Anthony Barela completes the Amateur Championship sweep, and a host of others win at Am Worlds


We spend a lot of time focusing on the professional disc golfers of the world as they battle through A-tiers, national tour events, and major tournaments. It’s great to see guys like Paul McBeth, Ricky Wysocki, Will Schusterick, and the like battle it out every weekend, but where is the future of disc golf going? We took a look at the United States Amateur Disc Golf Championship back in early June, and now we’ve got the 2015 Amateur Disc Golf World Championship. This year’s Am Worlds attracted 780 players ranging from ages 9 to 90. Let that sink in for a minute.

The Kalamazoo, Michigan area played host to the USADGC just a month ago, and it invited amateur disc golfers of all ages back to battle for a world championship. There were 9 courses/layouts on the schedule for the 780-person field, including: Coldbrook Park, Robert Morris, Vicksburg Recreation Area, Meyer Broadway South, Meyer Broadway North, Oshtemo Township Park, Timber Ridge Ski Area, Spinski’s Original, and Spinski’s Championship. That is an unbelievable amount of ground to cover in one event, and the tournament directors had it going off without a hitch.

With so many divisions available, there were 17 different champions crowned. There was plenty of disc golf action around all 9 courses, but all eyes were on the main event – the 281-person Advanced field featuring young phenoms and rivals Anthony Barela and Izak McDonald. At just 15 and 14 years old, respectively, these two young disc golfers are the future of the game, and they aren’t disappointing. After battling hard at the USADGC, McDonald was back for revenge as Barela attempted to complete the Am Championship sweep. No one had won both the USADGC and Am Worlds in the same year since David Wiggins in 2010, but Barela found himself edging out a victory. It was a dramatic finish, so let’s dive in and see how it happened.

Barela and McDonald average 1000-rated golf for the weekend, but Barela wins on the last hole

There’s no way around it. The 2015 Am Worlds was an absolutely massive event and it would be impossible to recap everyone’s impressive play, even just in the Advanced division. The competition really came down to the young guns, Barela and McDonald, but that doesn’t take anything away from the other golfers who were crushing the Kalamazoo area courses. Mark Huether came into Am Worlds as the highest rated golfer in the 780-person field and played impressively throughout the weekend. After averaging 995-rated disc golf through 7 rounds and the Final 9, Huether found himself hanging on to a 3rd place finish over Gavin Rathbun, who took 4th just one stroke behind. Rounding out the top 5 were Alex Nimtz and Seth Badger, who tied for the spot. There was a lot of impressive play throughout the tournament, but no one could keep up with the consistency of a the two young teens at the top.

Anthony Barela entered the tournament as a 977-rated disc golfer, while McDonald found himself just a few points behind with a rating of 968. Both teens played well above their ratings as Barela averaged 1008-rated golf and McDonald shot a 1005 average for the week. It’s hard enough to eclipse a 1000 rating for a round, but to do it through 7 rounds and a Final 9 at just 14 and 15 years old is nothing short of incredible. However, someone had to win and it was an absolute battle to the very end.

Both McDonald and Barela found themselves in the lead somewhere throughout the first six rounds. With a rollercoaster ride on the leaderboard, McDonald found himself leading Barela by 3 strokes when the field was cut heading into the semifinals. Barela wasn’t about to roll over and give up, though. Heading out to Vicksburg for the semis, Barela was prepared to play and shot his best round of the tournament, a 1030-rated 49, and put himself in a tie for first with just the Final 9 left to play.

The Final 9 was just insane. Barela and McDonald were tied, and the lead changed 7 times in just 9 holes. When McDonald took a bogey 5 on Hole 5 at Timber Ridge and Barela took a birdie 3, it seemed like Barela was poised to take a victory. However, McDonald wasn’t going away quietly. He went birdie 3, eagle 2 on the next two holes to regain a 1 stroke lead that he maintained up until Hole 9. With one hole left, McDonald just needed to keep himself in the fairway and stay even with Barela.

The final hole of the tournament played from the top of the steepest slope at the Timber Ridge Ski Area, measuring a massive 810′ for a par 4. McDonald stepped to the tee, crushed a drive, and it just never came out of a turn. It sailed wide right, over the OB rope, and would leave McDonald with over 300′ left to tackle.

Barela stepped to the tee with new life, threw his drive, and the crowd watched it soar down the mountain, and keep soaring, and keep soaring until it was just 20′ away from the basket. A monster drive for Barela left McDonald with nothing to do but run his next throw for 3. He went OB long again, took his 6, and Barela took his par 3.

After tapping in, Barela reigned supreme as the 2015 PDGA Amateur World Champion. He is the first person to take the USADGC and Am Worlds titles in the same year since David Wiggins in 2010, and if our interview with him is any indication, we’ll be seeing him going pro full time moving forward. What a week, what a rivalry, what a Final 9. Congratulations to Barela and McDonald on a stellar weekend of 1000-rated disc golf. At just 15 and 14 years old, it’ll be great to watch these two battle for years to come.

Other winners from around the Am Worlds scene

The Advanced Men’s division took center stage with 281 players, but there were plenty of other golfers, young and old, taking part in the prestigious tournament. Here are the winners from the remaining divisions:

  • Advanced Women: Jessica Hill smashes the competition, winning by 30 strokes
  • Advanced Masters: With a stellar showing on the Final 9, Jerry Stoken came back from two strokes down to win by three.
  • Advanced Masters Women: Ann Lundberg headed into the Final 9 down two strokes, but was able to come back and win by two.
  • Advanced Grandmasters: James Elkins cruises to a 10 stroke victory.
  • Advanced Grandmasters Women: Despite struggling in Round 5 and Round 6, Candy Roque held onto a big eight stroke lead to take the win.
  • Advanced Senior Grandmasters: Jon Jimenez rides a strong semifinal performance to win by one stroke.
  • Advanced Senior Grandmasters: Lynda Voss crushes the small field of women for a landmark victory.
  • Advanced Legends: Pete May hangs on for a one stroke win.
  • Junior Boys <= 19: After a 1052-rated semifinal round, Austin Turner legged out an eight stroke win.
  • Junior Girls <= 19: Kaylee Campbell turns it on in the fifth and sixth rounds to win by seven.
  • Junior Boys <= 16: It was a tight match, but in the end D.J. Baldwin’s 1023-rated fourth round propelled him to a two stroke win.
  • Junior Girls <= 16: Valarie Mundujano wins by 11 in the 9-girl field.
  • Junior Boys <= 13: Adrian Werme didn’t want this to be a competition. He wasn’t just the only player under par for the week. He was 27-under par and the next closest competitor was even.
  • Junior Girls <= 13: Matti Roush couldn’t be stopped by two other girls, wins by a huge margin.
  • Junior Boys <= 10: Anthony Anselmo got out to a 12 stroke lead in the first round. Despite their efforts, the rest of the field couldn’t quite manage to catch up from there.
  • Junior Girls <= 10: Ava Victor played about 100 points above her rating throughout the tournament to take a massive win.

Wrapping up

It seems like Am Worlds comes and goes so quickly. While Pro Worlds represents many touring professionals trying to play for both glory and gas money, Am Worlds is more like a disc golf vacation as competitors play for trophies. This was a week 780 people surely won’t forget, and the team of tournament directors certainly did a fantastic job making sure that everything went off without a hitch. It can’t be easy managing so many courses and players, but we want to congratulate the entire tournament staff on a job well done. Congratulations to all of the winners. It’s great to see such a strong future for the sport of disc golf.


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