The excitement for this Pro Tour Season is building faster and faster as the tournaments are starting. The Wintertime Open is in the books, Vegas is days away, and in less than two weeks the first drive of the 2019 Disc Golf Pro Tour will take flight at Memorial Championship presented by Discraft. In 2018, Discmania’s Year of the Shield started things off hotter than hot - Eagle McMahon won in Vegas, and the next week Simon Lizotte won in Arizona. It might have been spring in the Northern Hemisphere but the crush boys were cranking up the heat. Simon didn’t make the lead card after day one, instead, playing round two on the chase card. by day three, the second round at Fountain Hills, he was in second place – one throw behind the course record holder Paul McBeth. If Simon was at all intimidated by Paul’s presence, his fourteen under par didn’t show it that day. But even a fourteen down can’t steal the course record from McBeth’s legendary seventeen under.
Last week we brought you the first part of our Mind of Champion series spotlighting Paige Pierce, the 2018 Memorial Championship FPO winner. This time around I caught up with Simon Lizotte, the day before he left to start his tour. From the persnickety process of obtaining a professional athlete Visa to wondering what really is practice anyways, we got into all of it. Keep on scrolling to enter the Mind of a Champion!
Zach Podhorzer: Thanks for taking the time to chat, Simon. It’s been a busy offseason for disc golf: sponsor changes and new pick-ups, vlogs, pre-season workout routines, and so much more. What have you been getting into since the 2018 season ended?
Simon Lizotte: Yea a lot a lot of things have changed for me. Specifically since I’m not American. That was kind of the end of the season last year. During the USDGC/ Hall of Fame Classic, that was kind of my whole moving process, where I made officially the move to the States. November first I was allowed to go pick up my Visa, my 5-year, P1 Athlete Visa, which allows me to live and work here. So that was a huge step, the Visa, I've been waiting for that literally, three or four years now. It’s just been a long process, and as a professional disc golfer it’s not easy to be recognized by the American government as actually something that needs to be here. I was always so lucky that my dad was Canadian, so I was from birth a dual-citizenship between Canada and Germany and as a Canadian traveling to the states is as easy as it gets, I would say. Like any country in the world could get more trouble than Canada, I guess. And Canadians are allowed to stay here for six months at a time which is pretty unique. Unless you're Mexican, you can also do that, I think. But overall, just really lucky with that situation, and I was always "not officially making money" because it was prize money related which is not always guaranteed, so that was legal and I was paying taxes in Germany.
Now, everything has swapped over to America for me. My apartment is now here and I pay taxes here, and I need insurance here and all that stuff. It was a huge difference and I'm not even sure I really understand what's going on fully. Besides that big change, I've been way more active this offseason than any offseason before. A big part was picking up the vlogging camera, you were a part of two at least of those. It made me do so much more than I usually would have done. It made me drive to different courses, even different states. It made me meet a lot more people, and made me play more disc golf in general, which I think was great. I started a personal training program here which I think I did 35-40 hours of personal fitness training in the last three months. The last couple weeks have been crazy. I've literally been almost every single day to the gym. I had my final assessment just last week, and I completely blew my previous work out abilities out of any kind of comparison to the past. My trainer was blown away which how much I improved. And I’m sure - I mean I’m a lazy person at heart, I mean very intensely - so I know if I can do it anyone can do it. And if I would have had a proper diet and ate healthier and focus on that more, I could be fricking ripped right now!
All in all, I'm very proud of how the off-season training has been going and really happy on how much disc golf I played despite sometimes terrible weather conditions here. But it’s super positive and something I've been waiting for ever since I came to the states. It was always one of my main excuses on why I'm not as good as I want to be, "yea, I have to go back to Germany and all this traveling, and I can never really practice and really focus on my game because I always have to worry about my next Visa or if they’re going to let me in.” I’ve had trouble at the border many times, with the border patrol. They wouldn’t buy my story. They were like “yea, you play disc golf professionally? Where’s you’re working visa? How long are you staying and where do you live?” of course they always want to know my address, and I’m like “oh, well I live in a motor home.” It was difficult and sketchy many times. Now I just feel like everything is on a way better base level for me to compete.
