This weekend the professional National Tour kicked off in sunny Arizona with the Discraft Memorial. In hindsight, most of the attention is being put on the bizarre ending. However, there were a few major developments that have been overshadowed.
First off, Discgolfplanet did a great job in their live coverage. For the past few years, watching their broadcasts has been satisfactory, but not mind blowing. The quality of the streaming video this year was close to HD, and the production of the broadcast was a notch better than in years past. There was far less “dead air” and miscues in comparison. In addition to that, the livestream portal that was used on the last day, HERE was iPhone friendly! I’m not sure if it worked on other mobile devices, like the Droid, but when I clicked on the link while at the grocery store- I was shocked to see Ricky Wysocki in crystal clear video, throwing a sidearm on one of the first holes at Fountain Hills. As I see it, with the advancements in technology, things are only going to get better from here.
Secondly, in the Women’s Open division, Paige Pierce crushed it. Every division had a winner, so there are stories all around. But Paige started the tournament on Thursday by throwing a 1036 rated 54. She wound up averaging well above the coveted thousand rating at 1010+. She won her division by 11 strokes. To put her first round in perspective, she bested 70 of the 88 pro open men with that 54.
Thirdly, Paul McBeth went out on the last day at Fountain Hills and threw a 39. He birdied every single hole except one (hole 9?) and ended up with a record breaking 1126 rated round. If you break down the math of how many strokes he threw, you start by subtracting 18 putts (he didn’t have any aces) and that is only 21 strokes to navigate the entire course. 21 strokes on 18 holes is essentially flawless disc golf. Of course, there was the one par 3, but on a peninsula hole, with eight birdies already in his pocket, one can hardly blame Paul for playing it safe(er) and hitting the cage on the birdie attempt. I’m not a history buff when it comes to the highest rated rounds ever, but I know Ken Climo had an 1100+ rated round, and a couple people including Paul McBeth himself broke the 1100 barrier at the Memorial in years past. However, nobody else has an 1126 rated round up to this point. It also bears mention that the red-hot scores at the Memorial almost always come at the other course- Vista del Camino. This time, Paul did it at Fountain Hills. It was an epic round- and it almost won him the tournament- making him a 3-peat champion.
Lastly however, we all know that Will Schusterick took home the victory. He somehow ended the day up two strokes on Paul and made a mistake with regard to not totaling up his own scorecard and handing it in on time. I left the room for five minutes thinking it was over, and when I came back, Facebook and Twitter were ablaze with people saying, “PLAYOFF!” Will made quick work of it however, and virtually parked the playoff hole- while Paul couldn’t convert a 50+ footer from outside the circle.
Much of the hoopla and hype has been about this dramatic ending as well as all the shifts in pro sponsorships. The players sponsored by Prodigy are clearly a tight knit group who are making the extra effort to support each other on tour. However, with only two discs currently out on the market, Prodigy is more of a team uniform than a manufacturer. If their product is second to none, when it actually gets released, then they will get the respect they deserve. In the meantime, I expect they’ll keep getting the flak from “haters” on Facebook, Twitter, and the forums because being an all-star team of the best players throwing 90% non-Prodigy plastic just makes them a target. Don’t get me wrong, I regularly root for their players at big events- I just don’t see any appeal to the ‘storyline’ if you will. Dave Feldberg and Eric McCabe also switched sponsors for 2013- but they’re throwing completely new molds with no exceptions. I consider them underdogs for the time being, and I hope they come away with some big victories. There are those who say, “This guy is so good, he could throw a dinner plate and win!” I disagree completely with this. A disc is a unique thing from company to company, and disc golf is a mental game. I don’t believe for a second that Will Schusterick, or even Paul McBeth would have had the same scores this weekend if they were forced to take all of last year’s plastic out of their bag. In any case, no matter what your opinion on the “Indian or the arrow” debate, this season is going to be entertaining from start to finish!