The Jonesboro Open is an event that was created and rose to prominence due to the Disc Golf Pro Tour. Starting in 2017, the inaugural Jonesboro Open was the third stop on the Disc Golf Pro Tour. Since that time, the Jonesboro Open has blossomed into an event the players look forward to playing every year thanks to its stunning course.
Jonesboro, Arkansas, is not known as a significant hub for anything, really. A college town housing Arkansas State, tournament director Brad Pietz has been focused on making the city a disc golf destination since the inception of the Disc Side of Heaven property in 2013.
On the MPO side, in 2017 and 2018, Ricky Wysocki brought home the crown. Much like the story of Waco with Jeremy Koling winning in 2017 and 2018. In 2019, Paul McBeth rose to the top of the field at Jonesboro. Most notable on the MPO side of the event is that Garrett Gurthie has taken second place the past two years, his best finishes at Disc Golf Pro Tour events. With top pros like McBeth, Wysocki, and Gurthie in the mix - it's shaping up to be an exciting 2020.
On the FPO side, Paige Pierce has dominated the field. 2019 was her closest competition with her edging out Catrina Allen by one throw on the 18th hole of the final round. In 2018 she had her most significant margin of victory, winning by ten, with Madison Walker coming in second place. Last year featured the first time an international player competed in the FPO field at the Jonesboro Open, and Henna Blomroos took third place behind Paige and Cat. It is clear the competition is getting stiffer in the FPO division at the Jonesboro Open, so this will be one event you will not want to miss in 2020.
Outside of the competition, Jonesboro is known as an event that can get creative with its sponsors. 2020 will be the second year in a row that Play It Again Sports has been on board as the title sponsor. In 2017 the event featured Spartan Mowers as its title sponsor. Not only that, but the local Buffalo Wild Wings has been on board as a top tier sponsor as well. In 2019 Jonesboro also added a charity component as well, The Arkansas Pet Savers (TAPS). TAPS will be on board again this year and will be seeking to expand on the $1400, which was raised for its initiatives at last year's event.
Registration for the 2020 Play It Again Sports Jonesboro Open begins tomorrow for MPO players 1000+ and FPO players 900+. Additional registration tiers will open each week after that throughout January. If you haven't already, consider making plans to attend or compete in Jonesboro in April!
2019 Play It Again Sports Jonesboro Open presented by Prodiscus: MPO Final Round Recap - Alert! Runaway G.O.A.T. on the loose!Read Now
When round three of the 2019 Play It Again Sports Jonesboro Open presented by Prodiscus started today, shortly after round two, the lead card was all within two throws of each other. With that kind of stage, we were almost guaranteed to see the lead change hands a number of times. Plenty of folks were just behind them too but eventually were left behind as our leaders continued to charge. But oh right, someone had to invite Paul McBeth to the party. Soon enough McBeth redefined that charge as he took off on a 10 hole birdie streak from 7-16. Everyone was doing everything they could to keep up, but eventually, they had to let go of those hopes and focus on each other. McBeth won the event at a total 27 under par, Garrett Gurthie finished second at 24 under, Chris Dickerson took third at 22 under, and then we had a tie for fourth between Eagle McMahon and Paul Ulibarri. The mud was absolutely atrocious but the play was perfectly pleasant. Read on to find out more.
Paul McBeth may not have been McBeast for the first six holes of round three…but as the sun came out and the weather got warmer, Paul hit the perfect play switch and finished the event with birdies on 10 of the last 12 holes! Having to play more golf in a single day than a usual tournament day you’d think he might be in the zone for round three. Sadly for Paul his front nine only included five birdies. It’s okay though, he got seven more on the back. Honestly, I think he had to miss that short putt on 6 as motivation. Come on Paul! Par? You got a Par!? We expect more.
It wasn't until 11 holes later that he made such an egregious error again. 17 seemed to almost come out of nowhere. His drive leaked off the fairway; a risky cut-roller out curled back on the edge of the rough; with no real look, a lofty jump putt brought him to a tap-in par. It was actually pretty impressive to watch Paul play a hole from the rough like the rest of us mortals do more often. And yes, he's good at that too. With one hole left to play, McBeth had a four throw lead over Gurthie and could pretty much walk it in on the last beast of a hole. But that wouldn’t really be the McBeast we’ve come to know and love. Despite it being a solid 60-foot look McBeth still lofted up a full run at the sloping green of hole 18. Just a bit high, the disc sat only momentarily before everyone else had finished the round and Paul had the distinct pleasure of tapping in his win.
Garrett Gurthie started the day in first but took his sweet time getting the engine going. It was a park job on the island hole 6 that got him back to a tie for first with Paul. But that was the last time he would be that close to our winner. That didn't keep him from playing some great golf though. He fell off the lead early, and even as far down as fifth but amended his fate with a flawless eagle three on the fourth hardest hole of the day – 16. It's pretty amazing Gurthie didn’t win, no one else got it to Circle 1 or straight up Parked for birdie than him, not Even Paul. It honestly was only the putting that kept him from keeping up with McBeth.
With only 17 and 18 left they had one beast left. 17 plays neutral (.3 over par on average) but 18 is the hardest hole of the course today, averaging almost a hole throw over par. He definitely brought the average down on 17 earning himself an all but easy birdie with a smash of a drive further than pretty much anyone else had made it on this hole. He earned himself a one throw lead over Chris and a chance at true second depending on how 18 played out. He didn’t end up needing it, but another classy birdie on 18 earned Double G a two throw win over Dickerson and his second second-place finish at the Jonesboro Open. I think it's safe to say he'll play this one again. Congrats Double G, that was a fabulous weekend of golf.
That leaves Chris Dickerson, finishing in third, as our last short story of the night. Head-to-head against any other player on pretty much any other day his 8 under par in these conditions could earn him a win or even a chance at a playoff. Much like Ricky Wysocki in WACO though, Dickerson found himself shredding in McBeth’s wake…with a good handful of players chomping at his heels. He even briefly gained a three throw lead over Garrett that took an eagle for Double G to close back up. By the eighteenth, a monster of an 818’ par 4, he was chasing one of the biggest arms in the sport by one. He didn’t quite get his approach to a makeable putt so had to let go of his dreams of a tie for second – it was already clear, par wasn’t going to be enough.
