The USDGC’s spotlight on College Disc Golf, the Dean’s Cup, returns to the Winthrop Gold Course on Thursday morning.
Playing in the team format used in the National Collegiate Disc Golf Championships, the teams will tee off before the USDGC’s Round 2. Winners of Thursday’s matches will then face off on Friday morning, followed by the Dean’s Cup final on Saturday morning. Matches will begin around 8 a.m. ET. Follow along with College Disc Golf on Facebook.
Instead of four teams competing, there will be eight this year. Be sure to check out these talented teams. College Disc Golf is one of the fastest growing areas of disc golf.
54 feet was a close as anyone could get to Simon Lizotte’s longest toss on Tuesday as he became the US Distance Champ for the fourth time.
Here are the distances of the top four throwers, who will be featured in the Big Arm Big Heart Distance Showcase (over the lake) Saturday after the final round:
Lizotte’s winning throw also beat his previous longest throw of 681 he threw in 2014.
The Tuesday before the USDGC means practice for the players and preparation for the staff during the day, but at night the annual Opening Ceremony brings the two parties together for food, tradition, and of course the following day’s tee times.
Though many of the same traditions were continued in this longstanding Championship event, it also had a sense of newness about it. That certainly included the new location at the Rock Hill Sports Complex, but it also included the new staff faces speaking on the stage and fresh music from Innova Ambassador DJ Hek Yeh, who kept things jamming throughout the evening.
After Hek Yeh’s rousing musical introduction, Event Director Jonathan Poole welcomed all to the ceremony. Right off the bat, he wanted to make clear this wasn’t your typical player’s meeting.
“This is not a meeting. We want this to be fun,” said Poole.
USDGC Chairman Harold Duvall, another annual figure at the ceremony spoke of performing in the “Winthrop Arena” which can come in the role as a USDGC competitor or a USDGC staff member refilling water coolers, scoring groups, or whatever duty they’re tasked with. In either case, you’re putting yourself out there for a cause.
“What we’re going to do this week is to show the world what it’s like to be in the arena,” said Duvall.
Poole reinforced the important role staff play at the USDGC by bringing all of the staff to the front. It’s an annual tradition that shows players just how many people, many volunteers, are working to make the event possible.
“We have more people working the event then are playing in the event,” said Poole.
Another tradition is recognizing the USDGC’s past champions. Once all are assembled on the stage it’s always quite a sight to behold. Nine of the 10 past Open champs were in attendance (2008 Champ Nate Doss was not present). 2018 winner Paul McBeth received his Championship ring and expressed his gratitude to Innova and the staff for continuing to make the USDGC possible.
Along with honoring the previous year’s champ, the ceremony also honors its most dedicated volunteers. Each year the Golden Rake Award is given to an outstanding volunteer/volunteers. Since there have been so many worthy volunteers over the years the award has become more of a USDGC Volunteer Hall of Fame induction.
“This is my family – these past Golden Rake winners,” USDGC Volunteer Staff Coordinator Paul Bergey said before he announced this year’s recipient.
This year Charlotte residents Doug and Diana Singleton won the award. Diana has been volunteering for 21 years while Doug has done it for 20.
The Singletons have primarily done one thing at the Championship: drive shuttle carts. And they do it well, driving players to their tee times and then back to their cars as well as shuttling the VIP ticket holders.
“Everything we do from cart driving to laying down bottom string is very important to making the USDGC happen,” Bergey said earlier.
Diana said her six-person shuttle has become known as the eagle wagon because of how often players shoot eagles after riding with her. The two, who have also been active with the Charlotte Disc Golf Club, first volunteered many years ago when USDGC staff asked the club for help. Doug is known as the “Roller King of the Queen City.”
Diana added that its been great to see disc golf grow so much.
“We’ve been playing disc golf before it was disc golf,” she said, referring to the days before targets when objects were used for pins.