ZP: You decided to sign on with Discmania yet again. No surprise there, but I'd love to hear your thoughts on all the movement between sponsors this year? Do you think it will change much if anything at all?
SL: 5 years. That’s a really tough question for me to answer. I always have a hard time understanding or imagining what little changes actually mean. like Some people are very good at envisioning what's going to happen but I don’t know if I don’t care or if I just think it’s unpredictable. I think especially right now, the sport is growing, we can’t tell where we’re gonna be in five years. Overall, with all the changes other pros did, I think it's great. I think it’s interesting. Fun to watch and fun to talk about with everyone. But what it really means, as a big change to the game, I don’t really know what that’s going to change. It’s interesting but then again I have no idea what I’m talking about.
ZP: Who does? Who does?
SL: I dunno!
ZP: Do you think that there really is any advantage to not switching manufacturers?
SL: Mmm. Being loyal to a company can seem like a positive. I personally choose to do that because I really like the team I'm in and I really believe in the team I'm in. Money would not really be a reason for me to change that.
ZP: How many years with Discmania?
SL: I first met Jussi in 2008. When Discmania was just getting started. He wanted me on Team Innova Europe, which he was also running, that was like a side branch to Discmania, so I signed with him with Innova Europe for three years I think at that time. At the end of 2012 was when we made the switch to Discmania. So it’s been now almost seven years.
ZP: That’s awesome. Did you throw a lot of Innova plastic for those years or could you throw the discmania molds?
SL: One of the main reasons Jussi wanted me to make the switch to discmania is that I would be the number one. On Innova I would be one of twenty and especially back then, 2013/ 14 I was not really known yet. It would just be really beneficial for me to be on a smaller team. For that I would be the number one the face of the company, so that was kind of the reason for the whole switch. I think as soon as we made the official switch, to being “number one”, to being the face of the company, I would have to throw exclusively Discmania. After 2008, before the switch, I was all Innova, but before that, I had mixed bags with Discraft, Latitude, stuff like that.
ZP: What about the announcement of “the year of evolution”? Will that have any influence on what you’re throwing?
ZP: Can you talk about it?
SL: I don’t know how much I can talk about it since I personally don’t even know how true my thoughts are, but yea it’s crazy to think that latitude is going to start producing discs for us.
ZP: are they going to be producing the molds that are known from Discmania or producing totally new molds?
SL: It’s gonna be completely new molds.
ZP: With all of that going on and living in a state with a real winter, what kind of practice have you been focusing on?
SL: That’s pretty unanswerable. I mean, what’s practice? I haven’t really practiced anything, I was just out there doing fun stuff, and playing rounds and meeting new people, and just playing myself through the off-season. The practice-focused thing was more physically getting in shape and mentally getting prepared for the season again. I didn’t really practice any specific throws or putting or anything.
ZP: you once told me you never practice putting. I’m still shocked by that. How did you still make 92% of your Circle 1 Putts (12th place) and 31% of your Circle 2 Putts (9th place)on the Pro Tour last year?
SL: Well, I don't know how true this is, but I personally believe that putting is at least 99% mental. I mean once you have a decent putting form you kind of know what you're doing because you've been doing it for years. I've been literally doing it for 20 years. From that point on it’s all in your head, and if you have confidence, it’s key #1, and then just a routine and believing. And having this feeling that putting is easy. Of course the less doubts you have the more successful you’ll be. And I don’t know, when I step up to a 20 or 30 footer it’s just no worries. I just don’t doubt. Why would I even think about missing? I think in the mental case I’m a bit better than most.
ZP: Have you changed your putt in the last 20 years or have you basically had the same putt?
SL: Yea, I mean not really consciously, but when I look at videos from 2014, 15, and I see myself putting, I’m like “what are you doing?!” I don’t actively try and change things because I don’t think that’s a good thing. But every now and then, just a little, little, little thing, little routine. Like in 2015, I was always putting with two putters. I always had a putter in my left hand when I was putting. Just like little things like that, that kind of changed my form over the years.
