The 2015 disc golf season is going to be bigger than any year before, and the Memorial Championship started it off with a bang. More like a massive explosion, actually. When 300+ disc golfers descended on Arizona, who could have predicted there would be so much action?
Between Wednesday and Saturday, we saw four full rounds of live coverage thanks to SmashBoxxTV, an ace that made it’s way on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays of the day, major lead changes in men’s pro open, women’s pro open, and men’s masters, a playoff hole for the men’s championship, and so much more. It seems like ever since Paul McBeth and Ricky Wysocki battled through multiple playoff holes at the 2014 Pro Worlds, every major disc golf event has been an intensely tight battle.
Disc golfers from all over the country showed up to the Fountain Hills, Vista Del Camino, and Fiesta Lakes courses ready to take down the first national tour event of the year. When it came time to crown champions, Jeremy Koling, Paige Pierce, and Ken Climo reigned supreme.
Men’s Open field destroys Fountain Hills on Wednesday
Last year at the Memorial, the weather was less than ideal to say the least. The rain and intense winds made for some difficult scoring conditions. Paul McBeth shot the famed 39 on the Fountain Hills course, but a score like that just isn’t possible if the winds are up and the rain is coming down.
On Wednesday, though, Round 1 was sure to have some great scoring conditions. Some of the players with earlier tee times had to contend with colder temperatures, but by the time the feature card went out (Paul McBeth, Ricky Wysocki, Will Schusterick), the weather was perfect.
As the feature card made its way through the course, word came in that Jeremy Koling and Simon Lizotte shot impressive first rounds. Koling and Lizotte both came into tournament central with 1091-rated 43s. Not a bad way to start a national tour event. It seemed pretty clear that Koling and Lizotte would be sitting high atop the leaderboard heading into Thursday.
The feature card was not to be out done. McBeth, Wysocki, and Schusterick all birdied 6 of the first 9 holes. The front 9 at Fountain Hills is generally considered tougher than the back 9, so all three were poised for scores like Koling and Lizotte.
At the end of the first round, Paul McBeth came in with a 1094-rated 44. And was the third best player on the card. Even Schusterick’s 1100-rated 42 was best by Wysocki. Ricky Wysocki only threw 18 times on the back 9, carding birdies on all 9 holes. It was amazing to watch, so check out Smashboxx’s coverage if you haven’t already!
Paul McBeth storms to the top in Round 2
McBeth was only down three strokes heading into Thursday’s second round at the Vista Del Camino disc golf course—well within striking distance for him. Ricky Wysocki was in the driver’s seat, though.
Vista Del Camino presents a few extra challenges compared to Fountain Hills. The course is longer, with more Par 4 holes. There isn’t as much water, but there is still plenty of out of bounds marked off. The long, challenging holes presented problems for many competitors. Some pros, like McBeth and Koling, took advantage of the course, while others, like Wysocki, Lizotte, and Schusterick, faltered a bit in comparison.
From the chase card, Paul McBeth shot the hot round, a 1076-rated 48. He bested Koling by two strokes, giving him a one stroke leading heading into Friday’s round at Fiesta Lakes. Koling’s 50 didn’t wow the field like his 43 at Fountain Hills, but his consistency kept him in a tight race with McBeth. Wysocki, who entered the second round with a two stroke lead, gave up six strokes and ended up three off the pace heading into Friday.
The story of the day revolved around McBeth. He carded birdies on the last 10 holes to come in with the hot round, but that wasn’t even the biggest part of the story. McBeth went to Facebook to let everyone know that his bag, and all of the discs he’d been using, were stolen. With the full support of the disc golf community, he could only hope they were returned. GripEQ even offered up $1,000 and a grip bag for anyone that could find the stolen goods.
After such a great end to the second round, the disc golf world wondered if McBeth could keep up the pace with backup discs. If anyone could, it would be McBeth, and he definitely did not go away quietly.
Fiesta Lakes was more of a separator than people expected
In years past, the Memorial Championship consisted of two rounds at Fountain Hills and two rounds at Vista Del Camino. When the national tour event sold out so quickly this year, tournament directors Keith Murray and Ashley Akens scrambled to add a new course to the mix—Fiesta Lakes.
Fiesta Lakes is a newer course in Arizona on a golf course. There is a fair amount of out of bounds, but generally the holes are short enough for the pros to reach. Some of the holes were even considered “backyard holes” because they are so short. Many of the pros thought that the leaders would score so well that there wouldn’t be much separation. Apparently Paul Ulibarri was right when he said there would be more movement than expected, though.
