Eight months ago, the 2019 Disc Golf Pro Tour season kicked off at The Memorial Championship presented by Discraft. The Memorial has served as the start of the season for the Disc Golf Pro Tour since 2017. The Memorial will return for that role in 2020. As we look back at the year, we will be highlighting stats and our venues over the next few weeks.
The Memorial Championship was in its 31st in 2019. It featured two courses, the picturesque Fountain Hills and the extended Vista Del Camino layout. This year featured playing Fountain Hills first and Vista Del Camino second, avoiding a flip-flop between the courses.
The purse for this event was $53,338. With 183 MPO and 32 FPO players, the field increased in size by one MPO player and six FPO players over the previous year.
This year saw Eveliina Salonen take home the win in the FPO division, becoming the first European Champion of The Memorial for FPO. On the MPO side, Eagle McMahon finished just ahead of Simon Lizotte, flipping the finish from the previous year.
The Memorial Championship provides an exciting starting ground for the Disc Golf Pro Tour season. It features many highly rated rounds such as Eagle and Simon's first round this year, or McBeth's 1132 rated 39 at Fountain in 2013. We are looking forward to kicking off the 2020 season with The Memorial February 27-March 1.
To commemorate the 2019 Memorial, just like we have in previous years, we will have a Memorial Championship venue card in the 2020 Disc Golf Pro Tour Trading Card pack. You can guarantee receiving a venue card when you purchase an all card exclusive pack. Grab yours today.
Open skies and fairways often make for hot scores, and the Memorial Championship presented by Discraft provided exactly that. This year’s MPO winner is Eagle Wynn McMahon at 49 under par. He didn’t string it together wire-to-wire, but by the end of round three, he had secured a lead over Simon Lizotte that he would never let go of. As the defending champ, Lizotte was more than likely to be in the mix at the top, and he certainly didn’t disappoint, wrapping up the tournament at one better than his showing in 2018 with a 45 under par. Not far behind him in third was Jalle Stoor finishing the event at 43 under par. Paul McBeth and Ricky Wysocki did their best to charge for their share of second. Even without either of them throwing a single bogey today, they were held at bay and tied for fourth at 42 under par.
Friday afternoon, probably around 5:30 PM EST – that’s the list time Eagle McMahon threw a bogey, and the only time he did it this weekend. Taking a look at his four rounds for the week looks like a traffic jam of blue boxes. There were only a few moments where he even carded more than one par in a row. The best chain he strung together was undoubtedly his back nine at Fountain Hills during round two. It was perfect nine birdies, all in Circle 1, five of em’ parked. He might have been just behind Lizotte during the first two rounds at Fountain, but his determination to win the event was clearly unflinching as he started the whole thing with an almost flawless first front nine. Of course, hole 9 (the only hole McBeth missed on his historic 17 under round) ended that first streak, but he had plenty left, stringing together six birdies or more in a row four times this weekend.
Obviously, if you win the event you are going to rank pretty high on most of the stats that UDisc tracks, but if you take a look at Eagle’s you’ll see the value of a well-rounded game. Once we switched over to tracking Circle 1x Putts (so not including tap-ins under 15’) it would make sense to see the benchmark for ranking high fall a little. I guess Eagle didn’t the message, placing second in Circle 1x Putts at 97%, he should probably try putting left-handed though, because it’s southpaw Chris Clemons that kept it 100 in Circle 1x Putts this weekend. But I digress, I could keep telling you how well he shot or you could just take a look for yourself:
If you haven’t been following along, spoiler, Simon Lizotte start this event hot, and honestly, he never let the fire cool. It was just Eagle who stoked his flames when Simon’s flickered, but at the Memorial, you just can’t slip if you want to seal the deal. By the end of day two, Eagle was certainly close to Simon (he was practically his shadow for the first two rounds) but the odds still seemed to be in Simon’s favor as his momentum had no signs of faltering. Two rounds in the books at Fountain it was time to move on over to Vista and that’s where Simon first encountered trouble. By the end of hole six, Eagle had taken one with a birdie on hole 5 and Simon had given him another with a bogey on hole six.
They battled neck-and-neck until disaster leapt up to catch Simon on hole 16. Both Simon and Eagle opted for the forehand, it’s definitely the safer shot to trust, but as Eagle’s drive showed when you play the angle into the hill instead of with it, you run the chance of a roll away. Simon kept it out a bit wider and left himself a clean putt, little did he know the mess he was about to be in. The putt looked good enough, albeit a bit left, but it was good enough to stick, flipping out of the chains and onto the slope. A wobble here, a wobble there and a rollaway would define the day. All of a sudden Simon was carding a double bogey after drawing at least half the chains on his birdie putt. After two clean rounds at Fountain, Simon carded two three bogeys and a double bogey in two rounds at Vista. That’s all five of the throws he would have needed to best Eagle. Instead, it ended up being the cushion that let Eagle play safe for the last handful of throws at Vista. Even if he was trailing Eagle by a few too many after round three he still had to worry about securing second place.
