For the fourth and final round of the 2023 Disc Golf Pro Tour – Las Vegas Championship presented by Innova, both the MPO and FPO fields returned to the Innova course on Sunday with plenty to be settled in the desert.
While Catrina Allen was defending a sizable lead, the MPO field was still anyone’s game on Championship Sunday.
Allen Doubles Down
Defending LVC champion Catrina Allen didn’t seem affected by the pressure of defending her title, instead her biggest challenge had been stringing together multiple solid rounds in cold and windy conditions. Allen’s endurance paid off and gave her an eight-stroke lead going into the fourth and final round.
When asked about her lead going into championship Sunday, Allen said, “With a big lead there’s more pressure to win because how embarrassing if you lose that lead, right?”
The wide gap between first and second place may have caused some fans to assume that the final round of the LVC would be predictable, but Allen’s victory lap turned into a fight to keep the lead as Missy Gannon started to close the gap.
Allen’s round got off to a slow start, finding herself at two over par through the front 9. She had yet to secure a birdie, but a solid tee shot on hole 10 put her in position to score. Just when it seemed that she might start taking back those bogey strokes, disaster struck.
Her second shot swung out over the OB cart path and looked like it would skip back in bounds, but instead it was blocked by a golf cart on the path. While skipping back in bounds likely would have given her an eagle look, Allen was left with a long upshot and missed her putt for par.
A situation like this might cause many other players to fall apart as they see their lead slipping away, but this was exactly what Allen needed to jumpstart her round.
“I think the turning point was really when I was skipping back in bounds and hit that cart. It was just the fire and wake-up call I needed,” said Allen after her round. “As annoying as it was, it was like okay, let’s just get it together.”
With Gannon taking eagle on hole 10, Allen’s eight stroke lead had dwindled down to just two strokes. Allen was fired up, and went on to birdie three out of the next five holes and get her round back to even par. By the 18th hole, Allen was back to a four-stroke lead over Gannon.
While the 2022 LVC saw a showdown on hole 18, this year Allen was able to take her victory lap and lay up a par for the win.
Allen now has five total LVC wins, tying Juliana Korver for the most FPO wins at this event. Not far behind her was Gannon, saving her par on hole 18 to stay in second place over Holyn Handley.
Allen didn’t seem as unstoppable today as she did during her 10-under round at the Innova course on Friday, but she once again proved that her mental game is strong enough to keep pushing through a bad break.
“I think a lot of people would have thrown a fit and I was upset but I was like, there’s nothing I can do about it except for keep playing my round (…) just battling back when things get tough, you know, not letting it spiral,” Allen said after tapping in the final putt of the 2023 Las Vegas Challenge.
Heimburg Gambles in Crunch Time
54 holes down, 18 to go.
With a tight leaderboard and the best weather conditions of the weekend so far, MPO players were ready to make a push and set the tone for their 2023 seasons.
Round four saw many players in the MPO division charging their way up the leaderboard to give themselves a look at the title. Ezra Aderhold, Kyle Klein, and the 2022 LVC champion Drew Gibson shot impressive rounds, jumping up multiple spots and placing themselves in contention for a podium finish.
Going into the 2023 LVC, Calvin Heimburg had never won an Elite Series when trailing by three strokes heading into the final round. Heimburg was tied for third place at 23 strokes under par, trailing behind Anthony Barela and Kevin Jones.
While Barela would go on to have a slow round, Jones and Heimburg soon found themselves in a battle at the top.
“I had to catch him, so I had to play aggressive,” Heimburg said of his gameplan going up against Jones. His aggressive game plan paid off, as Calvin would go on to score 10 birdies for the round and make multiple putts outside the circle (67% Circle 2 Putting, according to UDisc) to close the gap on Jones going into hole 17.
When asked if there was a shot that stuck out to Heimburg, he said, “The second shot on 16, that’s a pretty scary green to approach. One back at that point, it was kind of a make-or-break moment for me. I kind of felt like 17 might be a tough one to get, so I thought that might be the last place for me to really make up that one stroke. I went for it, executed, got the birdie, and locked it up with two holes to go.”
Heimburg’s approach shot on 16 hung over the water but stabled up in time to check up close to the basket. It was a risky move hanging over the OB on a windy day, but once again, Heimburg’s aggressive gameplay paid off.
Heimburg and Jones approached the iconic hole 18 tied for the lead at 31 strokes under par. A left to right wind wreaked havoc on both of their drives, pushing Jones’s disc into the water but barely keeping Heimburg in bounds. With Jones unable to get his second shot close to the pin, Heimburg laid up to take an easy par. Jones saw his last opportunity of the round and took it, attempting to throw a putter for par. His shot was just a few inches too high, catching the band and sliding into the OB just behind the basket.
While Jones’s unfortunate double bogey would place him in a tie for second with Ezra Aderhold, Heimburg was free to tap in his par and win his second Las Vegas Challenge.
The next stop on the Disc Golf Pro Tour and the PDGA Elite Series is the Waco Annual Charity Open on March 10-12 in Waco, Texas.