The Memorial Championships in Arizona has not only been the official start of the PDGA National Tour for years, it has also built up a reputation of a tournament where every shot matters and every hole plays a factor in the eventual outcome. The 2016 Memorial Championship certainly lived up to that billing on both the men’s and women’s sides of the tournament as the eventual champions needed all 72 holes to claim victory.
Paul McBeth holds off rivals, wins fourth Memorial
Last year we saw an exciting battle between eventual winner Jeremy Koling and runner-up Paul McBeth. It was one of the few times in 2015 when McBeth didn’t finish in first place during his historic year. Wanting to start the PDGA National Tour with a win is an obvious goal for anyone in the competition, but one could argue that McBeth was looking for this one more than ever before.
Out of the gate on round one McBeth came out hot at Fountain Hills with a 43 (-13) only to find himself tied with Nikko Locastro who equaled McBeth’s first round. The pair was followed by a group of six who were within three shots. Even as we were just 18 holes into this tournament, you could feel we were in for another fun weekend.
As the play shifted to Fiesta Lakes for the second round, the competition became even tighter than before. While McBeth and Locastro were able to maintain their spot on the lead card, it would be another duo making their move from the chase cards. Matt Orum’s 43 (-13) and Philo Brathwaite’s 44 (-12) launched them onto the top card replacing Nate Sexton and Simon Lizotte who were still in the mix a few shots back.
With Orum now tied with McBeth after the first two holes, we still saw the top seven sitting within just two shots of each other as the action moved to Vista Del Camino.
During round three on Friday, the trio of Sexton, Brathwaite, and JohnE McCray shot the hot round of a 48 (-12). This launched Sexton into the top spot with just 18 holes to play. Sexton’s lead was just one shot with the rest of the lead card all tied for second.
First round leader McBeth carded two straight bogeys to slow his momentum and had to battle down the stretch just to remain in contention.
With Sexton and McCray heating up, Brathwaite remaining hot, and McBeth feeling the pressure, this foursome laid the plans for an exciting final round.
The action returned to Fountain Hills for the fourth and final round on Saturday. Even with the top four packed closely together, the four or five shot deficit the chase cards faced can easily be made up in the span of just a few holes. With water virtually everywhere on the front nine and on the last hole of the tournament, every shot matters at Fountain Hills and it was still anyone’s game.
Over the first nine holes of the final round, it was McBeth and Sexton showing the hot hands as Brathwaite and McCray slowly slipped back after a few bogeys. Sexton and McBeth birdied six of the first nine holes leaving Sexton with a one shot lead with just nine holes to play.
Sexton’s lead jumped to two after Hole 10 only to see it slip back to one on the very next hole. Throughout the final round, we saw McBeth leave himself chance after chance with great drives, but it was Sexton’s clutch putting that helped him remain in the lead.
On Hole 14, Sexton left the door open after his drive left himself with a tough putt after McBeth was left with an easy 10 footer for birdie. Sexton’s miss for birdie and McBeth’s conversion left the pair tied with just four holes to play.
The pair traded shots over Holes 15 and 16 as they walked to Hole 17. Sexton’s drive was pin high, but outside the circle and McBeth was sitting with a comfortable putt much closer to the basket. Sexton would miss the putt allowing McBeth to take a one shot lead after he converted his birdie.
On Hole 18 McBeth took a line right at the basket with a drive over the water. It seemed like we waited forever for the disc to come to rest inside the circle, but he would be left with a 25 foot putt to secure the win.
Sexton needed either an ace or a birdie combined with a McBeth-par to tie things up, but couldn’t convert the ace and was left to watch McBeth finish out with a birdie to claim victory.
In a tournament that requires every shot on every hole, the 2016 Memorial certainly came down to just a handful of moments that would prove to make a difference between first and second place. A great battle between McBeth and Sexton shined through their friendship to help start the PDGA National Tour on a great note.
As Sexton finished in second, it was Simon Lizotte jumping up to a tie for third with Nikko Locastro who both put in monster rounds of their own on the chase cards. Even as McBeth continued his winning ways, it is clear to us, the gab between McBeth and the rest of the field is still slim.
Let the battles begin.
Allen tops Pierce on final hole
Catrina Allen and Paige Pierce has been in many back-and-forth battles over the last few years. Each have claimed a number of wins over the other. The 2016 Memorial Championship would again prove to be the case right from the start.
With the first round in the books at Fountain Hills, it would be Allen jumping out to a four shot lead with a monster 51 (-5). Pierce trailed by four with a 55 (-1) as Jennifer Allen and Valarie Jenkins sat in a tie for third after their rounds of 59 (+3).
Round two saw Pierce take the honors with a 49 (-6) to move her into a one shot lead after Allen slipped at times during her 54 (-1). Now with a nine shot advantage on the rest of the field, it was clearly going to be a two person race with two rounds to play.
During play at Vista Del Camino, Allen was the only female to finish under par for the day and returned to the lead with a 59 (-1). Pierce slipped back to second place after her 61 (+1) and set the stage for 18 holes to determine the winner.
We fast forward to Hole 13. Allen opened up a two shot lead on Pierce after three straight birdies as Pierce matched with a birdie and two pars of her own. The two shot gap instantly shrunk on Hole 13 after Allen attempted a run for birdie on the elevated basket only to miss both the birdie attempt and par attempt. Pierce on the other hand was left with a birdie to tie things up.
Pierce gave the lead back to Allen after a bogey on Hole 14 in what began a roller coaster ride to the finish. After a pair of pars on Hole 15, the entire lead card the leaders were all easily inside the circle on Hole 16. In what looked like a gimmie, Allen chained out her birdie attempt and had to settle for par as Pierce tied things up yet again after her successful birdie.
Hole 17 saw yet another pair of pars before the always exciting final hole. Both Pierce and Allen struggled off the tee and found themselves fortunate to remain in bounds. With the pair tied, it looked like we were heading to a playoff. Two lay up shots left putts from within 10 feet to claim par. Pierce walked up only to watch her putt move through the chains only to land back on the ground. Allen tapped in for her par and the victory in a strange turn of events.
- Masters: Ken Climo
- Women Masters: Sheila Kirkham
- Grandmasters: Joseph Mela
- Senior Grandmasters: Randy Beers
The first event on the Disc Golf World Tour highlights this upcoming weekend. The top pros head to the famed La Mirada Disc Golf Course for the La Mirada Open. ATDG will be on site helping bring you all the action and interviews with the leaders.
The PDGA National Tour is on hold until the end of April when the action invades Emporia, Kansas for the Glass Blown Open.