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‘Unbelievable’


Gregg Barsby took down his first career PDGA Major and World Championship crown with a determined final round Sunday at Smugglers' Notch Resort Disc Golf Center. Photo: Alyssa Van Lanen

JEFFERSONVILLE, Vt. – Surrounded by a throng of friends, fans, and media, Gregg Barsby tallied his score. He double-checked it, then triple-checked.

After finally confirming his first career PDGA World Championship was, in fact, secure, the Northern California native looked up at the commotion that had enveloped his world and took it all in, almost as if it was all one big dream. And in a way, it was.

“Unbelievable,” he said, his voice casting a tone of reverence and relief. “Unbelievable.”

A scrappy final round performance at Smugglers’ Notch Disc Golf Center’s Fox Run Meadows saw Barsby hold off a pair of adversaries on his card and two on the chase before emerging with a 4-under par 57 and a five-day, 41-under par 270 total. Paul McBeth moved into a second-place tie with Josh Anthon, as the two took home 39-under par 272s during their time in Vermont. Paul Ulibarri fought back from some early trouble off the tee, but ultimately slipped to fourth place with a 38-under par 273, and Matt Orum’s 10 birdies were offset by two 7s as he held onto fifth place at 36-under.

The victory was Barsby’s first at a PDGA Major in his 15-year pro career. He took home a $10,000 payout, while McBeth and Anthon earned $6,250 each. Ulibarri will put $4,100 into his bank account, and Orum heads back to Alabama $2,685 richer.

Heading into the final with a two-shot lead, Barsby blocked out the noise of the first tee and blasted speed metal through his headphones, air-drumming furiously with the accelerated beats. He took that energy with him to a beautiful tee shot, but it left him by the time he reached the edge of the circle for a birdie look, and he failed to convert. He suffered the same fate on hole 2, his obstructed bid from 20 feet hitting low off the cage, before putting his drive on 3 too high into the trees to settle for par. At the same time, Anthon went three down, canning a 60-footer on hole 1 and virtually parking his next two holes, and Barsby’s lead was gone.

Like he has through his career, though, Barsby fought through the adversity with a determined spirit. He got the round back on track with three straight birdies, and Anthon’s hot streak started to cool: consecutive OBs led to consecutive bogeys on holes 6 and 7, allowing Barsby to close the gap despite his own hiccups on the 1,225-footer that played as the course’s most difficult.

Ahead on the chase, McBeth was making yet another heroic bid for the fifth world title that has eluded him since 2016. He started off with a run of six birdies in the first seven holes, including a textbook forehand approach on 7 that put him 15 feet from the pin for a birdie 4. His tee shots started to fade a bit early, though, and even as he was in circle 2 in regulation on nearly every hole he could not get anything to land.

Hole 8: low cage. Hole 9: low cage. Hole 11: low cage. Hole 12: top flag. Holes 13 and 14, meanwhile, added insult to injury, as he was able to hit what seemed like the smallest gaps possible on his 40-foot looks, but they would again come up just short.

For the third year in a row, Paul McBeth's attempt at a fifth world title came up short. Photo: Alyssa Van Lanen

“I had so many opportunities out there for birdies. There was never a moment where I was like, ‘Wow, I could bogey this hole,” McBeth said. “…I don’t know if I had any putts outside circle 2, and that was the difference today. I did not convert any circle 2 putts and missed one inside the circle near the end. It was just tough. There were opportunities. The door was open and I just couldn’t get it going.”

As McBeth’s constant clangs of metal drew groans from the gallery, Orum played silent assassin. Dressed head-to-toe in black and rarely speaking other than to give scores – he did mix in some enthusiastic finger wags and waves to the crowd, though – the multi-time Southern Nationals Champion took a 9-under par round into the final three holes. His throw in after a short drive on hole 10 was made for the highlight reel, and he was dialed in from circle’s edge. A rollaway on 17’s green put him outside of birdie range, though, and when he stepped up to 18 with a chance to take a lead into the clubhouse, he ended up spraying his tee shot into the right-side OB. He was inaccurate again on his second shot and settled for a triple-bogey 7 to end his tournament, notching his ninth career top 10 finish at Worlds.

Even through the disappointment, Orum was happy for the man he called his best friend. “Me and [Barsby] used to travel on the road for years, for about eight, nine years,” Orum said. “That’s awesome. I’m happier for him than he would ever know.”

Orum and McBeth had both finished, but Barsby had work to do to close out the affair. Ulibarri mounted a late-round charge with a 40-foot connection on 13 that led to a turkey. But Barsby parked a forehand on the 315-foot 15th, and Ulibarri’s drive on 16 landed up the left-hand side of the fairway and caused him to have to pitch out for par. That effectively ended the 30-year-old’s run. “It seemed like a day of inches for me,” he said.

That left Barsby with two holes – and one competitor – standing in the way of glory. He took a one-shot margin over Anthon into 17, a 400-foot downhill shot with a sloping green. Anthon stepped up and put what looked, at least from the tee, to be a safe drive within putting range. Cheers, though, soon gave way to gasps, as Anthon’s disc stood up on edge and rolled all the way to the left-side out-of-bounds. It was a stunning turn of events, one that led him to a bogey 4. Barsby’s drive landed within 15 feet and he connected for the deuce, leaving him with a cushion going into 18.

After taking a moment to assess the wind and take a breath, Barsby put a hyzer clean down the fairway, and it dug into the earth. One more upshot – and a lay-up putt that found him devilishly grinning and wagging his finger at the crowd who wanted him to run for the birdie – and it was tap-in time. He wrapped his arms around the chains, an embrace fueled by a life dedicated to the sport.

Barsby hugs the basket after tapping in for the win. Photo: Alyssa Van Lanen

Afterward, the hero was carried away on the shoulders family and fans. It was a fitting end for a player who has been boosted by them for so long.

“I’ve got the best disc golf fans in the world,” Barsby said once the celebratory din subsided. “I don’t think there’s anybody that soaks up as much love as I got, and it’s so amazing to have not only the competitors, but all the fans that love the game and everybody pushing for me.

“I could really feel it today, and it finally happened.”

Comments

Submitted by teach34181 on

I've been playing for 15 plus years, am a cert official and have never heard of the term " circle 2 putts?" What does this refer to? Sounds like birdie opportunities but how does that translate to a " circle 2 putts?"

Circle 2 is a term for putts from 10 meters out to 20 meters. (So Circle 1 is what is still pretty often just called 'The Circle'.) It has been used a lot lately, what with DG stats getting more specific and top players needing to run longer and longer putts to keep pace.

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