The day was filled with plenty of other great rounds of golf. Eagle McMahon's early charge had the makings of chasing even further up the ladder but even though he threw the second-best round of the day he was still three throws behind the best – you guess it Paul McBeth’s healthy 12 under par round. Paul Ulibarri had a tough second round but his first round 12 under plus his final round 8 under really kept him in it. Grady Shue and A.J. Risley also both eagled hole 16, and fun note: Shue bogeyed it in round one and then eagled it twice in a row. Now that’s what I call redemption. John Matlack hit a 202’ throw in eagle on hole 11….so, nice ace! With that, I’ll wrap this up by letting you know we’re taking a few weeks but we’ll see you in May for the San Francisco Open presented by Innova Champion Discs, oh and go play disc golf!
This article written by Zach Podhorzer. All photography credit to Alyssa Van Lanen.
Play It Again Sports Jonesboro Open presented by Prodiscus: MPO Preview - GOATs, Raptors, and Eagles...Oh My!Read Now
Wow, does the season move fast or what? It’s almost the end of tax season and we’ve seen so many events with quite the variety of winners. As we draw closer and closer to Friday we are now less than 24 hours away from the first tee times of the 2019 Play It Again Sports Jonesboro Open presented by Prodiscus. Our Mind of a Champion interviews are already up for your reading pleasure – this time I'm talking with Ricky Wysocki and Paige Pierce. Their perspective on the course and their respective fields has me super excited to watch it all unfold this weekend. Ricky finally picked up his first A-Tier win with his new sponsor, Innova, but at this point, it's hard to predict who he'll have to dance with if he wants to defend his title again. But let's get to the research.
Measuring in at just about 10,000 feet, Disc Side of Heaven will test every pro’s proficiency with their distance drivers and on their upshots. The greens are generally open but make sure you land those upshots softly because a little roll can quickly yield disastrous results on these well-groomed grassy grades. That’s what this Arkansas beauty offers better than almost any course – a clean and consistent playing surface with ample elevation and just enough foliage. It is almost reminiscent of legendary courses like Konopiste in the Czech Republic or the Toboggan Course in Grand Rapids, MI. Precision is always important, but here at Jonesboro, the course management allows for throwing difficult lines to be the factor most likely to set the winner apart from the pack. So who's season is shaping up from the tee and the fairway?
It’s probably easiest to start from the top and work our way down from there – Paul McBeth. Arguably the hottest player of the year, he is currently the highest rated player in the world at healthy 1054 and is also leading in our DGPT power rankings. Any day of the year, Paul McBeth is the guy to beat, but right now he’s on an upward trend with a new bag – an equation that may be moving the consensus closer and closer to accepting his all mighty G.O.A.T.iness. Just take a look at his season stats.
He is leading the entire field in Circle 1 and Circle 2 Greens in Regulation and Birdies. How do you beat someone who only bogey’s 4% of the time? That means over the course of a three-day event you can expect him to make two, TWO, mistakes he doesn’t clean up with a healthy dose of scrambled eggs. Which, now that it comes up, he’s pretty good at too, cleaning an 80% of his scrambles, so he is sadly only in 3rd place there. I’d call his putting a weak point of his game, but that’s simply a numbers game right now. At his most recent event, Throw Down the Mountain, McBeth was literally perfect in Circle 1X and cleaned 54% from Circle 2! I’d say he found the problem with his early season putt and completely eradicated it. So who can even challenge a guy that has thrown two 18 under par perfect rounds in the last 10 months?
If anyone can beat McBeast right now it’s likely to be his trusty arch-rival Ricky Wysocki or the “new” persistent variable that is Eagle McMahon. Definitely take a read of my Mind of a Champion interview with Ricky to hear where his head is at for this one – TLDR: Ricky’s ready for a repeat. If there’s anyone who knows how to keep his momentum going it’s Wysocki. Good thing he finally found some momentum after a little bit of a slow start this year. His Texas States Championship win was a nice addition to his collection of over 100 career wins, but he also didn’t have to face McBeth there. Only weeks before he had been forced to live in Paul’s shadow as his 16 under, which is a fantastic round, lost the spotlight to McBeth’s -18. But Ricky is not one to ever stop charging, even when he has a lead he usually doesn’t change up the game plan and that game plan is usually birdie, birdie, birdie….and so on. I won’t be surprised to see these two tango.
As for the lanky bird, Eagle is ranked second in Pro Tour Points and on the National Tour Points right now for a reason. He’s throwing almost as many birdies as McBeth and making just as few mistakes. Where Eagle has seen some “struggle” off the tee and from the fairway, he’s pretty much making up for all of that on the green – where he’s ranked second for making 91% of his Circle 1X putts. But compare his stats to McBeth’s from the tee and you’ll see the ~5% point difference.
McBeth is giving himself an average of 1 or 2 more looks at the basket than McMahon, and giving our most recent data point for his putting (100% C1X) I’d say that could easily result in a couple throw gap between the two of them this weekend. Especially on a course like Disc Side of Heaven where the greens are all mostly wide open, throwing well enough to make your putts easy will be the most direct path to victory.
Realistically, there are a couple of handful of guys who could put a winning weekend together right now. The skill saturation of the field is so high that it takes a big spike to stand out above everyone else. And now, if you have that spike you're up against the chances that McBeth could drop another 18, or the unstoppable raptor legs chasing down 40 footers like their 20s, or the unstoppable cloud-breaking force that is Eagle. Make the lead card and chances are you'll be facing one, two, or all three of them. That is not a set of card mates you can count on to make mistakes. Some likely names for that fourth hypothetical spot could be any of the pros who are slaying lines this year – Josh Anthon and Seppo Paju have actually hit more Fairways than any of the top three have this year totally 87%. Garrett Gurthie is the only one who has bested Eagle on Parked shots. Alex Russel, a relatively new name compared to all the legends and veterans in this article is currently the best Scrambler on the tour.
I won't be surprised to see any of these folks in the hunt, but it’s hard to say what this weather might do to everyone’s game. Who knows, sometimes needing to prove yourself competitive at the elite level takes precedence over the need to reassert yourself as the standard of elite play. Whatever happens, I know it's going to be great to watch and I'll be watching all of it live, starting at 10 AM EST for FPO and 4:30 PM EST for MPO tomorrow. Don't miss any of the action, because the Play It Again Sports Jonesboro Open presented by Prodiscus is shaping up to be a clash of the 2019 titans and then some.