And Eagle McMahon wasn’t the only podium finish to get there almost entirely clean through the weekend. Jalle Stoor also hasn’t bogeyed since Friday afternoon where he carded his only Bogey of the even on a historically challenging hole - Fountain Hills Hole 9. Most of the field would probably be more than happy to have finished the tournament with a three and a four on hole nine, that’s just how tough the peninsula is to stick your drive on. Jalle certainly kept the birdies pouring down but he just couldn’t compete with the torrential flow Eagle had unleashed. Stoor did keep Lizotte on his toes for the final round though.
If you are hankering for a birdie-fest then re-watching this year’s Memorial Championship presented by Discraft is the stuff dreams are made of. Between Eagle and Simon and the cast of pros that joined them on the lead card over the four rounds. We might not have caught it on camera but before we close this out, we’ve gotta celebrate Morgan Rasmussen’s 255’ ace on hole 13 at Fountain Hills, Steve Rico’s 375’ ace on hole 14 at Fountain too. And it wouldn’t be a Pro Tour event without at least an eagle or two so big props to Anthony Barela for his 60’ to follow up his almost 600’ drive on hole 10 at Vista. The action may be over here in Arizona but we won’t be gone for long as in only two weeks we’ll be in Waco Texas for the Waco Annual Charity Open. Make sure to keep checking back here and follow us all over social media to get hyped for the second stop of the 2019 Pro Tour. Congrats Eagle!!!
This article written by Staff Editor and Writer Zach Podhorzer. All photography credit to Alyssa Van Lanen.
Today The Memorial Championship presented by Discraft transitioned from Fountain Hills to Vista Del Camino, and the scoring continued to stay hot for the MPO division, and the FPO division had its share of scoring as well.
In the FPO division, four women tied for the hot round at -2, all of whom made the cut. Madison Walker started the day below the cut line and with her -2 day she was able to move above the cut line and into the cash. Sarah Hokom and Rebecca Cox also had -2 days which moved them both into a tie for fourth place going into the final day of competition. Eveliina Salonen also had a -2 day that pushed her into the lead going into Championship Sunday. It is clear the conditions at Vista are ripe for scoring, and it will be exciting to watch and see how the players perform down the stretch tomorrow. Make plans to tune in and watch the live coverage starting at 10 AM ET.
In the MPO division, 13 players scored in double digits under par. Justin Bilodeau, Chris Clemons, KJ Nybo, and Josh Anthon all scored -10. Austin Hannum, Adam Hammes, Paul McBeth, Philo Brathwaite, and Scott Withers all carded -11. Grady Shue and JohnE McCray finished the day at -12. To round out the day Jalle Stoor and Eagle McMahon tied for the hot round at -13. The scoring was out there for the MPO division, and many players will be looking to make their mark as they jockey for final position at The Memorial.
The scoring has been great all week at The Memorial Championship presented by Discraft, don't look for it to let up tomorrow. You can catch the live coverage starting at 10 AM ET for the women and 4:45 PM ET for the men.
Day one is in the books for the FPO division at The Memorial Championship presented by Discraft. Scoring proved to be difficult at Fountain Hills, and the FPO division paced themselves with the top 1/3 of the field all within three throws of each other. Six players finished the day tied for the lead at even par. Paige Pierce is the only player who finished at one over par, then there two trios of FPO players who finished at plus two and plus three respectively.
The back nine at Fountain Hills plays significantly easier than the front nine providing plenty of opportunities for scoring. Missy Gannon took advantage of the opportunity by carding birdies on 12, 13, and 16 which helped her overcome two bogeys from the front nine. She would finish at even par after carding a bogey on the difficult hole 18.
A face we do not get to see often in the states also started the tournament off with a good round. Eveliina Salonen carded four birdies today which tied Catrina Allen for the most birdies on the course for round one. However, Eveliina was trying to recover from an OB double bogey on hole two and by her fourth birdie had moved into sole possession of first place at one under par. However, on the last hole of her round she carded her second OB of the day on hole 18 and finished with a bogey. Catrina Allen used her four birdies to offset seven bogeys during the first round, most of which came on the tricky front nine of the course. By capitalizing on the back nine, Catrina was able to finish the day +3 and only three throws out of first place.
The top three women teeing off on the lead card tomorrow will be Jennifer Allen, Jessica Weese, and Zoe Andyke. All three players carded three birdies and three bogeys during round one. Each player had their unique way of getting to their even-par finish with Jennifer Allen and Jessica Weese taking two of their three bogeys on the front nine and Zoe Andyke saving all of her scoring (both good and bad) for the back half of the course.
Maria Olivia used an 89% scramble rate to have the most consistent round of the FPO division carding her only bogey on hole eight and her only birdie on hole five. Maria will round out the top four even rounds to be on the lead card coverage tomorrow morning starting at 10 AM ET.
Notable players who did not finish in that top 1/3 include Sarah Hokom who finished the day a plus four and reigning World Champion Paige Bjerkaas who finished the day a plus seven.
