Everyone seems to have their own opinion about how to grow disc golf as a sport, but one thing is certain: right now there is an incredibly small percentage of pros making a real living out on the road playing this game we all love. Regardless of how the sport should grow, pros need to have the opportunity to win more money in order to devote their lives to disc golf.
This weekend, the three A-Tier tournaments put big pro purses on the line for some strong competitors to contend for. This week, we’ll take a look at the biggest events of the past weekend in order of smallest to largest first place prize: the Toronto Island Maple Leaf , the Eric C Yetter Champions’ Cup XXII, and the Ledgestone Insurance Open.
Will Schusterick takes the Toronto Island Maple Leaf in a wire-to-wire victory (Toronto Island, Ontario, Canada)
It doesn’t feel like we’ve talked a lot about Will Schusterick, the former United States Champion, this year. Heading into the 2013 season, it seemed like Schusterick quickly meshed with his new Prodigy sponsor as he went on to capture many top five finishes. Even though we haven’t seen Schusterick winning major events this season, he’s been hanging around the tops of leader boards more than you might think. After a rocky start to the season, Schusterick went on to take top ten finishes at the Texas State Championships, the Glass Blown Open, the Kansas City Wide Open, the Maple Hill Open, the European Masters, and an impressive second place finish at the Fort Steilacoom Open.
This weekend, Schusterick started to build a bit of momentum as we get ready for the United States Disc Golf Championships in three weeks by winning $1,000 at the Toronto A-Tier. With competition from fellow touring pros and superstars, Simon Lizotte and Ricky Wysocki, Schusterick surely had his work cut out for him up in Canada.
In round one, Will Schusterick showed that he went north ready to play. Day one featured two rounds for the Men’s Open players from the long tees at the Island Course and Schusterick loved it. He shot two 1050+ rated rounds, one at 55 and one at 54, giving him an early five stroke lead over Lizotte. On Sunday, the pros played from the short tees and things did not go as well for the would-be victor. Schusterick shot an uncharacteristic sub-1000 rated round and gave up three strokes to both Lizotte and Wysocki. Heading into the final round on the long tees, Schusterick had just a two stroke lead on Lizotte and a four stroke lead on Wysocki.
Lizotte and Wysocki must have been feeling good gaining some ground on the leader, but Will Schusterick would shut the door on their first place hopes. In the end, Schusterick tied Lizotte for the hot round of 56, good enough to maintain his 2 stroke lead and take the top prize. He hasn’t been able to win a major or National Tour event this season, but maybe the momentum he is building could lead to another United States Disc Golf Championship, arguably the one of the most coveted of all disc golf titles.
Jeremy Koling continues to play well, wins the Eric C Yetter Champions’ Cup XXII (Newtown, PA)
With $1,200 on the line, Jeremy Koling didn’t quite come out of the gates as he might have hoped. It’s not that Koling shot poorly in round one. He shot a 1003-rated 71 at Tyler State Park in Pennsylvania, but other competitors just showed that they wanted to build some momentum like Schusterick. Most notably, Nate Sexton, who has been playing well in his new Carolina region, shot the hot round of 64. He built a three stroke lead over Andrew Fish and Brian Schweberger, but it was Koling who would make the most of the final two rounds.
Koling bounced back by tying with Fish for the hot second round of 59, putting him just 4 strokes off the lead heading into the marathon final round of 27 holes. The final round is where Koling really shined in this tournament. He has played consistently well since winning the Maple Hill Open back in July and the long round suited him well. The combination of Koling’s booming backhand and versatile forehand allows him to carve his way through the world’s toughest courses when he’s at his best. On Sunday, Koling needed to make up at least four strokes and he did just that. His 1053-rated 91 crushed the field of 46 pros and catapulted him to the top of the leader board with a one stroke victory. Will Schusterick isn’t the only one looking to claim the coveted United States Disc Golf Championship. Look out for Jeremy Koling if he can find a way to put together another consistent weekend.
Nikko Locastro snags a big prize at the Ledgestone Insurance Open (Peoria, IL)
It’s not every weekend that we see an A-Tier disc golf event with $12,000 added to the pro purse and a first place prize of $3,000. Money like that is usually reserved for majors or National Tour events in the disc golf world, but Tournament Director Nate Heinold, is determined to grow the sport in a big way. The event is only four years old, but the PDGA says that it is already scheduled to appear as part of the 2015 National Tour series. Nikko Locastro took to Illinois to conquer the competitive field of 55 and claim that major prize money.
Unlike the other two A-Tier disc golf events this past weekend, there was a lot of clutter at the top of the leader board after the first round. Locastro shot the hot round of 53, but it only gave him a one stroke lead over Matt Dollar and Dana Vicich. Trailing just behind at two strokes was JohnE McCray, Tyler Horne, and Tim Barham. With such strong competition, Nikko was going to need a big second round to keep himself on top, but that didn’t happen. Nikko shot a 1008-rated round of 50, but was bested by Barham, Dollar, McCray, and Horne. Locastro went into the third round trailing Horne and Barham by two strokes.
Nikko Locastro really turned up the heat in rounds three and four as he began to show why he was once the highest rated player in the world. Locastro came out in round three and shot the hot round of 50, reclaiming his lead and leaving his fate in his own hands. Round four was more of the same for Locastro as he shot the best round again, this time a 1060-rated 45, and gave himself a five stroke lead going into the final 9 against Tyler Horne, Tim Barham, and Matt Dollar.
We’ve been spoiled by all the disc golf drama over the last month or so, but there was no drama to be had in Illinois this weekend. Locastro maintained his lead in the Final 9 and ended up with a five stroke victory over Tim Barham. Nikko took home the big first place prize and showed that he is ready to finish the 2014 season strong.
Catrina Allen also took her talents to Illinois in an effort to win yet another 2014 disc golf tournament. For the second week in a row, Allen absolutely crushed the Women’s Open field. She was the only woman to shoot under par for the tournament. Not only that, she shot twelve under par, good enough for a 17 stroke victory. It’s clear that Allen is capable of competing at a much higher level than most other female competitors on a weekly basis, and she is truly gearing up for a strong end to the season.
Terry Miller, the Disc Golf Guy, was on site all weekend to capture the action. Enjoy his quality videos of both the men’s and women’s competitions!
Next week, the best women in disc golf will compete for the United States Women’s Disc Golf Championships. You can be sure that Catrina Allen and Paige Pierce will be there to put on another great show, but will another woman rise to the top and claim an unexpected victory? While the women are in Georgia competing for a major victory, many top men will head to Vermont for the Green Mountain Championship at Smuggler’s Notch or to Kentucky for the Charlie Vettner Open.