This article written by Staff Editor and Writer Zach Podhorzer. All photography credit to Alyssa Van Lanen.
Play It Again Sports Jonesboro Open Presented By Prodiscus: FPO Preview - Your Guess Is As Good As Mine!Read Now
We are only days from the Play It Again Sports Jonesboro Open Presented By Prodiscus now so it’s time to do our research. I caught up with Paige Pierce and Ricky Wysocki to hear about how they are getting ready for the event this year, so make sure not to miss those interviews. Last year in Arkansas, Paige Pierce pretty much ran away with the win – finishing the event ten ahead of the rest of the group. But the start of 2018 looked a lot different than the start of 2019. As of right now, it seems like there are a handful of players that could snag a win while last year at this time we were wondering if Paige could make a full sweep of the season. In 2018 the Jonesboro Open ended up being the last win on her perfect streak, but this year she might just make it a part of the announcement that she’s back in fine form. She just picked up an A-Tier win at the Nick Hyde which she will look to keep going at Disc Side of Heaven this weekend.
In 2018 there might not have been a tight battle for first but there was practically bumper-to-bumper traffic to get to second. Madison Walker, Jennifer Allen, Sarah Hokom, and Catrina Allen were all in contention for second but it was Madison’s charge from the chase card and Jennifer’s steady play that earned them a tie for second. Hokom struggled to string together any meaningful amount of birdies, but that earned her sole possession of fourth as Catrina Allen struggled on the green – resulting in her worst round of the event and fifth place. All of these pros are signed up but they won’t be up against only each other, there’s plenty of other players looking to make their mark on the Pro Tour this year. We are especially excited to see the increased size of the FPO field with a total of 30 players registered.
Disc Side of Heaven, even for the top pros, is not an easy course. Watching from home the fairways may look wide but the lines are clever and demand persistent attention to the details. It’s certainly not a birdie-or-die kind of an event, well that is for most of the players. Paige Pierce on the other hand still holds the course record with her twelve under (54) during round one of 2018 (sadly not caught on tape). But the next day the weather came for her and she scored a 70, sixteen worse than her first round and four over par. Speaking of which, if you somehow missed this last year, let me remind you that during round two of the 2018 Jonesboro Open it snowed for the women’s rounds. Certainly not your typical weather for Arkansas in April. This year things are looking like they might be wet but they won't be nearly as cold.
If you’re trying to make your fantasy picks for this week, good luck! Sure, we can look at the past couple times the pros have taken to this track but there are so many competitive names that we have no track record for here or who’s play has greatly improved over last season. For example, take Hannah Blumroos from Rauma, Finland. She’s currently 960 rated, making her the fourth highest rated FPO player in the world. This might be her first tour in the US but something tells me jetlag alone won’t keep her from chasing down a win at an event sponsored by her sponsor, Prodiscus. Or what about Paige Bjerkaas, she is the current reigning world champ and has already collected an NT win? She’s no slouch when it comes to distance and her Kansas experience makes her no stranger to windy open greens. All I’m trying to say is this, I have no idea who’s gonna walk away victorious this weekend, your guess is as good as mine. But I know I'll be tuning in to watch it all unfold live, starting Friday at 10 AM EST. Make sure you don't miss it either.
This article written by Staff Editor and Writer Zach Podhorzer. All photography credit to Alyssa Van Lanen.
Ricky Wysocki, much like our other Mind of a Champion spotlight player Paige Pierce, is no stranger to winning back-to-back-to-back and beyond. When the GMC started years ago he started off winning it a solid handful of times in a row, then the Jonesboro Open started up in 2017 and we still only have two winners - Ricky and Paige. They have just dominated these courses, likely because they are both incredibly well rounded players. I got a chance to catch up with Ricky just before his first round at the Nick Hyde Memorial and we talked about everything from practice routines, to his new bag, to his thoughts on all these absurdly low scores we're seeing in 2019. I hope you enjoy the read, I know I enjoyed the conversation thoroughly.
Zach Podhorzer (ZP): Thanks for taking the time to chat. Let’s start with hearing a little bit about what you think of your 2019 season so far?
Ricky Wysocki (RW): I'm feeling good. I've had a couple of performances I wasn't quite happy with, but overall, when I wasn't playing great I really tried to maximize my game. And that’s what the top players have to do. If we’re off with our putting or our driving, one part of our game has to bring up the other part of our game. I think that’s what makes me such a consistent top player. If I’m off with one part of my game I can still perform well and at a high level having played and seen how a lot of tournaments turn out. I think that obviously when we play at a high level and all the parts of our game are good, that's what separates a top player from the step below.
(ZP): So in Texas, did it felt like you could really put it all together and make it happen there?
(RW): Yea. I feel like I got my confidence back in all parts of my game in Texas. Once I do it one time, that's all the confidence I need for me to continuously do that. I think that was a good start for me.
(ZP): I was looking at your season, you basically moved closer and closer to the podium and now you’ve made the top. Now that you've moved on and are getting ready for the next event, how are you feeling about Nick Hyde?
(RW): Good Good. They’ve redesigned a bunch of holes so the course is a lot different. But I think it’s still a really good course and still a lot of really good holes. I think there’ll be a lot of birdies to be had and I think when I go there, there’s a lot of sidearm holes and I’m a sidearm player, so it definitely favors that. There's also a lot of fairway driver holes that just go straight, so my Teebirds and Rocs are getting a lot of use. Overall, it plays to my game pretty well. If it gets windy I can play in the wind as well because we are in Texas.
(ZP): That actually gets at my next question then. I’m curious, now that we’ve seen a good handful of classic events this year that you’ve played so many times with your latitude bag in the past, what’s it like playing those same lines with a new bag?
(RW): Yea! It’s actually kinda interesting for me the way I play it. Now, when I step up to a tournament I'm thinking, "alright I gotta play this course and it’s almost a new course because I’m playing it with a totally different bag.” For me, being a veteran, it kind of spices these tournaments up. Some of these tournaments I’ve played six or seven years. Now, I’ve got a whole new bag and a whole new way of attacking the course. My game has also changed since I last threw Innova. It’s just really exciting to see the course and attack the course in a whole new way with these new discs.
