This article was written by Baker Helton, the DGPT’s field reporter.
The 2016 Disc Golf Pro Tour Championship was the perfect culmination of the tour’s first year. Like the season, the championship provided dramatics, strategic decision making and underdog stories, all reminding us why we love the sport of disc golf. Paul McBeth was able to keep his focus in a weekend filled with uncertainty. The champion shot a Fox Run Meadows course record of 49 to finish 14-under par, in the final round, and claim the title as the first Men’s Tour Champion, earning himself a $10,000 check.
Nikko Locastro (-11), James Cole (-7), Nate Sexton (-4) and Peter McBride (E) all earned $2000 for playing their way into the final round. McBeth found out earlier in the week that his cousin was severely injured in an accident that left him hospitalized. After the event, McBeth expressed to Ultiworld Disc Golf the difficulty of being away from his family during the tough time.
“It’s been difficult being on the East Coast and finding out, and where I was on the East Coast not being able to do anything or communicate real easily,” McBeth said. The four-time world champion used his family as motivation as he pledged to donate any prize money won to help offset his cousin’s medical bills. In the finals, McBeth came out of the gate strong birding six of first eight holes as he began to build a lead on the card. Heading into the home stretch, it was apparent that all McBeth had to do was hold on to his three stroke lead over Nikko Locastro to become champion.
Paul was able to do so with consistent play and a clutch 40-foot putt on hole 15 that halted Nikko’s momentum. Nikko had time for one more last ditch effort and on hole 16, Nikko went for the green on the uphill, 500 foot-plus tee shot. Locastro came up short to all but seal the victory for McBeth. Nikko still had one more trick up his sleeve and with the pressure off, Nikko left the crowd in awe with a 700 foot drive on the downhill hole 18.
For the round, McBeth was able to hit an incredible 89 percent of fairways, make 100 percent of his circle one putts and knock down an impressive five circle two putts to secure the victory. Perhaps the most difficult part of his championship was making it to the finals. In McBeth’s semi-final, he was able to hold off household names such as Michael Johansen and Cameron Todd but then, there was Dana Vicich. Vicich ranked 41st in tour points and snuck into the Tour Championship quarterfinals were he needed to finish in the top eight to find himself a place on a winner take all, semi-final card. Dana did just that, finishing eighth in quarterfinals and setting up a showdown with McBeth.
In a made for television match, Vicich went toe to toe with McBeth, matching him every step of the way. Dana described the grueling battle. “If Paul parked a hole, I would make a big putt and if I parked it, Paul was jamming a huge putt. We really had an epic battle on our hands. There was never a moment where I didn’t feel like I was going to win,” Vicich said.
The most compelling moment of the match came on hole 17. Up one stroke, McBeth put his drive within the circle on the 400 foot, downhill, left to right, blind tee shot. That’s when Dana stepped up to the box.
“I grabbed my trusty PD and let loose. The next thing I know, we hear my disc find its way to the chains,” Dana said. “Looking to the camera crew, spotters and spectators, who were down the fairway, I knew it didn’t stick. Their hands went flying in the air and then it seemed almost immediately, in unison, they then dropped to their knees. A dead center ace spit out. Now, McBeth is staring at a 32 footer. No surprise, he jams his putt and we move on to 18.”
On 18, McBeth left the door opened for Vicich when he threw his drive out of bounds. Unfortunately for Dana, he made the same mistake and Paul was able to get up and down to take the winner take all, semi-final match.
“It becomes a woulda, coulda, shoulda story for me and Paul rolls through the final,” Vicich said.
Paul’s presence could even be felt in the quarterfinal round even though he was not even participating. Holding on to the top spot in the quarterfinals, Drew Gibson decided to intentionally increase his score, by deliberately missing putts, to finish in second, behind Michael Johansen, to set up what he thought would be an easier semi-final matchup.
Little did Gibson know that he would run into a red-hot Peter McBride. McBride, who ranked 32nd in tour points and qualified for the semi-finals by finishing sixth in the quarterfinal round, shot the hottest round of the semi-finals when he managed a 13-under par 50.
“Going into the semis, I didn’t have any expectations built for myself so, I had nothing to lose. I kept a clear head and was surrounded by the positivity of my friends Nate and Cory. My game felt good and I was confident about all the shots on the course. I executed my shots well and stayed present,” McBride said. “I didn’t realize my score and my relation to my competitors until the final hole. It was overwhelming and satisfying to learn that I made it into the finals. It was exciting to be a part of such a festive and well-run event.”
Another highly contested semi-final match saw a battle between James “Snappy” Cole (right) and Cale Leiviska (center, caddy A. Harris left). The pair were tied going into the 17 th hole when Cale pushed his drive out of bounds and carded the bogie. Snappy managed to birdie the hole to give him a two stroke cushion going into the final hole.
On 18, Snappy threw his drive out of bounds, opening up the door for Cale, who capitalized with a birdie. Snappy still had a chance to win it in regulation with a 22 foot putt for par but he missed it high, forcing a playoff. On the second hole of the playoff, Snappy carded the birdie to prevent the collapse and earn his way to the final round.
The other semi-final card saw Nate Sexton and Nikko Locastro both playing really good golf and battling to the end. Tour points leader and current World Champion, Ricky Wysocki was unable to keep up with the duo and finish four strokes off the lead to end his Pro Tour season. In the end, it was Sexton with a 10-under par 53 who won the matchup. With Nikko’s strong score of 9-under, he was still able to have a chance to earn the wildcard spot to the finals in a playoff with Nate Doss. In that playoff, Locastro was able to claim the victory after Doss pushed his drive out of bounds on the first playoff hole.
The women’s semi-final saw little in the way of surprise with the top four tour points leaders (Sarah Hokom, Catrina Allen, Paige Pierce, and Valarie Jenkins) each finishing in the top four of the semi-finals to set up a showdown for the $2000 first place prize.
The finals saw Catrina Allen dominate for the majority of the round, winning by four strokes and knocking down huge putts on the back nine to secure the victory and become the first ever Women’s Tour Champion.
After the event, Catrina described the keys to her success. “I felt the reason for being so successful was that I was comfortable on the course and trusted my discs. I was really strong off the tee,” Allen said.” I’m honored to be the first champion, and can’t wait to see what 2017 brings.”
So we packed everything up and are getting ready for the new season. The 2016 Disc Golf Pro Tour Championship certainly had a flair for the dramatic and fans will not have to wait long to see what the 2017 season has in store with the schedule kicking off March 1-4 at The Memorial in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Soon we will know if Ricky, Paul and Catrina will continue their dominance, or if there is perhaps a new champion waiting in the wings, practicing their putting all through the night, just waiting for their chance to shine. Waiting for their One Shot.
Disc Golf Pro Tour. Watch.