Article Written By: Nick Quargnenti – DGPT Marketing Coordinator
In the realm of disc golf, this past weekend was truly epic. The year’s final Major took place at Winthrop Arena in Rock Hill, SC, hosting the 2023 United States Disc Golf Championship (USDGC) and the Throw Pink Women’s Disc Golf Championship (TPWDGC). It was a weekend filled with remarkable moments and a few historic wins that had fans riveted until the very end. Let’s get into the standout stories from this unforgettable weekend.
The Renowned Hole 7 at Winthrop Arena. Photos: Kevin Huver / DGN
1) Kyle Klein’s Major Breakthrough: A Champion Is Born
One of the standout stories from this year’s USDGC was the rise of Kyle Klein (PDGA# 85132). In a sport known for its unpredictability, Klein’s victory marked a significant milestone. He became the 4th first-time MPO Major winner in the last five MPO Majors, solidifying his place in disc golf history.
Klein’s journey to victory was no cakewalk. Heading into Championship Sunday, he held a 3-stroke lead – a first for him in any final round on the Pro Tour. This young talent had previously clinched victories through comebacks, including one of the first tournaments of the year at the WACO, making his outright lead all the more special. Klein now boasts three wins in 62 Elite/Major appearances, with the USDGC trophy as the crowning jewel.
What makes his win even more remarkable are his past USDGC performances. In 2022, he finished 9th, and in 2021, he narrowly lost in an intense playoff against the 6X World Champ Paul McBeth (PDGA# 27523), settling for 2nd place. In 2020, he finished 5th. It’s clear that Klein’s dedication and hard work paid off, leading him to his historic victory.
After losing in a playoff in 2021 and never finishing outside of the Top 10, Kyle Klein comes back and secures the win at USDGC pic.twitter.com/M7J0IYZQwi
— Disc Golf Pro Tour (@DiscGolfProTour) October 9, 2023
2) From 4th Place to Champion: Holyn Handley’s Sensational Win at TPWDGC
The Throw Pink Women’s Disc Golf Championship made history this year with an unexpected turn of events. In its short history, Throw Pink has not seen a final round comeback winner, both previous winners were leading after 3 rounds. So, for the first time in the championship’s history, an athlete from the chase card emerged as the victor. Holyn Handley (PDGA# 133547), who started the day in 4th place, climbed her way up to claim the championship with a scorching -10 final round.
Holyn Handley Celebrating 2023 Throw Pink Victory with Friends and Family. Photos: Kevin Huver / DGN
The final round of the women’s championship was a fierce battle, and Handley’s triumph was nothing short of sensational. It marked her first win on tour and a groundbreaking moment for the Throw Pink Championship. Handley’s career received a significant boost with a $12,500 payout, the largest of her career.
Adding an intriguing twist to the story, the final round playoff at the 2023 TPWDGC between Kristin Tattar (PDGA# 73986) and Holyn Handley featured two players with no playoff wins in any FPO PDGA event in their careers. Tattar stood at 0-3, and Handley was at 0-2 in playoff situations. It was a high-pressure moment that Handley conquered with determination.
3) A Rare Streak: Four New MPO Champions and Four First-Time Winners in the Last Five PDGA Majors
The MPO field this season has been nothing short of extraordinary. Across Silver events, Elite events, and Majors, we’ve seen a remarkable 17 unique DGPT event winners. Specifically for Majors, the recent USDGC wrapped up with 4 different champions in the last 5 Major events, each securing their very first Major victory. Here’s a quick breakdown of the last 5 Majors…
2022 USDGC: Gannon Buhr
The unique Major champions streak began with 17-year-old high school senior Gannon Buhr (PDGA# 75412). He clinched the 24th USDGC Championship last year, beating strong rivals like Ricky Wysocki (PDGA# 38008) and Paul McBeth. Buhr also made history as the youngest ever USDGC winner. This win catapulted him to the 4th spot in global rankings, thanks to an impressive birdie streak. When asked about his plans, he jokingly said he wanted to go to McDonald’s and concentrate on catching up on schoolwork.
2023 Champions Cup: Isaac Robinson
Isaac Robinson (PDGA# 50670) made history by becoming the lowest-ranked player to clinch a Major victory since Will Schusterick (PDGA# 29064), who was ranked 10th, won the 2010 USDGC. It’s worth noting that, aside from this exceptional feat, every MPO U.S. Major in Official Rankings history since 2006 has been claimed by a top 10 player. Robinson’s triumph in the Champ’s Cup marked his first Major title and marked his second win on the tour. This wire-to-wire victory was reminiscent of his first Elite win at the 2022 LWS Open at Idlewild, where he also led from start to finish.