(ZP): It’s like being a kid again! Were there any molds you were really excited to get back to?
(RW): Yea, absolutely. I was really excited about the Destroyer, Roc, and the Firebird. Oh, and definitely the Teebird, too. So, four classic molds. I’ve thrown a lot of different discs throughout the years, but those have always been staples in my bag. I could play a whole event with only those four discs and perform really well. So I think just having those and knowing I can reach for those in clutch situations is gonna save me strokes going down the stretch in big tournaments. I think that's a big thing as a player, that's my goal – to be in contention, but not only be in contention but win.
(ZP): It's like riding a bike. So I was curious, as a player who leans on the Harp all the time, watching you absolutely dissected them with the harp was great. What are you turning to now for that part of your game?
(RW): Right now I’m using the pro pig. I’ve got two in my bag right now. A new one and a beat in one. I really like the grip. The Pro plastic is grippy, and really feels good in the hand for my sidearm. I went through all the overstable molds, the Gator, the Caiman, but was always just so comfortable with the Pig. That’s the disc that I want. That’s the disc I’m gonna use. I'll probably end up carrying two or three for all my rounds. It also doesn't skip. With the Harp, I sometimes had to really try and have it slide up to the basket. With the Pro Pig, the plastic is really grippy on the playing surface. I know I can run more of my shots from the fairway and have those shots sit, knowing it won't skip too much and leave me with a big putt coming back.
(ZP): Alright, so you’re no stranger to defending a win. You’ve won it once you can win it again right? I think back to how many years in a row you won the GMC, and you’ve already won the Jonesboro Open twice in a row. How do you deal with those expectations?
(RW): There's a lot that comes with it. Often, we're in a feature group and there's a bit more pressure. But the pressure's good. I really like that. Sometimes in the first round, you get a little complacent – if stuff isn't going good you might get compounding errors. But on a feature group, everyone's looking, you gotta make sure to be on top of your game. I think it actually helps me. I like that. I’ve been in that position before and the more you’re in that position the more you’re going to thrive. Especially at Jonesboro coming up this weekend. I feel like I’m really good at defending titles and that just comes with confidence and knowing I can play in pressure situations really well.
(ZP): Tell me a little bit about the course, what defines Disc Side of Heaven for you?
(RW): The first thing that pops into my head when I think about that course is the rolling hills. It’s in Arkansas, its got the rolling hills, the tough par fours, I can’t remember if there are any fives…
(ZP): Yeah, there’s one, hole 16, but you eagled it two out of three rounds last year, so...
(RW): Yes. Yes. Haha, I remember now. So there is a par 5! So like I was saying, there's a lot of variables, a lot of shot shaping. So every shot you're having to throw sidearm, then backhand, then a shot that drifts right before coming back. The angles out there are really challenging to the players. I think that I play really well-on challenging, really hard courses. My skill set is basically any type of shot. I wouldn't say I really have a weakness as far as throwing angles. Yea, some shots I throw better than others but, on command, I can throw pretty much any shot I want. I think having a course with that much variety actually favors me because I can manipulate all the different angles – sidearm, backhand, and putting. There's not really one hole I step up to feeling nervous there and that really translates to a consistent round.
(ZP): That's a great point. I think as courses are forcing players to have a broader range of shots it actually lends an advantage to the players that already have all the different shots. I came up playing with ultimate lids with my friends, playing frolf in the woods, that was an immediate advantage for me when I started playing disc golf more seriously.
(RW): oh yeah, for sure.
(ZP): Okay, so let's talk preparation. What’s your practice plan for the event?
(RW): I normally show up two or three days ahead of time. For the Jonesboro, I'll be there Tuesday and practice Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. So three days of practice. I'll have probably one or two rounds the first two days but Thursday - one round. I like to put in more rounds earlier in the week so I'm not tired for the event. But basically, I like to get a lot of reps in. Throwing three or four shots on every hole; trying different upshots; trying all the different angles; putting on all the baskets to really get the heights and distances dialed. There's a lot of things, but repetition is my biggest thing. Just getting a feel for each hole. The best way to do it is to play a lot of rounds and throw a lot of different shots to see what works and what doesn't.
(ZP): So in 2018, you started the final round with a two throw lead over Gurthie with Conrad and Montgomery right behind him. Last week you won Texas states by a good handful, what’s going through your mind when you step onto the tee and only have a two throw cushion?
(RW): I've learned that it's actually tough to play with a lead. Depending on how big the lead is, if it's six strokes it's easier, but even then you don't know, certain times, whether you should lay up or go for the shot. It's easy to fall into the category of "oh, I've got six strokes so I don't need to be aggressive." But, in our sport everyone is getting so good it doesn't matter if you are up by two or six, you have to be aggressive until the last hole. If you've built a lead coming into the last three holes or so, then you might adjust, but otherwise, there's really no other reason to not follow my game plan. I think that's something I've gotten a lot better at though, I don't have to go win by six, I can win by four or three by not taking the same risks and still take home the win. That's tough to do when at first. It's hard to not fall into the wrong mindset. Then you're a couple of holes in and that six ahead is only one or two ahead.
(ZP): Right. You have to stay on top of your game the whole time. What about when things go wrong though? In the final round, Hole 6, over the water to the island, you came up just barely short, making dry land but still OB. With 12 holes left, you had five on the card but the drop-zone makes a circle 3 a throw-in, not just a putt. How do you recover from an errant drive when you're facing a possible two throw swing and you just threw your first bogey of the event?
(RW): It's definitely a hole I feel I should at least birdie. Like you said though, it was the first bogey of the tournament. I was feeling really good, I was playing really well, but I knew, when it comes down to a final round and you've got a lead, stuff like that is going to happen. Obviously, you try to minimize it. You don't want it to happen, but in the moment it can be really hard to snap out of it. You just have to make sure you don't let that compound on the next hole, and the next one. Compound errors - I see that a lot in newer players and people who aren’t used to playing under pressure. They throw a bad shot, then they run the basket and go too far, and then they miss the putt. Instead of just playing a safe shot and taking your bogey. "Live to fight another day," as they say. Keeping yourself from letting that happen when you're in contention is the most important thing. You might have a bad hole and come out on the next hole wanting to try and ace. But you wanna take it slow, build that confidence back slowly, not right in one hole. I think consistency comes from not only knowing how to play well but knowing how to handle when it doesn’t go well. You have to step up to the next hole and still feel confident.
