd place was $1100. It was one of the strangest but most exciting finishes I’ve ever seen. It’s not often that someone who breaks a course record and shoots 17 under par finishes in 2nd place to begin with. And then for that player to get a chance at winning the tournament because the 1st place finisher forgot to add up his score…wow.

13x world champion Ken Climo took home 1st place in the Open Masters division with a convincing 9 stroke victory over the 3 different players who tied for 2nd place; Jonathan Baldwin, Phil Arthur, and Scottsdale local Rex Rogers.  The surprisingly large field of 50 Open Grandmasters players was won by Jim Oates from Orange Vale, CA. He took down the title after winning by 13 strokes over 2nd place finisher Tim Keith from Trussville, AL.

The 2013 Memorial Championship was once again a fantastic tournament and a great way to start the National Tour series. Dan Ginnelly, Matt Warren, Keith Murray, and everyone else involved in running the event all deserve a big thank you for doing such a great job. Live tweeting and scoring will be back for the Texas State Championships starting on March 15th in Austin, TX.