The exclusive club of wire-to-wire MPO Major wins in the last five years now includes names like Eagle McMahon (’22 European Open), Paul McBeth (’18 USDGC), and Eagle McMahon once more (’18 Konopiště Open), with Isaac Robinson’s Champs Cup win solidifying his membership. Prior to his Champs Cup victory, Robinson had consistently performed well, securing Top-25 finishes in each of his last 6 Majors, with his best showing being a commendable 6th place at the 2022 USDGC.
Isaac Robinson celebrates victory at the 2023 Champions Cup. Photos: Kevin Huver / DGN
2023 European Open: Cory Ellis
At the 2023 European Open (EO), the FPO field had a clear frontrunner in Kristin Tattar by the end of day two, while the MPO division witnessed a change in leadership after each round. This marked the second PDGA Pro Major of the year. Before his remarkable victory at EO, Corey Ellis (PDGA# 44512) had never achieved better than a 4th-place finish at a Major, which he accomplished at the 2022 Champions Cup, and he hadn’t secured a spot in the Top-20 in any of his 9 previous Major attempts. It was also a significant milestone for him, being his first Elite, Major, or Silver DGPT win out of 57 total events and his 9th Major start. He joined an exclusive group as the 10th player to have no Elite wins but at least one Major win.
Ellis made history as the 31st Major winner in MPO history, and notably, this event marked his debut in European competition, having not participated in PCS. Leading up to this victory, he had managed four Top-10 finishes in 12 starts on the tour this year, with a 3rd-place finish at the Portland Open being his best performance. This win also represented the highest payout of Ellis’ career, surpassing his previous best at the 2022 MVP Open, where he secured 2nd place and earned $8000. Before this event, he had only one experience leading a final round card at a Major, which was at the Champions Cup in 2022, out of the 9 Major events he had competed in.
2023 World Championship: Isaac Robinson (again)
In just 133 days after his triumph at the 2023 PDGA Champions Cup, Robinson emerged as the victor at the 2023 PDGA Professional Disc Golf World Championships presented by L.L.Bean, setting a new record for the shortest time span between a player’s initial MPO Major victory and their second in PDGA history, as confirmed by StatMando. Robinson’s achievement makes him the first player to claim an MPO Major title in the same calendar year since Paul McBeth accomplished it in 2019.
This accomplishment also places Robinson in a select group of MPO players who secured their first two major victories within 365 days. Joining this exclusive club are notable names like Nikko Locastro, with a 245-day gap between his ’09 USDGC and ’10 Japan Open wins; Paul McBeth, who achieved it in 295 days between ’12 Worlds and ’13 Copenhagen Open; Ken Climo, who had a 315-day interval between ’90 Worlds and ’91 Worlds; and Dave Feldberg, who accomplished this feat in 316 days between ’05 UDSGC and ’06 European Open.
2023 USDGC: Kyle Klein
The 2023 USDGC wrapped up with a nail-biting Championship Sunday at Winthrop Arena, closing out the year’s final PDGA Major. Kyle Klein and Bradley Williams vied for their first PDGA Major win. Though things got tense towards the end, Klein clinched the win, despite a dramatic four-stroke swing on the last hole. Check out the full recap of the 2023 USDGC.
Kyle Klein Celebrates his First Major Victory with Cynthia. Photos: Kevin Huver / DGN
4) Lizotte’s Stellar Round 2 Propels Him to Top 5 Finish at USDGC
Simon Lizotte (PDGA# 8332) delivered a remarkable performance during Round 2 of the tournament. He posted a brilliant -9 (55), including 10 birdies and just 1 bogey. This outstanding round propelled him to a 5th place finish and marked his best score-par performance in USDGC history. Notably, this event also marked Lizotte’s highest-ever finish at the USDGC and his best result in a PDGA Major over the past 5 years.
Simon Lizotte goes -9 (55) with 10 birdies and just 1 bogey, jumping up into 5th place after Round 2.
This is Lizotte’s best round by score-par in his USDGC history.
— StatMando (@statmando) October 6, 2023
An interesting detail to note is that Lizotte impressively birdied Holes 17 and 18 in all four rounds of the competition. Across the weekend, he consistently ranked in the top 3 for Birdie Percentage at 46% and Circle 1X Putts with an impressive success rate of 95%.
