From the desk of Owl P. Jackson, Esq.
October 12, 2022 by Owl P. Jackson, Esq. in Opinion with comments
As the season nears its end, we head to Rock Hill and the legendary Winthrop Gold course. On these hallowed grounds, “mozzarella stick” means something more than a mid-tier hors d’oeuvre: it’s part of the local flora. It’s on these O.B. laden fairways that the world’s best compete for one of the most important majors of the year—as well as the same exact tournament, except it’s just an A-tier. In my opinion, these are the top 10 storylines of the 2022 United States Disc Golf Championship and Throw Pink Women’s Disc Golf Championship.
1. Gannon Buhr has officially arrived
“You think that we connect—that the chemistry’s correct.”
Gannon Buhr took the outright lead heading into the final hole of the USDGC. After a safe drive, it was clear what he needed to do to win: execute a successful upshot and drop in for birdie. I wonder if the memory of hole 18 at the Las Vegas Challenge was running through his mind. There, in a similar situation, Gannon threw a great but ever so slightly too aggressive upshot that slid just past the pin, out of bounds. You know what happened next—playoffs, sand trap, head in hands, Gannon falls short. On the final hole of USDGC, Gannon came face-to-face with the opportunity for final hole redemption, and I found a nice full-circle story for me to write about.
Gannon threw the upshot and it appeared to slide right past the pin and over the ledge on the backside of the green. Not again! Somehow, when Gannon arrived, the disc was much closer than it had appeared to be—not that it would have mattered if he did actually slide off the back. I would have put money on Gannon to hit the putt from anywhere within a hundred feet…because that’s how he had been putting all day. It was the first Elite Series or Major win for Buhr, but this doesn’t feel like a one-time thing. This is the first of many.
2. Catrina Allen back on top
“Your words walk right through my ears, presuming I like what I hear.”
Catrina Allen had a full circle story of her own. She won the first event of the year, her opening tournament with her new sponsor, DGA. The fact that she came out firing with her new discs made it seem like it would be a season of domination from Cat. And, while not dominant, she did finish in the top 10 in 17 of her first 18 events of the year. Lately, however, something had been noticeably off with her throws. Over the last four events, she went 11th, 11th, 24th, 13th. That is not Catrina Allen disc golf. At Winthrop, she looked great. She credited her boyfriend, Austin Hannum, for taking the time to help her fix her swing. It showed. She was great off the tee. What really impressed me, however, was her confidence on the putting green. Congrats on winning another maj—ermm…whatever. On the Nick and Matt Show this week, Catrina said that she considers it a major.
3. MPO Leaderboard
“And now I’m stuck in the the web you’re spinning. You’ve got me for your prey.”
Sure, you might think Winthrop Gold is gimmicky. I might even agree. But you can’t deny it—USDGC always delivers excitement. Any player can triple bogey at any given time. A 5-stroke lead with two holes to go? That’s nothing. It was a treat to watch the madness of the MPO leaderboard throughout the round as players shot up, fell off, and shot back up again. Think about this: 23 different players found themselves in the top 10 at the end of at least one of the days! Remember when Double G and Ezra Robinson were in the mix? Who could forget learning that Jake Monn wasn’t 35 (he’s 17!) and has probably only been able to shave for three years? Where did Nate Sexton come from? In the words of disc golf hall of famer Sun Tzu, “In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.”
4. Niklas Anttila falls short
“You’re intruding on what’s mine and you’re taking up my time.”
One of the highlights of this season has been the regular addition of European players. Other than Simon, however, no European male has consistently threatened for the win. Väinö Mäkelä, Linus Carlsson, and Albert Tamm have had their moments in the sun, but this week it was 20-year-old Niklas Anttila’s turn. Niklas was close to the lead the entire tournament, before falling behind on hole 17 during the final round. Late in the final round, he “doinked” a close putt off the top band. This may have rattled him a bit, and that’s a shame because he was calm and confident all week long. I think Niklas has the highest ceiling of the non-Simonic Europeans. If the young Finn stays on his trajectory, I don’t think this will be the last battle between him and Gannon.