(ZP): You managed to start peeling early, and pretty quickly, but through it all, the rest of the lead card was putting down some great shots. Whether it was Gurthie airing out past your drives, Conrad canning almost 50% of his circle 2 putts, and Colten playing so smooth and unassuming, how do you stay focused on your game?
(RW): Yea, I think the biggest thing when you're playing at this level - obviously, we're in the same group and we're playing together - but you have to be selfish and focus on what you're doing. Obviously, you're watching their shots, you're seeing what they're doing, but when it comes down to it you wanna be selfish and focus on what you’re doing. You have to dedicate so much effort to every shot: dissecting all the variables, the angles, the wind, and the slope, all of it. You have to really focus. If I break away and focus on what they’re doing too much then I’m taking away from my game. So obviously, subconsciously, I’m watching their shots. It's like this, you know Garrett crushes, I’m just making sure to not take away from focusing on my game by focusing on his. That’s the biggest thing.
(ZP): Alright, last questions about Jonesboro. Any predictions? Assuming you’re on the lead card day 2, who’s gonna be there with you this year? How low is the winner gonna go?
(RW): A lot of the same characters. I think Garrett is a really good thrower and that’s a thrower’s course. Conrad, yea, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him too. For the fourth, hmm. Someone like Cale Leviska. He’s smooth, he can shape a lot of different shots, he's great at course management, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him sneaking into the lead group if not in contention for the win. It also depends on the wind as well. If it’s calm you can shoot 10, 12, or 13 under and even better. But if it’s super windy and you’re at 5 or 6 under and you’re shooting really well. You add the wind to all the other variables that are already on the course, then it makes it really tough. It’s a great run tournament and the venue challenges the top players. That’s what we want.
(ZP): But do you think you can take home the win again?
(RW): I do. I think I can go for the three-peat. I'm psyched. I'll be putting my practice in. I'll Try to put myself in position on day two and get myself in the lead or close to it. That's my goal. If I can come down to the final stretch and I'm within three or four strokes, I know I can win. It'd be nice to be leading, but even if I’m not and I’m within a couple after round one, that’s a win for me.
(ZP): I look forward to seeing it! Before I let you go I just wanted to pick your brain for a second on one more thing. What do you think about how scores are getting lower and lower, including these 18-unders. The numbers are pretty big. What do you think that means for our sport?
(RW): It’s crazy the consistency level. Like in WACO, Paul shot an 18-down but there were also two 16-unders. There’s just so many hot scores, it’s not like back in the day where if someone had shot an 18-down they'd be ahead by 8 or 10 strokes. Nowadays, you throw a perfect round, you're only beating folks by 2,3, or 4 at the most. That's the most impressive thing – the level of everybody, not just one guy. It's made the sport look better and it's made everyone work a lot harder. You can't get complacent. I think a lot of players are noticing that if you aren't putting in the work in the off-season, somebody else is and they're gonna pass you up. Now we’re treating it like a professional sport, which it is. We’re doing workout routines, we’re doing stretching routines, we’re eating healthy. All the things professional athletes need to do to be successful, we’re doing it. And I think it’s translating into the course and the scores we’re shooting.
(ZP): So do you like seeing these types of low scores or do you prefer seeing a tournament with a closer pack and a final score closer to par than we are these days?
You know, I think if I had my choice, then I would choose a tournament with lower scores. If we're playing a three-round tournament then we're seeing people winning with 30 or 35-under and maybe even closer to 40. I'd like to see it closer to 20 or 25, if possible. It's just so hard to challenge the players because a lot of players are so good at so many different shots – we can go over the trees on certain shots, we can throw certain angles and certain distances that course designers haven’t caught up to yet. All the players are so much better, I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it’s gonna take a minute for the course design to catch up to our actual skill level.
(ZP): That’s a good perspective on it. Do you think there’s any course on the tour that offers that challenge right now?
(RW): I think a course like USDGC is close. That's really challenging because of the OB's there. That's one. And then a totally different style would be the Delaware course for the NT. That one's super wooded, super challenging. Those are two opposite courses that both offer that kind of challenge in terms of scoring par. That's what I like to see. Having a par three that's a really good two, and a par four that you have to work hard to get a three. Now the courses are all birdie-or-die. If you're not shooting 10, 12, or 13 under, you're not gonna win.
(ZP): I total agree with you. Alright Ricky, thank you so much for taking the time to talk today. Best of luck to you out on the course!
It's hard to beat all that wisdom from a world champ. I know I'll be thinking about that advice the next time I'm staring down a pressure putt. If you hear someone yelling "Wysocki!" on a course near you it's probably me trying to cash one. Make sure you follow Ricky on all his socials Twitter and Instagram @Sockibomb13 and on YouTube at Ricky "Sockibomb" Wysocki. Oh and don't forget to watch the Play It Again Sports Jonesboro Open Live this week starting on Friday at 10:00 AM for FPO and 4:30 PM EST for MPO.
This article written by Staff Editor and Writer Zach Podhorzer. All photography credit to Alyssa Van Lanen.
Paige Pierce is no stranger to winning and after enough wins it starts to become more and more likely you win the same event again, and again, and in some cases again. In this case, Paige Pierce has won the young but challenging Jonesboro Open every time it's been held. This week Pierce will try her hand at a hat trick of wins at Disc Side of Heaven and her first big win of 2019. In 2017 it was a battle with Sarah Hokom that Pierce won on the last hole and in 2018 while everyone was battle for second place Pierce locked up the win with a 10 throw lead. The course certainly plays to Paige's proficiencies, measuring in at almost 9000' of play for the women, unsurprisingly Pierce wants more - more distance and more equity. I was luck enough to chat with Paige yet again as she was ramping up for the event. We talked everything from practice routines to stat talk to even a shout out distance challenge. You'll find it all below for your reading pleasure. For transparency, we spoke before Paige's win this last weekend at the Nick Hyde Memorial.