Simon Lizotte gets the juices flowing on Hole 1 🧃 pic.twitter.com/64rIaz9a4r
— Disc Golf Pro Tour (@DiscGolfProTour) October 7, 2023
5) Kristin Tattar Breaks PDGA Earnings Record Despite Throw Pink Loss
In 2022, the disc golf world witnessed historic financial milestones. Kristin Tattar became the first-ever player to break the $100,000 mark in tournament prize money earnings, while Ricky Wysocki set a new PDGA record for the highest single-season earnings at $105,776.
Fast forward to 2023, and Tattar is leading the FPO DGPT points standings, achieving a career Major Grand Slam sweep for the season, and boasting an impressive 82% podium finish rate across Silver, Elite, and Major events. Although the recent loss at Throw Pink stings, Tattar cements her legacy by setting a new single-year PDGA earnings record, surpassing her 2022 earnings ($103,141) by nearly $4,000, now totaling ~$107,200 in prize money, and marking a significant financial achievement.
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6) Bradley Williams Shines with Solo 2nd Place Finish at USDGC
Bradley Williams’ (PDGA# 31644) secured a notable 2nd place finish at the USDGC, marking his second Elite/Major 2nd place achievement. His first such finish dates back to the 2010 Steady Ed Memorial, where he narrowly lost in a playoff to Ken Climo (PDGA# 4297). Williams’ impressive performance underscored the fierce competition at this year’s USDGC, as he claimed the solo 2nd position, achieving his best USDGC result in 2023.
Throughout the weekend, Williams excelled, leading in Circle 2 in Regulation with an impressive 72% success rate. He also secured the second spot in Fairway Hits Percentage at 87%. Notably, he consistently birdied Holes 2, 11, and 18 in every round of the tournament. This finish represents Williams’ second podium placement of the season, following his success at the 2023 Innova Blue Ridge Championship.
Two INSANE shots on Hole 5 🤯
What a battle we’re seeing from Kyle Klein and Bradley Williams pic.twitter.com/r8MGnzCAJN
— Disc Golf Pro Tour (@DiscGolfProTour) October 8, 2023
7) Salonen’s Stellar Round 1 and Podium Finish at Throw Pink
In Round 1, Eveliina Salonen (PDGA# 64927) delivered the standout performance of the weekend, shooting an impressive 11 under par. This remarkable round featured 10 birdies, 1 bogey, and an eagle on Hole 9. Salonen dominated various UDisc statistics, securing the top spot in Fairway Hits (87%), Parked Percentage (25%), Reaching Circle 1 in Regulation (59%), and Scramble Percentage (55%). Not to mention she would go on to clinch a birdie on Hole 18 each round.
Although she didn’t clinch the tournament victory, she can take pride in her podium 3rd-place finish, marking her fourth podium finish this year across Elite, Silver, Major, and XA Tier events. This finish also marks her 6th top-5 finish or better in her last 6 PDGA events. With this momentum, she will be a player to watch at the coming 2023 DGPT Championship.
We could watch this shot from Eveliina Salonen on repeat all day 🤩 pic.twitter.com/qHgUWvHxdC
— Disc Golf Pro Tour (@DiscGolfProTour) October 9, 2023
8) Uncharted Territory: USDGC Makes History with Title-Free Lead Card
What made the USDGC final round even more captivating was the fact that the lead card featured players with no combined MPO Major titles. This was a first in USDGC history, and it added to the tournament’s unpredictability. The chase card also shared this distinction, with no combined MPO Major titles amongst its players. A further testament to the depth of this season’s MPO field.
For the first time in USDGC history, the final round lead card holds 0 combined MPO Major titles.
And to add on, the chase card also holds 0 combined MPO Major titles. pic.twitter.com/WwbdHjVZ43
— StatMando (@statmando) October 7, 2023
The 2023 USDGC and TPWDGC provided fans with unforgettable moments and historic victories. Kyle Klein’s breakthrough, Holyn Handley’s incredible rise, and the unique statistics surrounding the USDGC all contributed to a weekend that will be remembered in the annals of disc golf history. These championships continue to showcase the growth and excitement of the sport, leaving fans eager for what the future holds in the world of disc golf. Now, the Disc Golf Pro Tour heads to Charlotte, NC for the 2023 Disc Golf Pro Tour Championship, concluding this season.
Check out some other epic highlights…
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