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EuroTour: Blomroos, Lehtinen Take Wins At Nokia Open


Henna Blomroos, shown here during the 2019 PDGA Professional Disc Golf World Championships, closed out her season with a victory at the EuroTour's Nokia Open. Photo: Alyssa Van Lanen

If disc golf fans know anything about Nokia, Finland, other than its connection to cell phones, it’s that it’s home to one of the most famous courses in the sport. That course, The Beast, is mostly thought of as the challenge awaiting contenders at the prestigious European Open. But last weekend The Beast roared back to life—with some slight modifications—to play host to the penultimate EuroTour event of the season: the Nokia Open.

The field was largely Finnish and had little stake in the overall EuroTour points standings, but a close battle in Open and yet another entry in the saga of Henna Blomroos vs. Eveliina Salonen—two of the world’s top female players—meant the weekend certainly didn’t lack suspense.  

The tilt for the top two spots in Open was tight. Though Oskari Vikström entered the final round with a one-stroke advantage, 17-year old Lauri Lehtinen was able to overtake him before it was finished. Lehtinen’s winning score was a 19-under par 170, while Vikström came in second with a 17-under par 172. Niklas Anttila’s 11-under par 178 earned him third place.

In Open Women, Blomroos got the best of Salonen by a wide margin despite both players averaging over their ratings for the weekend. Blomroos’ 5-over par 194 allowed her to cruise to a nine-stroke victory over Salonen’s 14-over par 203. Fellow Finn Heidi Laine rounded out the podium with her score of 35-over par 224.

Win At Nokia 'A Dream Come True' For Lehtinen

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17-year-old Lauri Lehtinen stood atop the final podium at the Nokia Open. Photo: Prodiscus

If you had taken just a passing glance at the Open field before the tournament, you wouldn’t have counted Lehtinen out, but you probably would have thought of him as a long shot. At the time he was rated 1000, and six other players—including two sporting ratings over 1020—were ranked higher statistically.

However, if you dug deeper into Lehtinen’s season, you would see that he’d already played the role of giant slayer in 2019. Back in May, he stunned many competitors by winning The Prodigy Pro Disc Tour - Tampere as a 979-rated player, beating a 1022-rated Väinö Mäkelä in a playoff to take the crown.

It’s likely such success that made Lehtinen both optimistic and hungry ahead of the Nokia Open.

“Before the tournament I knew that I could get a win, and to be honest I wanted it so bad,” Lehtinen said.

Vikström saw to it that Lehtinen didn’t get his dream very easily. Both players turned in bogey-free final rounds, with neither ever leading the other by more than one stroke until hole 14.

In this version of The Beast, hole 14 was the famous hay bale hole. There, players want to put their first drives in a relatively generous lay-up zone before making a treacherous shot onto a small island lined by hay bales and an OB sidewalk. Failure to make the island results in the need to continuously rethrow (without penalty) until the island or another safe position has been reached. It’s a hole destined to create drama, and it didn’t disappoint last Sunday.

“We [Vikström and I] both got our tee shots nicely in the middle of the fairway and Oskari had to continue before me,” Lehtinen recounted. “He unfortunately missed the island once before parking his third shot. My second shot went just over the hay bales onto the island, and I was able to gain another stroke. After that I was pretty confident, but I knew that there were still many holes where anything could happen, so I needed to keep my calm and focus on my next shots.”

That one slip by Vikström gave Lehtinen a two-throw advantage with just four holes to play. And when Lehtinen birdied 16 to Vikström’s par to gain an even larger margin, the writing was on the wall. In the end, both competitors played incredible golf, with Vikström turning in a 1042-rated round that was not enough to best the 1064-rated effort Lehtinen served up during his last go at The Beast.

The runner-up expressed some pride in his play despite ultimately being disappointed with the final result.

“Lauri just got a few strokes on me here and there,” Vikström said. “I feel like I played well but losing the lead in the final round never feels good.”

Vikström also thinks that “work on [his] shorter backhand shots and making smarter choices” could help stave off future surging competitors.

As for Lehtinen, he couldn’t have been happier with the result.

“I just put everything in, and thanks to my great last round I was able to come out on top,” he said. “Getting the win was pretty much a dream come true and it was the best possible way to end my season.”

Confident In Her Game, Blomroos Cracks 1000 In Final Round

A four-stroke lead is certainly not insurmountable, and that fact had to be on Salonen’s mind as she started the final round trailing Blomroos by that amount. On hole 2, Salonen even closed the gap to three, taking a birdie to Blomroos’ par.

But then Blomroos hit the gas while Salonen was left coughing in her dust. Blomroos went 4-under over the next five holes while Salonen went 3-over in the same stretch, and even as Blomroos cooled off some after that the outcome was never again in question.

Blomroos ended with a 1004-rated, 2-under par final round that helped the 965-rated Finn average 988 over the weekend on the whole.

“I felt pretty good and I knew my game was good,” Blomroos said. “It was my last competition of the year and I just tried to relax…and I did not make any big mistakes.”

Salonen, too, finished her season at this event. Her main concern was not taking second to her friend and rival, but trying to eliminate errors and getting more looks to be under par.

“I think I played okay, but every round I had some holes where I took big numbers, and I didn't get many birdies,” Salonen said.

Salonen’s aiming for all-around improvement this offseason, but she especially wants to focus on her short game.

“I need to work on everything,” Salonen said. “My putting game was more on this season than last season, but I still have a lot of work left.”

The last event of the 2019 EuroTour is the Creeksea Classic taking place this coming weekend in the United Kingdom. 
 

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