It is still anyone's race at the top, and we look forward to returning tomorrow at 10 AM ET with FPO coverage from The Memorial Championship presented by Discraft.
How do you write about the beginning of the 2018 season and not talk about the dominance that Paige Pierce rained down from the teepad? It’s just about impossible to not mention that she started the season with nine consecutive wins, three of which were on the Pro Tour and three were on the National Tour. Until Sarah Hokom clenched the win at the inaugural San Francisco Open we were all wondering if she Pierce might sweep the year. Now we know that’s not the case, but that shouldn’t take away from celebrating the impressive streak she started 2018 with.
So the question is, did Paige play worse or did the field play better? Well, to figure it out I put together this chart of her 2018 Ratings History from events sanctioned a B-Tier or higher. The findings pretty much speak for themselves.
The slight reduction in Paige's performance over the year doesn't account for the closing of what was often a handful if not a couple handfuls of throws over the competition at many of the events. By the numbers, Pierce still has the highest ceiling of the division. On the chart of the best-rated rounds, Pierce is all over the leaderboards on courses with a Scratch Scoring Estimate (SSA) of 54 or higher. But as more women pick up the sport and want to compete at an elite level, the figurative floor of the field is climbing fast. If you haven't read our article on the growth of the women's game at the elite level you can check it out here.
Why is this important? Because as we head into this new season we've seen more players taking the off-season seriously. The training and practice have already produced some interesting results with Paige Bjerkaas taking down her first National Tour win in Vegas last week while Paige Pierce finished 8 throws back of the leader in a tie for seventh. Bjerkaas missed the Memorial last year, but there are some similarities between the course at the Las Vegas Challenge and the Memorial, so it isn't a bad indicator of how her game may play in Arizona.
In 2018 Pierce won by 11 throws. If Vegas is any indication of the parity in the sport then a safe prediction wouldn’t give Pierce the same margin of victory. While Pierce was tearing up the lead though, there was a round of hot potato going on to share the lead card with Pierce. There wasn’t a single player besides her to make the lead card on rounds two through four. Out the gates, it was Catrina Allen, Jennifer Allen, and Sarah Hokom. A double-bogey six on hole 7 at Vista Del Camino kept Catrina Allen from another round on the lead card. She was replaced by Jessica Weese. Next, it was Hokom’s turn to drop to the chase card as a slow back nine saw her Fountain Hills round end at a +1 on the day.
Jumping from the chase card up to the lead card for the final day with an almost completely clean round three was Lisa Fajkus. Her single bogey from an out of bounds drive was the only blemish on her third round – the rest of it? six birdies, three of which were absolutely parked. Even after all of that she still trailed Pierce by thirteen at the start of the final round and was two off of second place. Second was now occupied by Jennifer Allen who had also managed to fight her way on to the Lead card and was tied with Jessica Weese who had held her own.
The front nine of the final round at Vista Del Camino was only friendly to Paige Pierce. Fajkus and Weese both managed to get one below par before they reached the tenth tee, while Jennifer had suffered a total two over par on the front. All the while Pierce just kept scoring – five birdies and one bogey to be exact. After hole six Pierce wouldn’t even card a single par in the rest of the event. Opting to battle herself. Birdie for bogey, bogey for birdie (If you haven’t read her Mind of a Champion interview yet you can do so here). But in the battle for second, the deciding factor ended up being hole 13, where Weese took a double bogey five to Fajkus’ par and the two were tied with five to throw. Weese pulled ahead by one on 17 with a Circle 2 Putt, but Fajkus had something to say about it, I think the line goes “anything you can do I can do better” – Fajkus almost doubled Weese’s putt on 17 with her 60 footer on 18 for the tie. Now that’s a pressure putt.
When I take into account how great the battle for second was at the 2018 Memorial and the rising floor of the women’s division, I think we’re going to have a close one this year at the 2019 Memorial Championship Presented by Discraft. Oh, and I forgot to mention it here but I’m sure you know, we’re broadcasting every FPO lead card live every day. Make sure to check out the schedule below so you don’t miss a second of the action. Until then get out there and defy gravity.
This article written by Staff Editor and Writer Zach Podhorzer. All photography credit to Alyssa Van Lanen.
It’s hard to talk about the MPO edition of the 2018 Memorial Championship Presented by Discraft without talking about Simon Lizotte, but I already did that last week in his Mind of a Champion interview. If you haven't already, make sure to check it out before the event begins to read up on his off-season, training, and some helpful hints dashed in there to improve your game. Even though he was the winner last year, we can't just talk about Simon when it comes to this year's rendition of the Memorial, but we will be talking about his win plenty!. It’s important to remember, a “hyzer-festival” (as Simon calls the Memorial) isn’t necessarily easier than other events for all the touring pros. But for the sky tickling big arms, a meaty bag overstable plastic could put them in contention for the win.
