Paul McBeth trailed by three shots going into the final round of the 2015 United States Disc Golf Championship. After three beautiful days at the Winthrop Gold Disc Golf Course in Rock Hill, South Carolina, the wind and rain welcomed the competitors on the final day.
Grey skies and mud puddles were the backdrop as McBeth battled back to win his first USDGC. After seeing his one shot lead slip away after Hole 16, it was once again Hole 17 that told the story. A safe drive, combined with two out-of-bounds shots by Ricky Wysocki gave McBeth the lead for good. After a routine trip up Hole 18, McBeth was finally the United States Champion.
The conditions were far from ideal and he had to battle the entire way to pull it off. With the bad weather, the lead card took two hours to play the first nine holes. The next two holes alone took another hour. The entire final round took nearly five hours to complete for the top four competitors.
After he totaled the scorecard one final time, we sat down with the new champion in the scoring trailer to look back on this historic year.
We can finally call you the United States Disc Golf Champion! How does that feel?
“It feels great. It took seven years of being here, but finally got it done, especially after that playoff last year.”
Let’s talk about Round Four. Rainy conditions, not what you’ve been playing the rest of the week. Did you change your game plan going into the final day?
“I wouldn’t say I changed anything. I tried to attack the course the same way did every day. The only difference was I started out a lot slower today, but I knew it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. Even though I started out with three straight pars, I knew I wasn’t out of it. I was back about five or six shots to Nate [Sexton] after he got birdies on a few of those. I think Ricky [Wysocki] got them too. I know if you don’t make any big mistakes you aren’t out until the end, because there is always Hole 17. You could be four shots back, but you aren’t out of it.”
After those first few holes, it looked like your putting was starting to feel good and you made a few big putts. How big of a confidence boost was that?
“It was huge. Since the first day I went out and practiced because my putting was so sloppy that first day. I knew the second, third, and fourth day that I needed to step up the putting. Even if I was placing my disc within 60 feet, I knew I’d have a chance. Having that confidence was the biggest part. Today, with the sloppy conditions and the rain, I knew if I gave myself a chance that was key. There wasn’t going to be as many birdies with the weather. I drained some long ones early and that really gave me the boost to keep my confidence high in my upshots. Unfortunately, I did throw some bad drives at the beginning and had to work that out throughout the round since we didn’t have much chance to warm up with the weather. I was able to keep it in bounds and keep the putts falling for most of the round and they came up huge on the last two holes.”
I kind of laughed before I made it because I knew how important [the putt on Hole 16] was. That’s what I play for though. Those moments. I was able to make that and put the pressure on Ricky going into Hole 17.
After Hole 15, you’re leading Wysocki by one. On Hole 16 you made quite the putt, outside the circle. Walk us through that one.
“I just took the lead and walking up to Hole 16 is a fairly long walk. I was focused on what I was going to do. I knew what I was going to throw. I had a slightly beat in Star Destroyer that flips up nicely. I threw my drive. It wasn’t a bad angle, just a little too wide and too low and it was in the hazard by about four feet (penalty stroke for landing in the hazard), but I was still 45 feet from the basket and Ricky [Wysocki] was around 20 feet away. He’ll make that for birdie, so I knew I was up one and had to make that putt.”
“I kind of laughed before I made it because I knew how important [the putt on Hole 16] was. That’s what I play for though. Those moments. I was able to make that and put the pressure on Ricky going into Hole 17.”
You now have the long walk to Hole 17. Ricky drives first and lands out of bounds twice before landing safe. Then you stepped up with a Nova, correct?
“Yes, I threw my Nova all four times on that hole and birdied it all four times. I threw the same shot every round and was in the same spot every round. I knew if I put it in that same area it’s inside the circle for both basket placements. It was exactly the spot I was going for.”
You had a five shot lead going into the final hole. Walk us through Hole 18.
“They made us wait a long time, maybe longer than we should have because it was getting so dark, but I knew what disc I was throwing. I had my Roc in my hand as soon I made the putt on Hole 17. The whole goal was to lay it up straight and if I made a mistake, I’d be alright with the lead. I wanted to stay in bounds and then at the very least throw my second shot long and not leave it short and take a five, but it was inbounds by a few feet, pitched up from there and took my four.”
You mentioned it to us yesterday after our interview that you’ve been playing hurt. Can you share more?
“Since the trip to Europe, I had that back injury and it slowed me down a little bit. It made me change my form a little bit, especially on my drives. That ended up causing another injury. The back is good now, but now I have a subluxated rib on my right side. It kind of flares up. I reinjured it Friday on Hole 15 when I had an awkward stance and I aggravated it. It’s really just discomfort, not really painful, but I can’t breathe when it’s flared up. Fortunately, it didn’t affect my game too much these last two days. It’s just something I need to get fixed and hopefully the recovery isn’t too long. Need to get the whole body fixed this winter and get ready for next season.”
You’ve been working toward this Grand Slam all year long. One event at a time. You did it. How does it feel now that you’ve pulled it off?
“It feels great. I’ve had this in mind since I had the opportunity in 2013. it’s something that sounds impossible, but just to have the yaer I did in 2015 and… wow… to accomplish it at such a young age is big for me. There are so many young players coming up and this will push me even harder. I now have more titles to defend. That’s my favorite thing: defending titles.”
You have two hats here. After your 4x hat at the 2015 PDGA World Championships, you have a 1x hat and a McSweep hat. You love the headwear, don’t you?
*laughs* They just come and surprise me with these! I don’t know where they get these ideas, but they have them waiting for me and then I find out after the last putt.”
Congrats to McBeth on his first USDGC title. He, and many others, have been great to work with after every round. No matter the result, it isn’t easy to finish a round and give an interview right away.
Every night as we talked with McBeth, we could tell he was confident. He was never worried about the end result. He knew what he needed to do in order to win this tournament. Seeing it play out in real time was a real treat.