Wrapping up round two of the 15th United States Disc Golf Championship from Rock Hill, SC.
It was a far hotter and more humid day than competitors might have expected coming into the second day of the USDGC. Luckily the breeze kicked up around 1:30 p.m. and cooled things down a bit. Players were treated once more to the stunning but ever so challenging, Winthrop Gold Course. The twin lake fountains were sprouting, the ducks napped along hole number five.
But have no fear, the only rest worth having was for the birds. The players were lighting up the course. After no more than an hour watching hole 17, I watched fifteen discs sink into the murky depths of Winthrop lake. No shock there, number 17 is notorious for raising player’s blood pressure and sending fans hands into the air in disbelief.
Hole 17 is one of my favorites. The menacing layout just calls out to me. It’s great to see how pros take on the challenge. With hay bales blocking the green from rolling approaches, low trees restricting the tee shots, and water serving as the ultimate green hazard; hole 17 features a rotating basket location between the 1 and 3 (to the right side of the green away from the water) and the 2 and 4 (pressed to the left edge of the green along the lakeside.) Hole 17 is fun to watch but truly tough to play.
Since last year, hole 2 has really grown on me. It’s a tricky par 4 with lots of trees and branches preventing a direct approach. (46% of the pros par while 40% birdie this hole.)
And yet another, the unorthodox hole 7 with its wall of bamboo and opening that players have to throw through before approaching the basket. It’s a par 3 where 68% of pros birdie.
New this year is amended out of bounds and hazard rules that further challenge the players to keep their throws in the field of play. Now the course is separated by red ropes for out of bounds and yellow for hazards. If a disc ends up in a hazard, the player takes a penalty, but can throw from where it lies. With the red ropes, the player takes a penalty and re-throws. The new restrictions are not universally loved for sure, but they definitely ensure that the USDGC remains the most challenging tournament going.
To explain just how hard the course has become in the past few years, let’s look at the total scores of four time winner Ken Climo (1999) – 204, (2000) – 204, (2002) -237, and in (2004) – 255. Luckily the trend is starting to climb back down. The average score of the past five year’s winners is 240.5. (nearly 15 shots less than Climo’s last win nine years ago.)
The field is limited a bit from the numbers seen in the past five years. The Open Flight group is under 60 pros and the performance flight is around 75 or so. But that all means very little because the remaining players in attendance are the top players from around the globe.
Beginning today’s second round, all eyes were on Paul McBeth (from CA), who is on a historic run toward winning all four Disc Golf Majors. (Of which he has won three already.) But his first two rounds of 62 were just not adequate enough. He is currently stuck in 11th place. It’s hard to imagine how being -10 for the tournament is somehow below expectations, but if he wants the prize of US Champ, and four Major winner, he is going to have to dig deep tomorrow.
The Open Flight group is packed with 58 professionals, all vying to take home the Championship. A quick rundown of key names will show you how competitive this year’s tournament has become. Last year’s champ, Will Schusterick (from TN), sits at -14 in fourth place. A nice spot for him as he tries to earn his third championship in four years. Four time winner Ken Climo (from FL), struggled his first two rounds sitting at -1 for the tournament in 39th position.
Previous World Champ, Cameron Todd of Wingate, NC, a local favorite, sits in 32nd place at -2. Not bad, but also not as competitive as he would like to be. Look for stronger play in the third round tomorrow and some heavy competition to push him back upward.
The top five in the Open Flight Group, as of the end of round two are:
1) Nathan Doss -17 (OR)
2) Steve Brinster -16 (NY)
3) Steve Rico -15 (CA)
4) Will Schusterick -14 (TN)
5) Matt Orum -13 (AL)
tied with Jared Roan -13 (CO) and David Wiggins Jr. -13 (NC).
See http://www.usdgclive.com/clubhouse for live coverage, updated scoreboards, and event news throughout the final two rounds.
Third Round Tee Offs begin at 8:30 a.m. The cooler morning climate should help some pros get their games into gear and shake up this leader-board before the close of tomorrow’s round.
In the Performance Flight, or Amateur division, watch local favorite Kevin Tritten of NC who shot better than his projected in round two. Kevin may have landed himself in a decent spot for tomorrow. After a brief conversation with Kevin, he seemed confident. He could be a real threat to win the Performance Flight group with more steady play. He spent part of the day stuck in the middle with around twenty members of the nearly (80) player pack. I expect him to finish tomorrow in the top ten and by Saturday, keep an eye out for the big man, he will make a case for himself with more strong play.
The top five for the Performance Flight Group are:
1) Phillip-Tyler Belt -17 (GA)
2) Kevin Tritten -9 (NC)
2) Zachary Anders -9 (PA)
4) Jordan Potvin -7 (NH)
4) Austin Krise -7 (PA)
Keep in mind, tickets are $10 per day, or $25 for a VIP pass which covered all four rounds. Come on out to Winthrop to see the world’s best professionals fight it out.
There are refreshments and food for sale at the Pro Shop. And Skip Scienski and Cameron Todd have their wares for sale along hole 18. Cameron is once again, displaying his disc golf environment paintings. And Skeet is set up in front of the Pro Shop at 18 with his tattoos, custom discs, and posters. Look for Skeet DiscGolf Artist Scienski on Facebook and http://www.camerontoddart.com/?cat=3 for a look at Cameron’s great new Fall prints.
The USDGC is a sponsored tour event, brought to you by Innova discs, which is a local, Rock Hill, SC business. So come on out, buy some discs, and see how the pros play one of the fastest growing sports on the planet.
And if you are looking for some evening entertainment, the York County Arts Council is sponsoring the Blues and Restaurant Crawl from 7-11 p.m. in Old Town (Downtown) Rock Hill.