Before Simon could tap in his winning putt, there were a full four rounds of action that had to unfold. Day one saw a five-way tie for the hot round at Fountain Hills at -10 between Ricky Wysocki, Nikko Locastro, Karl Johan Nybo, JohnE McCray, and Teemu Nissinen. None of them would go on to finish on the podium – Wysocki was the closest with his fourth-place finish. Simon wasn’t far off though, he was locked in a three-way tie for second with Eagle McMahon and Eric Oakley only one back from the leaders at -9.
Day two decided it preferred chaos over order as Nikko was the only leader from day one to hold onto a lead card spot after day two with another 10 down, this time at Vista Del Camino. Ricky actually stayed tied with Nikko but neither of them was able to keep up the handful of players in the top ten jostling for position. Nate Sexton, Paul McBeth, and James Conrad all posted -13s to tie for the hot round and there was only one single bogey between the bunch of them. Add to that list a couple of -12s, and four -11s (one of which was Simon) and the whole leaderboard got a good shuffle for day three.
Day three was when Simon really put some weight on the pedal and boy did he take off. Of the four players on the lead card, Simon was the only one to never call out anything besides a birdie or a par. Eagle was only two away with two bogeys, so make those pars and they tie. Make those bogeys birdies, and Eagle would have cleaned Fountain Hills out with a borderline superhuman 16. Up till that point Simon and Eagle had never been more than a throw or two away from each other, so to be headed into the final round only two behind would mean he likely was Simon's only legitimate competition for this event.
It sounds odd to say it, but Paul really fell off on round 3 at fountain hills, tossing a -6. That’s only about a third of what he threw in his historic 17 down at Fountain Hills for the Memorial. Nikko’s round wasn’t great, but he looked to be ready to stay in the hunt until catastrophe struck on hole 18, a hole that Nikko had aced in a previous edition of the Memorial years back. Trusting a Star Destroyer out wide of the right side path, Nikko just played it too safe. With almost no skip back left towards the basket, he was left with a lengthy Circle 2 look. Whether he knew it at the time or not, a lot was riding on that putt. It looked pure, he started to run it down, and then the disc skipped high off the top of the basket, bouncing once on the grass before rolling directly into the lake. His lengthy uphill come back put struck center but low, bouncing off the cage and rolling back out for yet another long putt that caught the top of the basket again, but flopped emphatically on the ground next to the basket and stayed. With that, Nikko lost his spot on the lead card and fell all the way to third.
That’s just how tight the leaderboard is at this tournament – a single botched outing on the green can leave you cards behind where you were at the beginning of your round. That’s what makes birdie-or-die golf so exhilarating to watch. When almost every hole can be birdied, you know every time you miss one some smaller or larger chunk of the field just got one on you and now you’ll have to it earn back. With only a few par 4s on each course that puts a lot of pressure on nailing every drive and sinking every putt on every hole. That level of precision is incredibly demanding but none of the players in reach of the lead had any interesting in letting off the gas.
In the final round, what started as a battle between teammates, almost became a three-person scramble for first with Nate Sexton, who hadn’t thrown a bogey since day one. He came out the gates on a tear, carding nine birdies in twelve holes before going cold for just a few too many holes to remain a relevant competitor for Simon. Eagle didn't let Simon win it easy though, by the time they had finished a third of the round, Eagle was actually in first place, but Simon fired back with seven birdies in the last twelve holes. On the 18th hole, Eagle had the green light for an ace run to force a playoff with Simon who had already laid up his drive. An absolute sky-hyzer backhand of a PD2 took flight from Eagle's hand and crossed the basket at just the right height, but just a few feet short on distance. And that was that. Simon Lizotte had rebuked the lanky bird and the charging tour veteran to pick up his first big win of the year.
You can look back over the years of this event and find a story in every round. More than any other tournament, the Memorial makes me feel like we are already right back in the thick of the season, complete with rivalries, epic battles, and incredibly low scores. I mean, Simon birdied 46 of the 72 holes they played. That’s an absurd 64% of the holes. Going off the looks of the first couple tournaments of this year, there are a couple of guys looking more than ready to prove themselves the hyzer-festival champion. Make sure to tune in this Thursday for live coverage of both the FPO and MPO feature cards as they take to the fairways and greens of Fountain Hills for the first round of the Memorial Championship Presented by Discraft.
This article written by Staff Editor and Writer Zach Podhorzer. All photography credit to Alyssa Van Lanen.
Iconic. The Memorial Championship Presented by Discraft is, among many facets, iconic. Certainly, there are tournaments that happen before the Memorial, this year we've already seen one National Tour out in Vegas. But for me, there is something about Fountain Hills that heralds the arrival of the touring season much like robins picking at the ground means Spring is upon us. We've talked about it enough already, but after what some are calling the most tumultuous off-season in our sports history, all my fingers are crossed we'll see that drama translate to the fairways, greens, and scorecards. If the results of the Las Vegas Challenge are an omen of what's to come, then I'd be willing to bet the Memorial is going to give us another great show this year.