ZP: What is your practice plan for defending your title at the memorial?
SL: That’s a good question because I’m flying to Denver tomorrow morning at 5:30. So I gotta be at the airport at 4, four which is gonna suck. Then I have the Discmania warehouse opening ceremony tomorrow. Then over the weekend I’m doing a signing session, promo shoots, promo videos, vlogs, and all that stuff, so it’s gonna be super busy leading up to Vegas. I’m flying to Vegas Monday morning and practicing three courses in three days is going to be especially exhausting after having not played in a few days, since the weather here has been pretty brutal in the last week or two.
I’m trying to focus on taking it easy. Last year, for Vegas, I got some back issues early on, and I think that was caused by just throwing too much too quick without really taking it easy. So I wanna do that. And of course, Vegas is the big test for everyone to see how they got out of the offseason. It's really good courses for me, and I'm looking forward to it. Last year I made it on the lead card and that's kind of my goal again. Just to give myself a chance. And then going straight to Memorial with two days of practice with two courses and then Memorial starts on Thursday - which is always a crazy hustle. Yea I’m not really, really, at least in my mind, I’m not thinking of it as any other tournament to prepare for. I don’t know if I prepare differently than other players, but my goal is never to win, or to be top 10, my goal is more like "play well!" and I think if I play well and I'm happy with the way I played, it doesn't matter if I'm third or tenth or first, then that's just how good I am. My goal is to relax, not to stress about it and just have fun playing. Do your best and forget the rest. That's always my motto.
ZP: Between Vista and Fountain, is there one course you think you need to focus your prep on more than the other? What do you think about the changes to Vista (Making 18 hole 1 and adding a new hole 18 to finish on? Does that change even factor into how you prepare?
SL: I did hear about some changes. Hole 1 is gone. I think that’s a good change. I heard the new hole 18 is tough. I saw some Instagram videos from Anthony Barela and Adam. They were throwing on it - it’s gonna be like an actually tough hole. A hyzer and a tight landing zone with water and a path OB. But I’m not sure. It’s always hard to say if you gotta focus on one course more than the other – not really, they’re both important. Every course we play is important. A stroke is a stroke. Both those course are the two shortest courses we play all year and it's deuce or die on almost every hole.
ZP: from the research I did, you’ve played the Memorial five times and only finished off the podium once (7th place your first year in 2014). Do you credit your 2018 win to anything specific?
SL: The most honest answer I can give is luck. Things were going my way and they were not going other players way. I remember actively feeling that I was getting good breaks and I was seeing other players getting bad breaks. That’s the only difference that I notice. I was putting extremely well all weekend. I don’t know if that’s based on luck or not. I guess I was just feeling it. That was the big start to the Year of the Shield where Eagle won Vegas and I won Memorial and we were just feeling so prepared over everyone else and I think that also helped a lot.
ZP: last year you threw a smoking hot, 1096 rated, 42 at Fountain Hills in round 3. Such a great round to watch. I noticed that while other players on the card are switching between a lot of discs you’re staying with that green C-line PD2 and your beautiful FD3 – Anna. What’s your thinking behind sticking to just a couple discs on a course like Fountain? Will those discs be making a return to your bag this season?
SL: I just watched yesterday, there’s a new trailer for Frozen 2. It looked weird, I was more confused than excited. Like they were fighting with swords and crap and it looked a bit darker than the first one. But anyway, back to the question. I'm pretty sure I don't have that PD2. I think I lost it somewhere but of course, I have a similar one and those courses are famous for being hyzer festivals. So FD3 is our overstable fairway driver and PD2 our over-stable distance driver. There's really no need for anything else other than those two I think. One is a speed twelve, the other is a speed nine I think, so that covers all the distances. And I've always, always been a player that doesn't use a lot of different molds, I like switching up the speed and angles I throw, that just feels more natural and comfortable and I definitely still have the Anna disc in my bag. Since I'm leaving tomorrow I'm packing up today, so I've only been using my off-season bag, the Discmania Jetpack, so I only carried twelve or thirteen discs in that, and now I’m going back to twenty, so it’s gonna be fun to sit down and build my bag for the year. I haven’t thought about it too much.
