2007 USDGC (Part 2)

The week started out as I was called out for an earlier then expected tee time at 9:20 am, which was definitely a later start then last year when I had to warm up in the dark of the morning. I came out the gates and birdied 8 of the first 10 holes, I was on a roll. It reminded me of the start that I had during the 2005 USDGC when I birdied the first 10 holes, a feat that has not been accomplished by any other player in the game, but it did not turn out as well as it started when I turned in a pitiful 4 under. It was not going to be the case this though, I was not going to let anything especially the thought of my score get to me this time. I played a solid back 9 to come into the club house with a solid 63 to start the tournament recording only two OB strokes. Ken “Tank” Franks made his USDGC debut by shooting a flawless 58 with an ace on hole 7, it was definitely a round to remember, it was good enough to get him the promotion to the Innova sponsored team. Congrats Tank! My sister Valarie, competing in her very first USDGC as the only qaulified female in this years event, had a great start by opening the tournament with a 74 putting her in the mix in front of a bunch of guys.

The distance qualifier was soon to follow the rounds on Weds. as the usual suspects where present to try to de-throne me as the two-time defending USDGC Distance Champion. I was definitely pumped up this year to throw some giant shots and show them how it is done when we take it to the showcase throwing display over the Winthrop lake on Saturday after the last putt is dropped by the champion. I was throwing some brand new star wraiths that I had picked up the previous day at the Innova east coast factory. I got a few good ones off, but nothing huge and qualified in the 4th spot as they were taking 8 throwers to final the following night under the lights.

The second round tee time allowed to receive some well deserved sleep as I did not need to arrive at the course until at least 11 am to start to warm up, giving me a solid 2 hours before my round started. I began my warm ups by playing catch with disc golf legend David Greenwell and his finely tuned 8-time KC Roc, no other disc flys so true. It is definitely my favorite way to warm up and prepare before a round, its good for the touch and accuracy of your throws. I also do a bunch of longer throws and sidearms on the fairways of the Winthrop University golf course. Eventhough their is not a bunch of wide open shots without the possibility of OB, but you have to be ready to go big when opportunity strikes. I played an agressive front nine with 5 birdies and then played really conservative back nine, trying not to make mistakes where I had during the first round. I recorded a 2 under on the back playing safe shots on 17 and 18 to finish out with a solid OB and bogey free 60 to put me right in the hunt. I was then sitting in third one back of Doss and two back of Climo for the lead going into round 3 on Friday.

I was showtime later that evening as we rolled out to a huge outdoor soccer complex nearby for the USDGC Distance Finals. It is hands down the best locaton for throwing huge distance drives, it always creates an amazing experience. Due to a pretty consistant rain that kept up during the finals it did not provide the ideal conditions for footing, release or disc flight. I thought for a second that they might not still go through with it because of the conditions, but nevermind that I am always ready to lauch some drives no matter the case. We were each given a series of 5 throws in each of two rounds for a total of ten throws. Garrett Gurthie was the current leader before I had thrown and it was up to me to overtake the lead. I really did not get any of my throws to fly out due to the rain and slippery footing when I tried to plant to throw. I still ended up supposedly 3 feet short due to inconsistant lazer measuring system. I say that for the fact that at that distance lazer finders are not the nost accurate way to measure disc distance because for those that know the finder can give you a series of different measurement especially at distances over 500 feet. Still pretty aggrevated I threw a second round of throws that measured the furhtest for the round but did not compare to the first set as far as distance. I got edged by a controversial measurement, a measurement that is taken as a tie or a push in sactioned distance contests. I got denied on a throw off due to time constraints and other issues. Sure who would not want to take a win in distance against me, I will see to it that it does not happen again. It still really bothered me throughout the night, but I intended to use it as fuel and motivation to give it all that I had to go after what I set out to do all season long, win the USDGC.