If you want to talk Memorial and Championship then you have to start with Paige Pierce. She is easily the most decorated player in either division when it comes to this tournament. In 2018 she made it to Circle 2 In Regulation 74% of the time (and made 33% of those putts) but even that doesn’t quite match her 75% win rate at this event. She’s played eight times and won six of those showings. I caught up with Paige a few weeks ago to hear how her off-season went and how she’s preparing for the 2019 Pro Tour. You can read that full "Mind of a Champion" interview here.
The rest of the field are no slouches either, with half of the 31 player field (the largest we’ve seen at this event) within only 30 rating points of Paige, the highest rated player in her division. When it comes to a four-day tournament, 30 rating points is an entirely closeable gap. Realistically, that's only a handful of throws difference per round at most. Paige Bjerkaas is already coming off an NT win in Vegas where Pierce finished eight throws off the lead. Perhaps 2019 is the year that true parity has arrived in the upper echelon of the women's game. But as they often say here in New England, "it's hard saying not knowing," so we'll just have to wait and watch.
On the MPO side prepare to see a lead card filled with big arms, but not necessarily the biggest names. Last year Simon Lizotte eked out a 2-throw win over his Discmania Teammate Eagle McMahon. A quick look at his stats from the event will show you pretty much what you expect, the man knows how to throw. 64% birdies, 65% of the time he made Circle 1 In Regulation and of the remaining 35% that didn’t get that close, over 50% of them were in Circle 2 (for an 83% Circle 2 In Regulation). I caught up with Simon last week to chat about the Memorial for his "Mind of a Champion" interview.
Simon is going to have a lot more competition than just Eagle this year though, even with the 2018 third-place finisher, Nate Sexton, opting out of the event there are still a whopping total of seventy-three 1000-rated, or higher, players signed up for their chance at glory in Scottsdale. A quick read through of the list will show plenty of names with plenty of distance – McBeth, Wysocki, Heimburg, Paju, Jones, Locastro, Gibson, and Gurthie just to name a few. So if you like losing discs in the sky and seeing them bounce next to the basket, then this is the tournament for you.
As you might have already heard, we’re coming back this year with an even bigger media team than last year to provide you with as much coverage as we possibly can. Here is our Media Schedule so you know how to plan accordingly to catch it all:
So until we see you on the live feed Thursday, make the most of those longer and longer days and get out there and play, or at least get those putts in, because tournament season is here and we're kicking it off in the most iconic style, with the Memorial Championship Presented By Discraft.
This article written by Staff Editor and Writer Zach Podhorzer. All photography credit to Alyssa Van Lanen.
In just a couple of days, our beloved touring pros will be taking back to the same course for the first time since last year. In a few weeks the 2019 Disc Golf Pro Tour will officially kick off at the at the Memorial Championship presented by Discraft. The disc golf scene has never been bigger: off-season routines are all over social media, vans are getting tricked out beyond belief, and it seems like almost everyone has changed sponsors and every sponsor has picked up a number of new names. I was lucky enough to catch up with a contemporary legend this week to see how she is preparing to defend her title at the first pro tour stop.
That’s right, we’re talking with Paige Pierce, four time World Champion, three-time US Champion, the 2017 Pro Tour Champion, and most relevant to this article she’s walked away victorious from six out of her eight total showings at the Memorial. That’s a whopping 75% win rate. This year we want to bring you not only more of the action on the course but more of the story that brings our players to each event and how they prepare. I’ll be interviewing the champions of every 2018 Pro Tour event to get a look inside the mind of a champion. Let’s dive into it.
Zach Podhorzer (ZP): Can you start by tell me a little bit about the off-season? You’ve got a ton of projects going on right now.
Paige Pierce (PP): As soon as the season ended I started traveling back home, but Alyssa Van Lanen and I did a new series called Disc Golf Tourist. So we made a trip to on the way home and did an episode there. I spent a couple weeks at home with the fam, you know, visiting everyone I miss while I’m on the road. Then I went to Europe for a month with Alyssa and did another Disc Golf Tourist trip. This time was a little bit different, people paid to be on a road trip with us. Essentially, they had an option where they could pay to come with us. It included everything, all their meals, all the transportation between the various stops, lodging, everything like that. They had to fly there. Within these nine days, all these things were included. I thought it was cool because it’s like how we travel year round on tour. This allowed them the opportunity to join and do it with us.
ZP: How many people came with you all?
PP: Fifteen. There were nine-day, five-day, and three-day options. We’re definitely going to do it again. After Europe I came home to Kansas for a while then I left Emporia and I headed to Nashville, and I started working on my van a little bit, a couple minor adjustments that seem small but their gonna be huge. You know, after living in it for a year you’re like I need this, I need this. I worked on the van and did a lot a lot of field work and putting. Now I got to Dallas yesterday and I’ll be here for a week before I head to Vegas.
ZP: So Vegas will be your first tournament of the season?
PP: Yes. Vegas is the one that kicks it off, for sure.
ZP: How are you feeling about that?