ZP: Will you get to go into the warehouse and pick out everything you want?
SL: Well, I have my stack here in my closet, and for now, I'm just going to go through that. I've never been to the Discmania warehouse yet, but I think it’s pretty ready. I might pick up some discs if I find things I need but so far I believe I have everything I need for now.
ZP: Any new molds making the bag for the 2019 season?
SL: I don't think so. Well, next Monday, my new signature disc is coming out, the Skygod II, and that's going to be on a swirly S-line P2. So that's going to go in the bag instead of the C-Line P2.
ZP: Do you find a big difference in the two plastics for that mold?
SL: The s-line is a bit grippier, it’s softer. Flightwise they're very similar. I mean they're the same disc. C-line and S-line are really not that different, except maybe slight changes depending on which run you get. Overall it just felt softer and grippier, and a lot better in colder conditions because throwing my C-Line, it's a bit slippier. Saturday or Sunday we’ll drop the video and Monday the disc will be released.
ZP: After round three you took a two-throw lead headed into round 4. Sexton was 6 back and Conrad was 7 back. Did it feel like just you and Eagle were battling? Or were you worried about the rest of the card at any point?
SL: It was such a weird feeling round mentally with Eagle because for some reason it felt like Eagle wanted me to win. It was super weird, we never really talked about it, but I could see Eagle making shots and mistakes that he would never make if he was really trying to win. He kind of played it lose and after the tournament, he came up to me and said he's happy I won, and he knew I was going to win from the start. It was kind of like I was playing against a friend who wanted me to win. It was really weird, of course, we're all still professionals, we do our best no matter who we're playing, but we both had this feeling that I was going to win.
Of course, Nate Sexton charged at some point. After eleven or twelve holes, he hadn’t had a par yet, or something like that. Six or seven birdies in a row or something crazy like that. He was just making no mistakes but he missed some shorter putts along the line, and he threw OB on fifteen. I remember exactly the feeling, I mean him and Eagle were tied or almost tied at some point. I wasn’t too worried, all those holes are gettable and not many of those holes there can have a lot of huge stroke swings. I would have had to make a series of mistakes for Nate to catch me. So it was pretty much a two-man race for me and we both already decided I was going to win. It was weird.
ZP: With the Pro Tour only weeks away, care to make any predictions for the Memorial? Any predictions you want to make, Paige Pierce said Kevin Jones is gonna win MPO…
ZP: And she’s gonna park 25% or more of her shots. She went 21% last year.
SL: I’ll say Catrina Allen is going to win FPO.
ZP: Good choice. Do you want to know your stats from the memorial?
SL: I don’t know I suck at predictions honestly.
ZP: You threw three total bogeys across the whole tournament.
SL: That doesn't sound good. I want zero bogeys.
ZP: Okay, what do you think, Catrina Allen wins FPO and you get zero bogeys?
What more is there to say? The bogey-free round is an elusive critter for most, a bogey-free tournament is a whole other level of a beast. But if there is anyone who can do it on these courses I’d say Simon Lizotte is the best pick. With the “hyzer festival” the Memorial is you might even say it’s as easy as playing lawn darts, but something tells me this master of the flying disc could do a whole lot better with a PD2 and it’d be a whole lot less dangerous. I can’t wait to see who’s predictions are right and which of our spotlight pros for this event will be able to defend their titles. Until then though get out there and play, and when the sun goes down get ready to watch some disc golf because the 2019 Pro Tour is all but officially here!
Don't forget to follow @Simon_Lizotte on instagram and his youtube channel here.
This article written by Staff Editor and Writer Zach Podhorzer. All photography credit to Alyssa Van Lanen.
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