Zach Podhorzer (ZP): Thanks again for taking the time to talk again. I was thinking that we could start with a question a lot of people are going to be curious about. Comparing your 2018 start to your 2019 start, I think we all want to know, where are the wins, Paige? Is the field catching you? Or are you not playing up to your scoring potential?
Paige Pierce (PP): I think a little of both for sure. People are playing really hot. Catrina's game looked amazing at WACO. I didn't go to Belton but I saw she shot really well there too. And you know Eveliina shot really well at the Memorial. I think at Vegas it definitely was the latter, but for the other two, it was kind of a mixture.
(ZP): You had some good hot rounds in those second two events – memorial and Waco – but there were definitely some blips in your performance there too. That leaves me wondering, what has felt like your strength this year and what do you need to improve on heading into the rest of the season?
(PP): Hmm. I think that’s the problem, I feel like I’m playing some good holes, I’m putting well, I’m driving well, I’m throwing upshots well, but not all together in one round. I'm having bad holes and to be at the top of the game you kind of have to avoid that. So I think that’s been the thing, just not putting a full round together yet.
(ZP): I can see that in your rounds. You’ve had some great stretches bu as we already discussed, no big wins. So is there a hole this year that stands out where you really put it together this year?
(PP): Well, I got an eagle at WACO so that's probably the one.
(ZP): Good choice. What about the other side of the coin. Is there a hole you look back on and think, “that’s exactly what’s been the problem with my game this season?”
(PP): Yea, I think the second par five at WACO, hole 12, I took an eight on it. Sure, it's a par five, but you know, triple bogeys are just not good. I early released off the tee and left myself in a terrible position. Had to pitch out. From the pitch out I had another early release, and just barely progressed down the fairway. A lot of small errors but on a tight par five like that it’s gonna be very detrimental to your score.
(ZP): For sure. Playing those par fives from the rough doesn’t offer you much chance to advance towards the basket. So how do you think your game this season will translate to a course like Disc Side of Heaven for the Jonesboro Open?
(PP): It's mostly open so it leaves you more room for error. There are some holes you have to hit a slightly tight gap but nothing compared to the bEast we just came from. Towards the end of the weekend at WACO, I was starting to get my release point really dialed in. That’s something that’s not just me but a lot of people struggle to stay consistent with. For me, I notice when I’m off that it’s my release point. It’s not like my timing's off or my angles are off. I’m either letting go of the disc early or holding on to it. Out there at Jonesboro that shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Like I said, I’m worried more about just finishing a whole round - playing a consistent round.
(ZP): In terms of playing that consistent round. Are you finding it’s a mental problem? You were mentioning not finding your release point. But for example, Memorial and Vegas there’s a little bit more room for error on your release point but we're still seeing you not quite get those rounds together. Where does that come from?
(PP): Definitely mental. I think disc golf is such a mental game. Clearly, something's not there. I'm thinking a lot instead of just throwing. So I think I need to try and channel blank brain. Just wipe the brain and rely on what I've been doing in practice and trust that it translates into the round. It's the same thing but it's different feelings because you don't really practice these pressure situations – chasing the lead or having to get yourself a lead and then hold it. You can practice learning your discs but you don't practice for those situations. So I just need to get back into the swing of it and focus on calming my brain down.
Honestly, I was trying to break it down for myself personally, I don’t really use my mini unless I go out of bounds or if I make an error it’s just kind of a mental note for me. You know how in tennis they count on forced errors, I kinda count that for myself. So however many times I put down my mini I know I made that mistake. I've had just way, way, way too many of them at the last couple events. You know earlier we were talking about hole 12, it kind of set me up for errors, so I have to minimize those errors big time.
(ZP): Right. Especially at a course like that, for a player like you who can really excel on the open shots, just getting through the wooded ones can give you a much better shot at winning.
(PP): That’s my favorite kind of golf though.
(ZP): Playing in the woods like that?
(PP): Yea, I Love it.
(ZP): Comparing your 2018 Jonesboro stats to your 2019 Season stats, I like to look at the discrepancies. For example, In 2018 at Jonesboro you were 14% better at hitting fairways than your 2019 season so far. Some of this is the result of how the different courses play, but do you think that might have something to do with the mental block you've been facing this season?
(PP): Even if I can't shake this mental thing I think it's going to be quite a bit higher because the fairways are so wide there. Literally the first year we went there, a lawn mower company was the sponsor because there's that much grass that we're playing in. I don't think that one should be a problem. I think the bigger problem is that the Birdie Percentage is down by 9% and Circle 1 Putting's down quite a bit as well.
(ZP): Right. Looking at this year's FPO stats rankings, C1X Putting is the only category you're not in the top three still. You're leading or close to leading in Fairways, Parked, Circle 1 & 2 in Regulation, and even in Circle 2 Putts at 18%. At that rate, you're making a lot more than most people. But at Jonesboro last year you only made 9%. What do you think causes that? Is it the course? The way you’re putt’s feeling? The snow?
(PP): Sometimes you’re on. Sometime’s you're not. You know, on a Circle 2 Putt you're essentially throwing up a prayer. For me, I'm always aiming at the basket, so that parts not different. But it's just farther than a lot of us practice. We're trying to perfect our putts inside the circle because we're intending on getting closer. We're not really going out and practicing circle 2 putts. That one is just gonna come, if you're hot, you might land forty feet away but it feels like twenty.
(ZP): Looking back at the short history of the Jonesboro Open I have to say I’m pretty frustrated there was no camera on your first round in 2018 when you shot a 54. The closest round to that in a tournament is a 60, and that’s still your score. Can you give me a sense of what brought that round together compared to the other great scores you’ve put down at Disc Side of Heaven?
(PP): I think honestly, I was just on a roll. I was only thinking "how do I get my disc closer to the basket." Sometimes you’re thinking about "what angle? What percentage of power? How far to the right?" You know sometimes though, you get tunnel vision - “there’s the metal get it close”. Honestly, it is so much of a mental game that sometimes you’re just in the zone and that’s what happens when players shoot rounds like that one.
(ZP): Let's get into the competition a little bit. Catrina Allen - much better start in 2019, riding the WACO win right now and the Open at Belton, even though she had a tough final round on the green at JBO in 2018, how do you expect her to play this year?