PP: Good, I'm excited, it's not really hard, you know, you just have to stay mentally ready. Let me clarify that. The shots that are called for aren't difficult. There's not a lot of navigating or shaping of shots. You just have to throw it and then finish the hole out. So it's more of a mental thing, which I feel ready for. It can be hard to stay focused but it also can keep you really in it. If you throw one really good, you throw the next one good, you're like "alright there it is. I just gotta keep doing it."
ZP: I saw your announcement of Nice Line. I think with all the media that’s been going on to see something coming out that is focusing on the FPO game is really important. Even though there’s lots of media out there, it often feels like it’s MPO first. It’s great you’re bringing this piece of the game - following someone into the woods and watching their shot. That’s part of why I play too. it’s really fun to see how everyone is imagining their throws.
PP: Like you said, it's super fun to watch, I've been doing it for years and years. You know, maybe in the beginning, in 2011 or 12, it was like "what are you doing right behind me?" now it would be weird if I didn't. Now it's just a very common thing and we talk about it afterward. I watched Kona throw this shot last year at Worlds at Brewster, and she came out of the woods and we high-fived like normal. The rest of the round I was thinking, "people need to see that shot. That shot was amazing." It’s gonna get lost in the footage, because you know the round is 20, 25 minutes long, what if I just videoed that and had her talk about it on camera after the round? So I asked her "hey, would you be down to do that?" and she said yes. I started asking a bunch of my other competitors, “hey, would you be down to talk to the camera after the round?” and all of them said “yes”, so I was like “alright I’m doing this!”
ZP: With all of that going on what kind of practice routine are you fitting in?
PP: I practiced before I left for Europe quite a bit, but on that trip, I didn't bring my discs with me, I brought my third string discs with the intention of giving them away at the end. Just to get some Paige Pierce gear in their hands, just share the love, you know. Now: mostly fieldwork, I might go throw today at a course but I don't really keep score when I’m practicing so it doesn’t really matter. I just need to throw and make sure my timing’s right and my mechanics feel good but that’s just more of freshening up.
Practice for me is making sure I know all my discs on every angle and every power percentage. Just re-familiarize myself with my discs. I’ll do putters and mids one day, and then fairway drivers, and then drivers. On each one of those days I say, “okay let me throw this as 50% on a hyzer, 50% flat, 50% anhyzer and then 75%, and so on”. Because you never know what shot you’re going to be faced with. I think that’s something that’s super intriguing about golf and disc golf - you're never faced with the same shot. So it's a lot about adapting and improvising. I know I can never be fully prepared - none of us can - for what we're going to face.
ZP: How long do you spend before an event getting ready at the course? What about at the Memorial?
PP: At Memorial, I want at least two days, I don’t want to play more than two rounds in a day if I have to. Only really one round a day for practice. I’d like to have three days, just to be safe. I'll play both courses once for sure, and then depending on which one I feel I need a little more work on then I’ll go back to that one.
ZP: Which do you think that might be?
PP: Typically, it's Vista, because Fountain is pretty straightforward - stay in bounds on the front nine and on the back nine go for birdies. Vista has a little bit more trouble to get in if you're off. I just need to make sure I throw the correct choices there that don't have me getting into trouble off the fairways.
ZP: You’ve been talking about timing today, I’ve seen your posts emphasizing timing, what do you do to practice timing?
PP: Just repetition over and over and over. A lot of times I won’t even have a disc in my hand but I’m just making sure that my leg comes through at the same time that my arm does. My foot, my hip, and my elbow should all be hitting their front most point at the same time, and then my hips open. So on your pull through, your hips are just moving sideways, they’re not opening. They don’t open until after the disc is released. A lot of people have a misconception about that, and they start opening their hips and in turn your arm opens and it causes a big room for error as far as your release point.
ZP: That is great advice. You have quite the history at the memorial, correct me if I’m wrong but I think it looks something like this: in 2011, your first Memorial, you win; 2012 – you take 3rd behind Val Jenkins and Catrina Allen; from 2013-2015 you win back-to-back-to-back; in 2016 you placed 2nd behind Catrina; and in 2017 and 2018 you brought home wins. Eight times, 6 wins, and 2 podium finishes - And most of your wins are by a handful of throws. In 2018 you threw the hot round (or tied for it) every day. How are you feeling about your chances in 2019?
PP: I mean the courses haven't really changed, I saw the order changed a little bit, but for the most part we're playing the same kind of course. I think that's really the common denominator in these types of things, well, me and the course. I play well there and that's not really going to change this year. I feel good about myself there. So we’ll see who else feels good about that course too.
ZP: With all that history, is there a year, or a round, or even a single hole that stands out as really defining the event for you?
PP: Yea. in 2015, Ken Climo was there and for two rounds I was beating him. I was beating the entire Master's field. After the third round it didn't hold still, but for two rounds I was beating the best player to ever play the game. It was really memorable for me.