Simon Lizotte was the real story of the day. There were a lot of scores in the mid 40s, but Simon shot a lights out 1100-rated 41. He went into the round four strokes behind Paul McBeth, but picked up 8 heading into Saturday. Even though he wasn’t on the lead card, the Smashboxx team did a great job of keeping up with the impressive hot round. Check out the coverage of the lead card, though, to see how Koling’s third clean round kept him within just two of the lead with Championship Saturday approaching.
Koling and McBeth battle toward a playoff
Heading into the final round of the tournament, it seemed like Koling, Lizotte, and McBeth all had a chance to take the first national tour victory of 2015. Lizotte struggled at the start of the round, carding some penalty strokes that proved costly. He picked back up in the latter half of the round, but his early struggles made the 2015 Memorial Championship a two horse race. Koling had the early advantage moving into the day, but it would be crazy to count McBeth out.
It was a back and forth battle throughout the entire round, but it got dramatic in a hurry. Let’s fast forward to the final hole. Koling and McBeth were tied going into the 18th holes of the final round. After such a long week, it’s amazing that it came down to the very last instance. Was McBeth going to be able to capture yet another Memorial? Or would Jeremy Koling get his second national tour victory?
Neither Koling nor McBeth made it easy to claim victory. Koling’s drive landed about 65 feet away from the basket on the 400 ft hole. He threw a forehand out over the water, but it came up just short and faded out before reaching the basket. It was almost expected that McBeth would turn it on in the final minutes and park the hole, but his backhand came up about 45 feet short. Someone was going to have to hit a big putt for the win.
Koling has been gaining momentum ever since last year when he won the Maple Hill Open, and his putting is a major reason why. Koling stepped up to the 65 footer and seemed to have all the confidence in the world. He lined up the shot, fired away, and smashed center chains. The crowd erupted and Koling was in awe. McBeth is known for his clutch putts, but Koling really put the pressure on.
McBeth was going to have to nail his 45 footer just to force a playoff. Stop me if you’ve seen this before. McBeth steps up, digs in, nails the putt, and now the crowd really went off. Even Big Jerm was excited as the two knew they were headed for a playoff. After 72 holes of elite competition, it came down to two massive putts to force a playoff.
It didn’t take long for Koling to take the victory. The two went off to Hole 1 to decide the champion. McBeth stepped up to the tee, to a hole he’s dominated over the years. His backhand flew into the green fast and took a huge skip. It was almost certainly heading for the water, but it seemed like he got lucky as it kicked off of the barrier. Only to hit the ground and roll over the barrier into the water. Just when it looked like McBeth would get some 3 time world champion love, the door opened wide for Koling.
Koling’s backhand landed about 15 feet from the basket, and Koling took the victory for the second National Tour win of his career.
Paige Pierce overtakes Valarie Jenkins for her second straight Memorial Championship
Through two rounds Valarie Jenkins was in control of the women’s Memorial Championship. She opened up with a nearly 1000-rated hot round at Fountain Hills and followed up with another hot round at Vista. The tournament was hers for the taking heading into the Fiesta Lakes round, but Paige Pierce was hanging around.
Val Jenkins didn’t exactly relinquish her lead in the third round. She went to Fiesta Lakes and shot a 1001-rated 51. 1000+ rated rounds in the women’s division often leads to hot round scores, but Paige Pierce crushed the newer course. She shot a 1031-rated 48 to pull within one stroke of Val heading into Saturday’s championship round.
With all of the out of bounds on the front 9 of Fountain Hills, the women’s Memorial Championship could have gone either way. In her post-round interview, Paige said that her and Val both had struggles on the front 9, but once Paige took the lead she maintained it through the end. When it was all said and done, Paige came in with a 953-rated 61 to win by just two strokes.
If you want to see the women crushing Vista, check out SmashboxxTV’s Day 2 coverage of the lead card.
Like we said, 2015 is going to be the biggest year for disc golf to date. The Memorial was an amazing way to kick things off and we’re looking forward to bigger and more impressive things as we go along! With much of the country still dealing with freezing temperatures and plenty of snow, the A-tier schedule has not really gotten going yet. The next big touring even with be the Texas State Championship, an A-tier event this year. Stay tuned for all the action!