The start of Friday morning started out like it did every morning prior to that with a solid warm up and some catch with Greenwell to dial in those accurate shots. I was more pumped then ever before to get out there and play the 3rd round. I shot great on the front with a 5 under and had only on bad hole on the back nine. It is the most grueling of holes on the whole Winthrop Gold Course, 888 as they call it, Hole #13. It is a make you or break you kind of hole with lots of trouble and OB everywhere, a kind of hole that is best played super conservative with the only goal being to staying in bounds on every shot. Definitely not a hole to overlook and for some reason I thought that it was a great time to get aggressive after going OB off the tee. I tried to force a sidearm shot to a pin high landing zone to be followed by a great upshot to finish with a par 5 and not lose more then 1 stroke to the field or at this time in the tournament, Ken Climo. I preceded to go OB on that sidearm and was forced to score a 7 instead of the ideal par on the hole. I birdied 2 of the last 5 to finish the round with a could have been 61, putting me 7 back of the lead of Climo after shooting a course record 56, 2 strokes over Feldberg and 3 over Randolph going into the final round.

It was still possible for me to win this tournament, but it was no small feat granted that I was attempting to catch the best player to ever play the sport of disc golf. I was also limited to only 18 holes and back by 7 strokes, but at this course any thing is possible. A player is able to lose 2 or 3 strokes on any given hole depending on the difficulty and OB potential. I was reluctant to get Climo to agree on a friendly split on the payout, but that definitely made that clear that that was not going to happen, it was worth a try. The time was now as my sister Valarie was on the bag as caddy for the round, she has a way of keeping me focused and lightens my spirits on the course by not allowing me to get to frustrated after not so perfect shots. She played an amazing tournament finishing in front of at least 50 of male competitors, it made her realize that she is definitely a world class player on the toughest courses in the world, I am to proud. It was showtime as we stepped out to our 1:30 pm tee time, all eyes on us. Climo, Feldberg, Randolph and myself in the lead card final round at the 2007 USDGC, it was time to some incredible golf and energy seemed to flow from the surroundings, the excitement increases. I played somewhat aggressive on the first couple of holes trying to make up some crucial strokes on the lead. I shot a solid 4 under on the front nine increasing my lead over 3rd place and realizing at that point that it was going to take a little more then a miracle to catch Climo now, but I was in a comfortable lead on those that were trailing me. I was still 7 strokes back and we were playing heads up going into the back 9. He was absolutely in the zone like I have never seen before, he could do no wrong, he was on fire. He continued to birdie every hole from hole 9 to hole 17 with a drop-in eagle from 3 feet on hole 12. He was proving to me that he is still the best in the sport. I played a great back recording a 4 under going into the final hole. On hole 18 Climo had a decent 12 stroke lead and I could go nowhere up by 6 strokes on 3rd, it was his victory lap but he was after more then just the win, he had to birdie out to shoot the new course record of 54 which is unheard of. I played my drive and upshot right down the fairway. Climo then took an aggressive upshot toward the pin to ensure a birdie finish, except that this time he got an unfortunate break as his disc hyzer skipped OB wide now leaving him with a 35 foot downhill death putt for par. He second guessed it for coice of the right decision and laid the shot under the pin to shoot back to back course records. I tapped out giving him the go ahead to putt out for the victory, claiming his 5th USDGC Open Title. He was destine to win that day and no one could have topped him this year, he playing some truly amazing golf and I felt honored to witness it all. At that moment I felt physically and mentally exhausted, completely drained but yet my day was not finished, I still had to throw in the Distance Showcase over the Winthrop Lake.

The Distance Showcase is the most exciting distance exhibition with a huge gallery of USDGC fans and loud music to pump up the competitors. I am was the two-time defending champion so I was in charge of the music for this year’s event. The Showcase consisted of Garrett Gurthie, Johannes Hogberg, Robbie Bratten and myself. I was there to prove who the furthest thrower after that debacle during the distance finals, it was showtime. We were all handed stacks of brand new Pro Destoyers in which we all autographed before we sent them over the lake. They had the music slamming and the crowd was really getting into it, its the beat feeling in the world. Its about 500′ to get a shot over the water and about 625’+ to get one over the road. I preceded to throw 2 over the road, keeping that consecutive over the road streak alive. I believe that only Markus Kallstrom, Ken Jarvis and I are the only ones to ever clear the street, its a pretty amazing feat. It was an incredible showcase giving me a second chance to prove my point in a distance contest.

This years USDGC was spectacular and gets better every year. Its well said as quoted by Nate Doss – “Its as soon as leave, you can’t wait to be back”. As always I await another chance to win a US Championship, until next year.

Next Tournament: Moccasin Lake Open Supertour – Clearwater, FL


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