ZP: That’s a great story. The courses at the Memorial are known for more space to air out the disc and power can be a big separator. Do you think 2019 will be the season where we see more of the women’s field catch up to your drives?
PP: It's really hard to say definitively because I haven't been with any FPO players during the off-season. It's hard to imagine that I would be at a disadvantage now when it comes to power. It's been a constant that my disc is the farthest down the fairway. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it requires something in between a jump putt and an upshot. It puts me in this weird little realm of a shot, but for the most part, it does really feel like an advantage. Like I said, I don't really know, but I feel like in 2019 it will be the same story.
ZP: Do you think that year might not be too far off? With folks like Hailey King throwing +400 ft from what I've heard?
PP: Yea, her backhand is close, but it's not quite there, but her sidearm – she's throwing a Zone sidearm 300 ft on a hyzer, it’s crazy. Her sidearm power is unparalleled. Then again, she’s not throwing those shots off the tee a whole lot. Definitely sometimes, when it’s necessary, but I think it’s more common to be more of a backhand player until the sidearm is needed. So I think in a couple years, for sure, if she already has that power. It’s not necessarily about the power that you have either, it’s about how you use your body and she's figured out how to do that with sidearm. If she can just mirror that into her backhand you know she'll definitely be one to compete with within a few years for distance.
ZP: In 2018, during round 4 you threw almost as many bogeys as you did in the three previous rounds and never threw a par on the back 9 (bogeys and birdies only) even with a “comfortable” double digits lead does a roller coaster like that get the emotions going?
PP: Yes, because most of the time I’m trying to shoot par golf and if a birdie comes I’m stoked, but my goal is just par golf. Bogey’s are definitely not good, especially out at Memorial. There’s four rounds, so honestly, I really shouldn’t be getting more than four, maybe eight bogeys at most. Two a round and I can justify eight. If it’s more than eight then it’s going to be a little bit disappointing. I’m being honest and it’s not supposed to be arrogant, it’s just not that hard of a course. But, when you’re seeing the water at Fountain it gives you this added factor of mental hesitation. If any of those holes didn’t have water I’d be landing in the circle all the time. We all would. When you see that water, it just tweaks your brain a little bit. I hope to overcome that this year, and I definitely hope to get more pars than bogeys.
In 2018 Paige won the Memorial Championship presented by Discraft by a cushy 11 throws. There wasn’t a single round of the tournament where Paige didn’t play the best round of the day – on a couple of days the field mustered at least one round that tied her. To really round out the numbers, in her sixth win of eight showings at the Memorial she lead the field in six of eight stats. Falling short of top honors in only Circle 1 Putts and Scramble. You can learn a lot by comparing a players performance at one event to their performance over the season. Especially when you look at the first event of the Pro Tour you can see the trends of not only their game but also how the courses change as we move from the Southwest, through the Northwest and then all the way across the country.
ZP: Comparing you memorial stats to your season stats (DGPT) you were crushing it from the tee pad but struggling on the green. You also made 33% of your circle two putts. Is that just a product of the course or was something really clicking? Any other patterns standout?
PP: So I gotta get better at scrambling and Circle 1 Putts! The circle two putts are definitely a product of the course. The greens are wide open and the basket is right there. It's hard for me to comprehend that 10 other people putted better than me last year though. I know had a little section of the season where I was struggling, but ten people putting better than me? It's hard to think that. So that's definitely motivating to look at right now.
And scrambling, I can see that. There's a lot of time when I'm in the rough that I just pitch out, and try to just take it for what it is. Recently, I've been told I need to stop doing that and at least try to progress down the fairway. I ‘m going to be trying to do that a bit more this year. And then I'm first in every other category. Fairway hits I’m kinda surprised on. Sometimes I feel like “man I didn’t even land on the fairway today” so I’m kinda surprised at that, but I’ll take it. Other than that, I just really, really, really want to get my putting up. That’s pretty much what I’m summing up from looking at this.
ZP: Sounds like the right strategy. I want to turn to a little bit of a different topic now. I remember once hearing you say that you liked the gold lines at maple hill better than the ones the women were playing. In 2018 there was a couple handfuls of shorter tees for FPO at the memorial between the two courses. What are your thoughts on women’s tees in this new season?
PP: This is something Steve Dodge and I talk about a lot. I really enjoy him as a tour manager because he makes decisions based on what he really believes, and I think every human should do that. He’s also really receptive to feedback so I make sure to talk to him every time: “Steve, come on, why is this one short?” Because back in the day, before the Pro Tour, Steve was only the Tournament Director of Maple Hill. Back in those days we didn’t have women’s tees. Every year since my first year at maple hill we’ve had more and more women’s tees. We started out playing none and a couple of years later we played three short tees, then five short tees, and now we're playing something like eight or nine short tees.
For me, it’s very frustrating, probably the most frustrating, thing about our sport right now. Not because it's short but because it's less challenging. Since that first time I played maple hill I know I've gotten leaps and bounds better as an athlete yet now we're playing easier holes. Unfortunately, this is happening at almost every tournament. I don't see why our shots are digressing. I really dislike that so, I make sure to voice my concerns to Steve.