(PP): I don’t think so. Putting in a certain round doesn’t transfer to the next year. If she was on a bad putting streak, certainly it might be a factor, but her game and her putt is looking great right now. But that’s not something I can control, I just have to play my own game. I think she’ll be right there, if I’m messing up it’ll be someone else’s to win. I just have to minimize my mistakes.
I think also you’re going to see a good showing from Hanna Blumroos, she’s from Finland, she was number two in the world at one point last year, and a really good young player sponsored by Prodiscus. So I’m assuming she wants to put on a show for her sponsor on her first trip to the US and get her name out there.
(ZP): Speaking of Europeans. I heard you signed up to play the European Open just to play Eveliina again.
(PP): Yea. Eveliina, and Henna.
(ZP): I love seeing it become even more international and getting them over here which really bolsters the FPO field.
Back on this side of the pond I'm curious to hear your take on Madison Walker. She just won Throw Down the Mountain and finished last year's Jonesboro Open charging in the final round to tie your hot round for the day. Where do you think she'll factor in this year?
(PP): She is getting better and better for sure. She's getting a much better backhand. The course is really long though, so I don't see her getting quite enough birdie opportunities. She might get herself some Circle 2 Putts, but like we just talked about, those are maybes, you can't really count on them. She's a great player, but she's not the person I'm thinking of who's gonna be right there with me coming down the stretch.
(ZP): How about Sarah Hokom? She was only two off in 2017, and was part of the battle for second in 2018, but that battle was 10 throws behind you. How do you see her backhand improving more and that plus her forehand on this track?
(PP): Sarah plays really well there. I remember the battle with her in 2017 pretty vividly. That was a really fun one coming down the stretch. It came down to the last hole. Sarah Hokom is a world champion and a fierce competitor. You always have to be thinking about her, that she's going to be there. Also, she just got a new mold in her bag. I just hung out with her a few days ago and she was super stoked. Last year before the MVP switch she was throwing Legacy but had a mixed bag with the Jokeri in there. When she switched to MVP she didn’t have an overstable putter or approach disc. S she’s been struggling with that, but she got one two days ago and she’s loving it. I think she’s gonna be shooting even a couple of strokes hotter now. You know when you have a gap in your bag and you find that replacement? It definitely saves you a few strokes.
(ZP): Totally. you can just lean on it then.
(PP): Exactly. And like you said she’s been working on her backhand. I don’t know how much she’s gonna bust it out at Jonesboro. She really only does it if the shot absolutely calls for it but she's getting more and more confident off the tee with it and any time she needs it, she's getting more comfortable. Definitely, one to watch.
(ZP): Watching the 2018 coverage she was doing commentary for, the thing she pointed out time and time again - “I should have gone with the backhand here!” I’m curious to see if she’ll lean on that wisdom from 2018.
Okay, last player that was in the mix, of course, a distance player, Jennifer Allen. She was competitive last year but she can struggle with the putt too. Have you played with her at all this year? How's her game looking?
(PP): No, I have not this year. Maybe one round at Vegas, but I'm pretty sure we didn't play yet this year. She is a hot and cold player and she hasn't experienced a big win yet. She puts up really big rounds and gets way down the fairway, but without having that big win, she hasn't really overcome that kind of pressure we talked about earlier. Not to say she can't break through that, because that's how you get the big win. You break through. Like with Madison, I know she's capable but I don't see her being the one that's right there.
(ZP): Totally. You’ve gotta get it off your back. While we’re on the topic though. Who throws further? You or Jen?
(PP): I’ve never lost a distance contest. And Jen was at every one of them. I’ll challenge you Jen, any day of the week, let’s go.
(ZP): I would love to see that! While we're on the topic of distance I do want to touch on the number of teepads that have been shifted. Going off last year’s numbers, half the holes were shortened for the women. There was a total 1200’ discrepancy between the tees MPO played and the tees FPO played. I’m curious, on a course like Jonesboro does it feel like it’s better for the parity in your division, or does it still feel to you like you need to be playing the same tees and pushing your game on those lines?
(PP): Yea, you know my stance on it, but I can talk about it again. If you want?
(ZP): I hear ya and I agree. Specifically, Jonesboro is one of the longest tracks you'll play all season. Does that make a difference?
(PP): Right, but that's why we travel the country to play these courses. Why shorten them all? we might as well just play the same course every week if you're gonna just keep shortening them. One of the things about going to Jonesboro is that it’s a big property with rolling hills that you’re having to throw over and really flex your disc out there to get yourself close. When we keep shortening half of the holes it’s making the course easier than it was and we’re getting better. It doesn't make sense.
(ZP): I totally agree with you. I think that property is one of the perfect places to say “let’s open it up and let everyone really rip on the disc”. How about hole 15? downhill across a little valley to a raised basket next to the trunk of a downed tree. Y'all play that as a par 4 while the men play it as a par 3 from the same teepad. What do you think of that “solution”?
(PP): I don’t think it’s a par 4 by any means. Distance wise it’s the same as a par three. I think that women don’t really know how to control angles as well as the men and so when you’re throwing downhill like that a lot of them have a hard time not getting the disc flat. So it kinda feels long because you're going down hill and then it fluffs off into that OB left. You can see the top players in our division control the disc well and get down there for a putt though.
(ZP): Definitely. you would have had a Circle 2 Putt last year in the final round, but that was on a less than ideal drive that left you in the rough with a frustrating lay up for birdie. Birdie should never be that kind of frustrating!
Alright, we've covered a lot but we have one big question left - Predictions?
(PP): I think I’m gonna battle it out with Henna Blumroos. But I’m gonna win it. Henna, I love you. But I gotta root for myself, right?
Hard to say it better than that, Paige. It's always a treat to talk with such an incredible player and genuinely awesome person. Since our interview Paige has picked up her first real win of the year - just in time to ride that momentum through another win at Jonesboro. So what do you think? can Pierce threepeat? Or will Henna Blumroos or Catrina Allen steal her spotlight? Make sure to find out by watching live all weekend. Also, don't forget to check out Paige just about everywhere on social media: She’s on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @PPierce29190 and you can find her on her YouTube channel and her Disc Golf Tourist series with Alyssa Van Lanen on her channel. There are some great new Episodes of Nice Line! and Disc Golf Tourist just waiting to be consumed! Until then, please go make the best of Spring and Day Light Savings and get those weekday evening rounds in!
