In disc golf, when you see “10th Annual” or “20th Annual” as part of a tournament’s name you know it’s an event that has passed the test of time. But 34th Annual? In disc golf? Yes, that’s the Wintertime Open, the grandaddy of disc golf tournaments on the west coast, and the pros took their turn over the weekend to tour the venerable Oak Grove Disc Golf Course. Mark, Susie and Chris Horn were great hosts for the event as was Mother Nature, who hasn’t cooperated in years past. Sixty-nine players enjoyed clear skies and mild temperatures as well as great golf.
It’s often difficult to know how a tournament is unfolding when you’re playing in it, unless you’re living on the lead card. You can look at the leaderboard between rounds and hear the stories, but there’s nothing like seeing how the top players are throwing to show you who is the star on a given weekend. That’s why they play the final 9 – so we can all see who the star is that week. Well, based on the final nine at Oak Grove on Sunday, the star of the tournament was Paul McBeth‘s pink Destroyer. Paul and that disc put on a show for the gallery Sunday afternoon, especially on the stretched out holes of the Oak Grove tournament layout. But we’re getting ahead of the story…
There were thirty other players in the Open division at Oak Grove, and Philo Braithwaite displayed his skill and local knowledge of Hahamonga Saturday morning by posting a 1052-rated opening round score of 52, taking the first round lead over McBeth (54) and Legacy Discs’s Steve Rico (55). Brian Vagi, John Tompkins and Shelby Klein were one more stroke back at 56, but this was destined to be a 3-man contest. Philo maintained his mastery as the wind came up in the afternoon with a 54 for a 106 total, two shots ahead of Paul (55/108) and five ahead of Steve (56/111).
But the tables turned on Sunday, as McBeth tore up the course in the morning with an 11-under 50, setting a new course record and taking the lead at 158. Braithwaite stumbled a bit Sunday morning with a 58, which kept him in second place, but six throws back at 164. Rico’s morning was solid, with a 7-under 54 that pulled him within one shot of Philo. Fourth place was ten more shots back, but notable because it was held by Chris Travern, whose heroics during the final nine of the previous weekend helped him make up 6 shots to almost pull off the Wintertime Open Am title. Chris showed that that was no fluke, and took home a check for $185 to celebrate his joining the ranks of PDGA pros.
Which set the stage for what might possibly be a perfunctory final 9. With six and seven shot leads over his rivals, McBeth could seemingly put it on cruise control, play safe and walk home with 1st place cash. However, on hole #1, whether because of adrenaline, the uphill teepad or the ghost of Wild Bill, Paul juiced his tee shot too far past the corner created by the mando tree and into the road, O.B. The resulting bogey tightened the race a little, and after watching a near-collapse final 9, the gallery was wondering if drama was on the horizon. Well…yes and no. Drama was coming, but not because of a collapsing lead.
On three of the next four holes, Paul gave the gallery a glimpse of why he would drive away with the Wintertime Open title. On the 506ft hole #3 (regular tee #3 to basket #4) McBeth blasted a drive to a spot nearly pin high, giving him a run at an eagle 2. Then on the next hole, the 625ft hole #6 (regular tee #6 to basket #8) he launched the pink Destroyer up and over the oak trees with a monster flex shot. The crowd at the tee had no idea where it went. The crowd in the soccer field saw it pop over the tree line headed towards the basket but behind more trees. Only those who were still hanging out near the parking lot saw the pink disc come out of its right turn, fade left, and land gently in the open grass, 80 feet from the basket. Paul made a run at eagle with his R-Pro Roc that had the crowd holding it’s breath until it dropped under the basket for an “easy” three. At the same time, Steve and Philo were making what would normally be recognized as great 3′s any other afternoon. Two holes later on 498ft #8 (regular tee #10 to basket #11) the pink Destroyer soared again, up and over the canopy of trees, around the mando pole and a long putt away from possible eagle. While Paul didn’t cash in on these eagle opportunities, it was clear that this relentless pressure was the difference this weekend. To their credit, Steve and Philo continued to battle, with Rico’s error-free 27 allowing him to leapfrog into second place.
And yes, there were other divisions playing this weekend. Suzette Simons displayed rock-solid consistency in winning Open Women, firing 71-71-72 to finish at 214, four shots ahead of first-round leader Indigo Brude. Dan Duron shot an opening round 56 in the Masters division, one throw ahead of Dagoberto Bribiesca and two better than Chris Brophy, and held on through the weekend for the win. Brophy pulled within one shot after the second round, but fell victim to his third-shift work schedule and didn’t make it back for Sunday’s round. Jerry Goff did though. He tied for the best score in the second and third rounds for the Masters, pulling in to 2nd place as the only master other than Duron to break parr for the weekend. In the Grandmasters division, Steve Killian got off to a hot start along with Marcus Cisneros with 59′s, and held off a charge from 2nd-place finisher Randy Wylot to take the win. Tournament co-hostess Susie Horn cruised to the Women’s Grandmaster title.
The winner of the Senior Grandmasters division was a player who had not played in the Wintertime Open in twenty-five years. Mark Horn. As he explained at the post-tournament awards ceremony: “the tournament runs so smoothly now with all of the knowledgeable players around, I figured I might as well play.” PDGA #67 recorded the best score in his division two out of the three rounds and cruised to a 9-throw win over Glenn Triemstra in 2nd, who was two shots ahead of another Hall-of-Famer, Snapper Pierson. In the biggest cliffhanger of the weekend, Legends division players Bill Richards and Ray Carr finished tied for 1st place at 233 after three rounds. Bill had watched his large lead splash away on hole #12 of the final round, but was able to prevail after three sudden-life rounds of rock-paper-scissors to take home the trophy.