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Gurthie Takes Down Masters Cup For First Career National Tour Victory

Garrett Gurthie was dominant as he pulled away to win the Santa Cruz Masters Cup. Photo: Alyssa Van Lanen

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. -- After a weekend of gray, dreary conditions, the sun finally broke through the clouds Sunday afternoon at the DeLaveaga Golf Course. It was a fitting bit of symbolism to accompany the champion who was also about to emerge.

After 16 seasons on the professional touring circuit without a signature victory, Florida pro Garrett Gurthie put on an authoritative performance during the final round of the Santa Cruz Masters Cup and pulled away with his first career PDGA National Tour victory. His 9-under par 51 brought his three-day total to a 27-under par 179 to be well clear of Simon Lizotte, who battled early but faltered late on the way to a 21-under par second-place showing. Ricky Wysocki jumped back up to third place at 19-under, while Calvin Heimburg's 18-under par 188 performance helped him not just land in fourth place, but also take the lead in the National Tour points race. Eric Oakley finished with a flourish to move into fifth place, his 1080-rated 10-under par hot round contributing to a 17-under par 189 total. It was the highest rated performance of Oakley's career.

Gurthie took home a $5,000 payday for his three days in Santa Cruz.

"Man, I'm kinda speechless," Gurthie said. "With the amount of time it's taken to get here and put everything together in one tournament and it's finally still -- I can't believe that I won my first National Tour this weekend."

Entering the final round with a one-shot lead over Matt Bell and two on Lizotte and Eagle McMahon, Gurthie quickly got to work putting it away. He unleashed a gorgeous roller on the opening hole that curled to within 15 feet of the pin, leading to the lone birdie on the card.

Now with a little breathing room, Gurthie put even more between he and Bell with consecutive birdies on holes 3 and 4. Bell, cheered on all weekend by his hometown crowd, couldn’t handle the tricky placement of the golf course’s hazard bunkers and out-of-bounds greens, logging five straight penalty strokes and seven straight bogeys as he plummeted in the standings. McMahon has his own accuracy issues, and it was quickly a two-horse race between two of the world’s showcase distance throwers in Gurthie and Lizotte.

And it was about to become a runaway win. Gurthie found a fortunate bounce when his tee shot on hole 6 flared high and landed short of the OB green, and on hole 8 Lizotte couldn’t keep his tee shot out of the low-hanging canopy. Swings went back and forth until hole 9, a 515-foot downhill bomb. Gurthie unloaded a hyzer bomb, risking the green on the right and out-of-bounds cart path on the left, sticking the landing for a tap-in deuce. Lizotte ended up in the hazard and couldn’t convert his par save, and Gurthie was up by four.

Lizotte did his best to persevere, but a bad wind read on 14 had him stomping through the brush to find his disc as he carded a bogey to Gurthie’s par. From there, it was cruise control mode, and Gurthie eventually laid up before tapping in for the victory.

“Garrett was just so clearly better than everyone else -- yesterday in the rain and today in the wind -- and he made almost no mistakes,” Lizotte said. “I think he had two bogeys all tournament, which on these courses is so solid. I’m really stoked for Garrett that he got his first NT win, so it was nice to watch.”

For Gurthie, who took three seasons off the pro circuit and returned full-time in 2018, the win was the culmination of the training he has applied since last season. Noticeably slimmed down from his early career -- but with the same positive attitude and infectious grin -- he simply needed a strong performance on the green to make the magic happen. His 76% circle 1 showing was up from his season-long average of 69%, and he was 20% better from circle 2.

“Obviously his putt has been his Achilles’ heel throughout his career, and we all knew once he put it all together he would run away with a tournament, and that’s what happened,” sixth-place finisher Paul Ulibarri said. “I don’t think any of us are really surprised, but we're definitely happy for him.”

Gurthie averaged almost 39 points over his 1024 player rating on the weekend, and he says he’s here to stay.

“I feel like I have a lot to prove back home,” Gurthie said. “I’ve had some unfortunate circumstances, but I’m out here grinding it and trying to prove to the people back home that this is what I do for a living and I’m proud to play disc golf.”

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