So far, it hasn't really been overruled because I think there are quite a few women who would prefer shorter tees, so I think I'm in the minority, I'm also trying to speak to those competitors I know are voting for them and ask “why? Do you not want to be challenged?”. Sarah Hokom is one of the ones who's very adamant about short tees or ladies tees and we had a two-hour conversation at Hall of Fame at the end of the year last year. It was nice to get her feedback and hear where her brain is at on the topic. Unfortunately, it didn't sway my opinion. I'm still very strongly in favor of the more challenging holes. I want to get better and that's how I'm going to do it, by playing those harder holes and learning that skill.
ZP: Have you even played all of Maple Hill Golds yet?
PP: Oh. I’ve never thrown 14 gold, that’s semi-new. I went up and looked at it for the first time. When we go from 13’s basket to 14’s tee ,it's right there for us. So I’d never even been up there, and I was like ohhh. It looks fun! I don’t know, I just wish we played the long tees. That one, I can see, for sure we should play the ladies’ tee. A lot of time could be lost losing discs in the water or looking for discs on the other side. I think there's a certain time and place for it. I'm never going to say I don't want any women's tees because I do know there's an appropriate time for it, but I do think a lot of the ones we are playing aren't necessary.
ZP: I’d like to see the women’s game go back the direction it came from. I’ve never seen a course designed any way besides the biggest layout being “the layout” and all the other tees are added on.
PP: There’s a really good course that was specifically designed for FPO, it’s called Camden II, it’s in Illinois I think. It’s a really, really good - in my mind perfect - women’s course. It’s not super short, there are par threes and three-and-halfs through the woods. Great distance and really nice shapes.
ZP: That’s so cool. I didn’t know about that course, I’d love to check that out. So before we wrap up here, I have to ask, got any predictions for this year’s Memorial?
PP: Kevin Jones. And I'll go 25% parked. I feel good about my discs. I know exactly what they're doing when they're leaving my hand, so it's just releasing them correctly and that's an easier goal to obtain. But I mean what is parked though? Inside that little bullseye?
ZP: Yea. 11 feet.
PP: Oh. Okay. Alright. That’s gonna be a little bit more challenging. It's different though, you know, people's definition of parked are all over the place. Someone's like, “oh I parked it!” and you're like, "cool! nice birdie.” and they're like, “oh no, I missed the putt." I was 24th in putting last year, this year I’m going to be in the top 3 for sure.
My deepest gratitude to Paige for taking the time out of her busy schedule to talk. We covered so much, from everything she’s been working on during the offseason to equity between the women’s game and men’s to predictions for this year’s Memorial. I can’t wait to see it all unfold in Arizona at the end of the month. And if this just wasn’t enough Paige Pierce for you, don’t you worry, we’ve got three more pre-tournament mind of a champion interviews with her coming this season so make sure you keep checking back for more. Don’t forget to follow Paige just about everywhere 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. Trust me, all the content you’ll find is well worth the time to check it out.
You don’t want to miss any of our coverage of the 2019 Memorial Championship Presented by Discraft. So follow this link to our watch page to find out where, when, and how you can tune in. Until then, don’t let winter keep you indoors, get out and play!
This article written by Staff Editor and Writer Zach Podhorzer. All photography credit thanks to Alyssa Van Lanen.
Over the next few days leading up to the 2019 season we will be conducting interviews with the TD's of each Disc Golf Pro Tour Event. The first interview took place with Keith Murray, TD of Discraft's Memorial Championship.
How old is the event?
Did you imagine the event being one of the premier events in the world?
Hoped would be a better word. We just work hard to bring the competitors the best event we can.
What makes your event unique (course, atmosphere, side-events)?
Great competition, great amenities, great weather, and great courses!
Are there any new extras (off-site or on-site events) or changes to the event for 2019?
Since we are going to Thurs-Sun we will be moving Players Party to Saturday at the famous Duke’s Sports Bar & Grill in Scottsdale.
Are there any changes to the MPO course?
Yes, Vista will have hole number 1 removed, change hole number 18 to number 1 and add a new hole 18 to finish.
Are there any changes to the FPO course?
Yes, see above.
Has being a Disc Golf Pro Tour event helped you grow?
I would say it’s made it easier to grow if that makes sense.
What is your favorite funny or entertaining story from running this event?
Barry Schultz breaking his hand but then spotting for the Ams the next day out on #2 at Fountain. You had some pretty surprised Ams walking up to see a World and US Champ marking where you went out! Don’t think he had anyone second guess his marks so that may be a first for a spotter.
Are there any particular shots/scores you remember from past events?
Paul McBeth’s -17 at Fountain Hills years ago to come from the second card and force sudden death playoff!
How great is your staff? and Why?
Our volunteers are everything, without them, we wouldn’t be able to host so many golfers. One of the main reasons to make the move to finish on Sunday was to help volunteers not have to take off as much time off work.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.