5. Can Calvin close?
“Don’t have the courage inside me to tell you please let me be.”
Calvin Heimburg is the best player without a Major title to his name. Can that even be argued at this point? In the past two seasons, Calvin has found himself on the final day lead card for four of the six majors. In his previous appearances, he has put together some abysmal rounds. This time wasn’t so bad, other than two glaring problems: his slow start and his triple bogey on hole 10. If he had been able to card even two birdies on the first five holes, he would have been right in the mix. If he would have played number 10 for par (that drop zone shot was rough), he would have been right there. In the end, Calvin earned a third place finish. A podium finish at a major is a career accomplishment for some, but you know that Calvin will be disappointed with anything less than a win.
6. Ricky at Winthrop
“Communication, a telephonic invasion—I’m planning my escape.”
This felt like Ricky’s year to finally win USDGC. After two rounds, he was tied for a share of the lead. By the end of day three, Ricky had tumbled all the way to 11th place. To be fair, nothing was breaking his way during that +1 round. And, yet, it’s getting hard to ignore the fact that Ricky has not won a major since 2017. Thankfully, Ricky does not define success by major wins. He would take second place in every event if it guaranteed him first place in tour points. USDGC does not count towards pro tour points, so Ricky is still #1. ‘Atta boy, Rick!
7. Kristin climbs back
“Sorry I’m not home right now.”
Tournament favorite Kristin Tattar finished the first round by going bogey, double bogey, quad bogey. That brought her to +2 and 16th place. It looked like Kristin might finally miss the podium. Slowly, but surely, she climbed her way back into contention. That she was in the mix on the final hole is a testament to Kristin’s consistency. If she sticks to her game plan, she will rise above the field eventually. However, on the final hole down two with nothing to lose, why not throw up a prayer for eagle?
8. Course Changes
“I’m walking into spiderwebs.”
Another year of USDGC means another year of the disc golf interwebs acting shocked and appalled at the changes made to the course. Most of the changes to the holes were meh. 3 was fine, but seemed almost impossible to birdie for the men. 4 was whatever. I don’t like that they took away the Nikko parking lot Albatross. When the sport is so young, we can’t afford to kill off the little bits of history we do have. But…I loved the aesthetic changes. And no, I’m not talking about the mozzarella sticks to Christmas trees to cobweb-covered Christmas trees to Christmas trees again. I’m talking about the varied grass lengths, accented with the large rocks. For the first time, I felt like I knew where the O.B. was! A major win for this Major! Jones Supreme should take note.
9. Make it a major
“So leave a message and I’ll call you back.”
If it walks like a duck, looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck…it is the Throw Pink Women’s Disc Golf Championship. Can we just do this already? The players treat it like a major. The fans view it as a major. It pays like a major. Every year that we put this off is another year where a player will win this tournament without a major being added to their resume, and I don’t think you can retroactively change major totals. The change will be made eventually, and we will all talk about how it was stupid to have it as an A-tier. So, let’s just change it.
10. Player of the Year race
“A likely story, but leave a message and I’ll call you back.”
If Ricky, Simon, Chris, Calvin, or Paul had won USDGC, I think they would have had a great case for winning player of the year. Ricky and Simon could have added a major to their 4-win seasons. Chris and Paul could have had 2 majors. Calvin would have had a mixture of multiple Elite Series wins, a major, and consistency. In the end, none of them could get it done. Calvin and Paul came close, Ricky had it and lost it, Chris floated around a bit, and Simon…yikes. This weekend ended up helping Ricky more than anyone else. He is still tied for the most wins on the year, but he doesn’t have the brutal blemishes that Simon has.
Thanks for reading, everyone! Let me know the storylines you think I missed. Grab your razors—I’ll see you at the Pro Tour Championship!