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McMahon Pins Down First Career Beaver State Fling

Eagle McMahon is now three for four on the PDGA National Tour in 2018. Photo: Alyssa Van Lanen

ESTACADA, Ore. – Eagle McMahon knew he had a three-shot lead over his closest cardmate as he headed into hole 12 during Sunday’s Beaver State Fling final at Milo McIver State Park’s Riverbend East Disc Golf Course. He was simply looking to nail down a victory.

Instead of a nail, though, that fastener came in the form of a pin.

Faced with a 400-foot island hole in which the green is no more than 35 feet wide, McMahon launched a high hyzer with a Discmania PD that gently grazed the asphalt moat then skipped and hit the pole. A cacophonous roar escaped from a rain-soaked gallery, and when McMahon tapped in his seventh birdie of the round he had moved that margin to five shots.

It was more than enough.

“I thought about laying up, but I figured I started to get a little bit of momentum going when I stuck the island on hole 10,” McMahon said. “It seemed like the right thing to do…The finish line was in sight when I did that.”

When he finally crossed it, he collected his third PDGA National Tour triumph of 2018.

McMahon’s 8-under par 53 Sunday gave him his first career Beaver State Fling title, as his 31-under par 213 led to a two-shot victory over Paul Ulibarri, who charged from the chase card and came up short late in the round to take second place with a 29-under par 215. Kevin Jones also made a final round climb, jumping up four spots and into a third-place tie with Garrett Gurthie at 27-under, while Oregon native Scott Withers' 1056-rated flourish moved him up 10 spots and into a five-way logjam for fifth place at 26-under.

The championship was an improvement on McMahon’s third-place finish in 2017, and he was overcome with emotion after dropping in his final putt.

“This is probably my favorite tournament and probably one of my favorite places in the world,” he said. “Just knowing I’m gonna have the memory of being a National Tour champion at one of my favorite places ever – that’s something I’m gonna think back on for a long time to come.”

What he didn’t think about – since he wasn’t following any scores outside his own group – was the fierce chase Ulibarri made. The 29-year-old Arizona pro volleyed back and forth between a share of the lead and second place for most of the round, as he piled up five birdies on the front nine that included a 60-footer for deuce on the 281-foot 5th. His turkey through the course’s midsection had him knotted up with McMahon, and he saved par after trying to run the island on 12 and missing.

Ulibarri was still one shot behind McMahon when his ride finally came to an end. He hadn’t looked at live scoring before his drive on the 675-foot 16th, and his second shot on the par 4 left him with an obstructed look for birdie from 60 feet. By that time, though, he did know the scores, and he ran the putt and missed left.

“I tried to make it,” Ulibarri said. “That’s what you have to do nowadays.”

The errant shot was innocuous enough, but his 25-foot comebacker landed flat, then popped up and rolled 80 feet down the back side of the green. Again faced with no look, Ulibarri pitched out a sidearm, then finally canned a circle’s edge putt to take a double-bogey 6.

“Right there it ended,” Ulibarri said. “I knew it ended. I tried to throw it in on 17, birdied 18, and had a really good tournament.”

The showing was Ulibarri’s best on the National Tour circuit since another second-place finish at the 2014 Brent Hambrick Memorial Open, but it also left him lamenting what could have been.

“I’m pleased,” Ulibarri said. “It’s just that nowadays you don’t get those opportunities anymore, you know what I mean?”

Another veteran trying to capture some Milo magic also came up short, but Gurthie didn’t go down without a fight. The Florida native went big in his customary style, but some of his drives were just inches off from glory. His tee shot on the Genius Hole carried too high too early and was swatted down to the earth by a stubborn branch, and his aggressive run at 10’s island just hit the curb and stayed out of bounds. He again strayed outside the lines on 11 and 12, and the run of three straight bogeys essentially ended his shot at the title.

“I just ran into a little brick wall for a second, and I pulled my head out of my butt and started playing golf, you know?” Gurthie said. “I said, ‘This is it. If you wanna be a champion, you gotta go after it.’” And he still did, pushing the pace on hole 14 with a Sonic throw-in from 50 feet – his third such shot of the round – and parking the mound on hole 15 with a smooth turnover. He ran out of gas and parred the rest of the track, but came away with his third top 5 showing at an Elite Series event in 2018.

“I’m close, man,” Gurthie said. “I gotta dial that putt in. Once that putt’s dialed in hopefully these guys won’t stand much more of a chance.”

As the rain continued for a third straight day, it was a local who best weathered the conditions. Withers punctuated his hot round with four putts from outside the circle, and he landed in second place in the field from beyond the arc (52 percent). He also feasted on Milo’s par 4s as he rolled up five consecutive birdies from holes 9 through 13.

While one young gun was lighting up the lead card, Jones made plenty of noise on the chase and improved on his career-best National Tour finish. Known for his prowess off the tee and his penchant for canning long jump putts, Jones said he simply went out and played golf as he moved four spots up in the standings.

“I didn’t do anything special at all today,” he said. “I got two 2s. Everything else was just executing shots and getting those par 4s.”

The National Tour now takes a long slumber, with September’s Delaware Disc Golf Challenge next on the schedule. That gives McMahon plenty of time to reflect on a season that has now seen the victories come in bunches, as he’s now only missed out on winning one NT so far. Not bad for a kid who, up until February, was still seeking that elusive signature win.

“I’ll take it,” he said.

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