This article written by Staff Editor and Writer Zach Podhorzer. All photography credit to Alyssa Van Lanen.
Notice: The Jonesboro Open will be broadcast this weekend exclusively on the new https://www.dgpt.tv please let your friends know and plan to watch there.
The Jonesboro Open kicks off the week, and while the Disc Side of Heaven course will not see any significant changes, there will be a new feel surrounding the tournament.
The 2019 Jonesboro Open features a new title sponsor in Play It Again Sports. The local Jonesboro PIAS stepped up as a title sponsor which changed the name of the event to the Play It Again Sports Jonesboro Open but also adds a boost to the purse making the total added cash for the professional division $15,000. Cameron Campbell, the owner of the local PIAS store, had the following to say: “Even before the purchase of the store I was amazed at the growth of the sport in our area and how amazing it was to have Jonesboro on the Disc Golf Pro Tour map! When I got in the store, it just made sense to offer up any support I could. When this opportunity presented, it just fit! We are extremely excited about this partnership. Not only will this be good for our business to be on board with, but it’s important to me to give back. Our community has supported the store for over ten years, and the disc golf patrons have been among the strongest supporters, so I felt I owed it to those customers and our community to give back my support. We look forward to making this ‘THE Stop’ on the tour!”
A new title sponsor is not the only thing to join the Jonesboro Open schedule. Buffalo Wild Wings has increased its sponsorship this year to become the naming sponsor of the player's party which will take place on Friday at 7:30 pm local time. Chris Reed, from the Jonesboro restaurant, had this to say regarding the partnership, “Buffalo Wild Wings strives to be the place for our community to come together to enjoy sports. Whether you are a participant or a spectator, the seasoned pro, or a child bouncing around the crowd to meet their favorite athlete. The Jonesboro Open gives us the opportunity to be just what we were meant to be.” Reed continued, “For the second year in a row, the tournament has let us be a sponsor of the event that brings participants and spectators together. We are excited to be a partner and keep great sporting events coming into our community.”
Not to be outdone, North Delta Engineering will be providing a players dinner on Thursday night and is sponsoring the media day on Thursday afternoon as well. This is the business's first year sponsoring the event, but owner Jordan Lane is happy to help support the event: “I have traveled across the country playing in disc golf tournaments for many years. To see what we have been able to build in Jonesboro is truly a dream come true.” said Lane. “We have built this tournament from the ground up, and there is a lot of momentum right now, I hope others join me to help build this bigger and better each year.”
What may be the most exciting news of all is that the Jonesboro Open has chosen to partner with a local charity as well. The Jonesboro Open has partnered with The Arkansas Pet Savers to help raise funds and awareness for the organization. Members of The Arkansas Pet Savers are going to work before the tournament selling sponsorships and during the tournament as volunteers at the course. After the tournament, a portion of the proceeds from the event will be donated back to TAPS to help continue their mission. TAPS event coordinator Kendra Wattelet, had this to say about the partnership: “The Arkansas Pet Savers are honored to collaborate with the 2019 Jonesboro Open. This is a fantastic event spotlighting the city of Jonesboro and will bring National, as well as, International attention to Arkansas. It is our hope that the success of this event will bring a greater awareness of homeless pets within our region.“ Wattelet continued, “Knowing that I played a part in saving so many abandoned pets is the greatest feeling in the world. It can definitely be sad and overwhelming, but when I look into the eyes of a dog we have pulled from death’s door, it is 100% worth it. I want other people to know that being involved in rescue doesn’t mean just fostering and donating, there are so many other ways to help, and I invite anyone who is interested in helping to contact our page.”
This is just a small slice of the events surrounding the Play It Again Sports Jonesboro Open presented by Prodiscus. The festivities begin on Thursday with the media day and players dinner. The action will kick-off Friday at 10 AM ET for the lead FPO feature card and 4:30 PM ET for the lead MPO feature card. You can watch both rounds live exclusively on https://www.dgpt.tv. On Friday night the player's party will take place at Buffalo Wild Wings starting at 7:30 PM local time. On Saturday competition will resume at the same times as Friday and the Festival of the Flying Discs and Flymart will take place starting at 6:30 PM local time at Disc Side of Heaven.
It may be only the third event on tour, but it's shaping up to be an event you will not want to miss. Make plans to tune in on https://www.dgpt.tv and watch all of the action April 12-14.
How old is the event?
2019 will be the 3rd Year.
Did you imagine the event being one of the premier events in the world?
Honestly, yes. The Course was designed for this very purpose. I wanted to have one of the longest most challenging permanent disc golf courses in the world to attract the best to Jonesboro to play it.
What makes your event unique (course, atmosphere, side-events)?
The course is set on approximately 50 acres of rolling hills and one-hundred year old oak trees. The only thing on those 50 acres is a disc golf course. I believe the players enjoy the opportunity to play a course that is meant just for them.
Are there any new extras (off-site or on-site events) or changes to the event for 2019?
Nothing set in stone yet, still working on something that I hope happens in 2019.
Are there any changes to the MPO course?
Yes, we are going to slightly adjust hole #4 and hole #7. We continue to lose trees on #4 so we are going to have to get creative to make it more challenging. We have plans to move the tee box back on #7 to make it play even more uphill and longer.
Are there any changes to the FPO course?
No, nothing major, other than hole #4 notes from above. We are also considering moving #9 from a Par 5 back to a Par 4 like it was in the inaugural year.
Has being a Disc Golf Pro Tour event helped you grow?
What is your favorite funny or entertaining story from running this event?
Easy, SNOW ROUND. The FPO second round of the 2018 Jonesboro Open was played during a snowstorm, in Arkansas, in April! Very unusual and talked about across the country/world!
Are there any particular shots/scores you remember from past events?
2019 first rounds by Garrett Gurthie and Paige Pierce. The shot that I can still see in my head is Jennifer Allen's very first shot in 2018, the very first competitive throw in the Jonesboro Open.
How great is your staff? and Why?
Staff is tremendous. Countless hours of work and preparation to get ready each year.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.