14 years running there has been an event in Leicester, MA. After all those years, the various iterations, the sport growing and changing, there is still not a single player in the MPO field who has ever won two years in a row. Only two people have ever one twice at all – Ricky Wysocki and Cale Leiviska. Many of the other former champions, Jeremy Koling, Paul McBeth, Nikko Locastro, and Barry Schultz are all registered to play this year, as we kick off the Inaugural MVP Open at the historic Maple Hill Gold Course.
Once play had ended on the final round of the 2017 Vibram Open it wasn’t any of Ricky’s card mates that he needed to worry about but rather Eagle McMahon and Paul McBeth who both shot firey rounds in cold and wet conditions from cards further back. One of the great things about Maple Hill is that there isn’t a hole that can’t be birdied but birdie all of them takes a veritable cornucopia of different shots, a gallon of courage, and a steady temperament. Every hole offers a number of options for play which means there infinite ways to win, check out Seth Fendley’s Stat of the Week article to find out more about that. Ricky’s got all it takes and he shows it in his stats. Leading the whole division in Circle 1 in Regulation, Circle 2 in Regulation and Circle 1 Putts – which by the way he made 99% of…he two-putted his way to a par on hole 8 in round 1, that was the last time he missed inside 10 meters. Just look at the stats for yourself:
Ricky Wysocki may be the only player who has a chance at winning the event back-to-back this year, and he certainly has everything it takes to do it. But there are a handful of other stories that are as deserving of a triumphant ending. Let’s dive into them.
Cale Leiviska has played the Maple Hill Open a lot of times. He won the event in 2007 in a three-hole playoff with Geoff Bennett, then came back in 2008 and placed 5th. 2009 would be his worst performance at the event to date in 27th. But he bounced back, placing 5th in 2010, skipped 2011 and came back to win in 2012, making him the first two-time MPO winner. Since then he’s placed mostly in the top ten and certainly should not be forgotten by anyone trying to claw their way to the top starting this Friday.
It’s likely no one will ever challenge Paul McBeth’s 1119 rated final round with a record 45, that was 14 under the current par 59. The course certainly looks different today in a handful of ways, but he’ll still need many of the same shots to push his way to the top again. He may have stumbled at Ledgestone, but look at how he bounced back after Jonesboro where he also placed in a tie for 13th. With one event left to play before finals, Paul needs to protect his top spot in the Pro Tour Standings with a solid performance, if not another big win. That kind of pressure cooker is exactly what turns McBeth into McBeast, don’t be surprised to see fireworks from Paul this week.
Gregg Barsby seemed all but set to win in 2018, don’t get me wrong, he was tied for first with Ricky Wysocki on the tee pad of hole 1 for the final round, but he had momentum on his side. He had shown up a week earlier than everyone else to practice, he seized an early lead in the first two days and on day three when he slipped from the lead in the first four holes he came right back with an ace, out over the water and into the raised basket of hole 5:
By the time the dust settled on day three, Barsby had to maintain the competition he had been firing all week if he was going to unseat the ever-steady Wysocki from their tie. For the first three rounds he had averaged over 1050 golf, his final round one over par, rated at 1009 just wasn’t enough to keep up with Ricky’s 1039 3 under. Remember, the conditions were trash at the pressure was high. Barbsy is likely hungry for redemption, this could be the turn-around for a season in which he’s only made the top 10 at one DGPT event.
Nate Sexton may be the sneaky favorite right now. He’s amped off the win at Ledgestone this year. The battle between him and Chris Dickerson was down to the final shots and well worth watching for one of the most dramatic finishes of the year. He’s never won an Open at Maple Hill but all three years he played he finished in the top ten. His best finish was fifth last year after making the lead card for the final round. Unfortunately, Nate struggled with the putt, delivering a bit of a beating to the cage leaving a handful of putts too many too low to stay in the hunt with his even to par finish. All of that makes for a perfect storm of conditions for Nate to pursue his first win in Leicester in weather that is looking far from stormy.
Now that Simon and Eagle are back in the US it probably makes sense to mention them too while we’re listing off all the top competition in Leicester this weekend. Simon must be feeling good having reclaimed the European Champion last week and considering he through the hot round of -8 during the absurd conditions of the final round. Simon may be the European Champ but Eagle is the one with three NT titles and a Major under his belt already this year. At this point I’m not sure what to even say besides, Eagle’s here, he’s probably gonna be in the mix, let’s watch.
Whew! That’s gonna wrap up our exhaustive coverage of who to watch this week. The history of Maple Hill is rich with dramatic finishes and likely this year will prove no different. Steve Dodge is hosting at home too so you know he’s gonna put on a great event, so really, do not miss this one if you can make it. The weather looks almost impossibly good so pack up the camping gear and get down to Leicester for the best of the best. Tune in every day at 2 PM for all the coverage.
This article written by DGPT Editor & Writer Zach Podhorzer.
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