As we look toward the 2019 season we took a moment to speak with the TD of each Pro Tour event to learn a little bit more about what makes the event special. Read below to see what Discraft's Ledgestone Insurance Open TD Nate Heinold has to say about the Peoria, IL event.
How old is the event?
The event started in 2011 as an unsanctioned event, so the 2019 event will be the 9th iteration of the event.
Did you imagine the event being one of the premier events in the world?
After I visited the 2012 World Championship in Charlotte I had a big vision to make the event a top notch event. I certainly couldn't have predicted where I am now, but I did feel I could do something special. I attended the 2013 Pro Worlds as a spectator on the final day and that's when I knew I could do it. Shortly after that I was awarded NT status for 2015 and then I became a Pro Tour event and the rest is history!
What makes your event unique (course, atmosphere, side-events)?
The Lake Eureka course is certainly a conversation starter and a lot of people love it (and some people hate it). So right away we have a very unique course to showcase to the World. We also have a lot of fun side events including Disc Golf Night at the Ballpark, the St Jude Dunk Tank, a massive Flymart, an ice cream social, Disc Downtown, etc. For Ledgestone it is a combination of great courses and fun side events. Its a disc golf reunion of sorts with 1000 players. And finally, it is about the money. The AMs get a massive payout and the Pros do as well.
Are there any new extras (off-site or on-site events) or changes to the event for 2019?
We are pretty much sticking to our usual script for 2019. We are not planning any new events or changes to the 2019 event. If it ain't broke don't fix it!
Are there any changes to the MPO course?
This will be the first year we are not making any major changes to Eureka. A few rope lines could be adjusted, and a few other small things, but nothing that will be noticeable. We feel that we have finally got the course where we need it to be.
Are there any changes to the FPO course?
We are not planning on any changes to Sunset either.
Has being a Disc Golf Pro Tour event helped you grow?
Absolutely! The DGPT has really helped me in a lot of operational aspects (water, payouts, media, etc) that have allowed me to focus on other things. By having some of those other things taken care of, I can make sure the courses are ready to go, focus on other sponsors, attract other sponsors, etc. People love playing the festival games and really enjoy the DGPT's media coverage. In addition, we have seen our volunteer base spike up the last few years from being on the DGPT. All of it has been very positive.
What is your favorite funny or entertaining story from running this event?
I was driving the Gator to hole 13 last year and saw Trevor Harbolt hit hard chains on hole 17 at Eureka. The disc fell to the ground and didn't go in. What Trevor didn't know was that hole was our hole-in-one contest for a car. He didn't know it until I told him and I am pretty sure I broke his heart. Pretty unforgettable, as it was also on camera.
Are there any particular shots/scores you remember from past events?
In 2016 I will never forget McBeth's final round at Ledgestone. He was in prime position to win the 2015 event and it didn't happen, so he probably had a chip on his shoulder for 2016. He ended up winning by 12 and his final round was a masterpiece. With a field of 157 players he had the hot round by 5 strokes and shot a 50 at Eureka when it was still stroke and distance. It was an incredible round that I will never forget.
How great is your staff? and Why?
I have been fortunate to have a great staff the last few years. Jason Labella and Mike Krupicka have essentially been with me since the event became big, and they have been very valuable assets to run the scoring operations (with Mike also running Lake Eureka). In 2017, I added Jamie Kemp and Michel Munn and they have been immensely valuable additions. They will continue to take on a larger role in 2019. Kliff Durham and Brady Hanna have also been staff members for a few years now, and have really helped out at Lake Eureka. Other staff members such as Lauren Lakeberg, Noah Brooks, Wilbur Wallis, Chuck Wallis, Danny Strine Jr, David Owens, Dalton Sackett, Melissa Lawrence, Dave Walden, Calvin Kramer, Brian Lucas, Johnnie Harrison, Tim Cerven, Mark Canada have helped out over the years as well. New staff members in 2018 included Brett Comincioli, Gabe Irions, Chuck Connolly and Jason Reece and they will all be back in 2019. The big thing with my staff has been continuity: the players get to see similar faces in similar roles, and my staff continues to evolve, learn and grow. They are incredibly hard working and dedicated to their craft and they are much appreciated.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.