The night ended as it always does with the calling of the first round’s tee times. Usually it’s done by the official USDGC Starter Andy Greene, but with the night having several new changes, USDGC Staffer and Charlotte pro Josh Day took the reigns and did a fine job even with some of the extra fancy international names. He said he did some homework, looking up four to five pronunciations for some of the trickier ones. He was glad he did.
Round 1 Tee Times available at UDisc Live:
It wouldn’t be Monday Qualifying without a playoff. Well, at least that’s how it’s been five of the last six years.
After all of the scorecards were turned in for the day, three men including Stephen Schroeder, Ezra Robinson, and Brandon Brown were all tied at 66 (-1) for the last two spots.
After Schroeder and Robinson’s tee shots landed safely on the green of Hole 1 (former Hole 3), Brown’s backhand landed short in the hazard. His Championship hopes were then over after he missed his putt for three and Schroeder and Robinson secured their birdies.
Others earning USDGC invites included Austin Turner 64 (-3), Nicholas Masters 65 (-2), and Isaac Robinson 65.
The weather, which is usually approaching fall-like temps this time of year, was still full-fledge summer, maxing out today at 91 degrees. Players better get used to it because the heat is not expected to let up until Saturday, the final day of the tournament.
For the second year in a row brothers Isaac and Ezra Robinson of Snellville, GA, made the grade during the Monday Qualifier.
Schroeder is also no stranger to making the Monday Qualifying cut. He’s done it three of the last four years. Schroeder, obviously has it figured out. When asked what the trick was, Schroeder, who lives in Charlotte, said it certainly helps being local so he can pop into Winthrop for practice. And, he believes in his qualifier strategy of going into it knowing he’ll only play one round.
Plus, he has Estonian Silver Lätt as a good luck charm. Schroeder said the first time he Monday Qualified in 2016, Lätt was roaming the course watching him and others play. Schroeder developed a friendship with him and Lätt has caddied for him every Monday Qualifying since.
Lätt said he and Schroeder have similar games, so it makes caddying for him easy.
“We always have fun out on the course. We talk a lot during the round and mostly not disc golf conversations. I believe that helps him to stay calm and execute shots better,” said Lätt, who qualified earlier in the season and will be playing in his fourth USDGC.
When Austin Turner completed his second attempt around 5 p.m., his 64 (-3) took the top spot on the qualifier leaderboard for the remainder of the day. This will be his first Major event since last year’s USDGC, in which he withdrew after three rounds.
Turner said he tweaked his back during practice for last year’s USDGC, which led to a greater injury of his hip. Ever since then he’s been trying to get back to 100% health. At his injury’s worst, he could barely move.
“I literally sat in bed for two months this year,” said Turner, who had a big 2017 with top 10 finishes at Pro Worlds and three National Tour events.
After removing himself from the Las Vegas Challenge and the Memorial early in this season, Turner started physical rehab in March and has brought himself back into playing shape. He skipped this year’s World Championships to further rest and now figures he’s about 80-90% recovered.
He felt pretty good about the (-3) he turned in, but ultimately wasn’t too satisfied with it, knowing he’ll likely need even better stuff to compete this week.
Down by three strokes to start the final round on Sunday, a pair of Blakes from NC grabbed a share of the lead after regulation, then pushed over the top after three playoff holes at the Canaan Riverbend Gold Course in Rock Hill.
Here's a pic of the winners: Poland (left). TD Dave George (middle). Montayne (right).
After shooting a respectable (-3) at Winthrop Gold on Friday, Blake Poland, of Goldsboro, NC, and Blake Montayne, of New Bern, NC, stood at a tie for 11th place. They turned it on, though, once they hit the densely wood Canaan Course shooting (-10) for both Round 2 and 3 on Saturday and Sunday.
After regulation, they were tied with Colby Childress of Knoxville, TN, and Leif Force of Tallahassee, FL. The teams remained tied after two playoff holes, but it all ended on the 252-foot Hole 16 that features a significantly elevated basket atop a spiral staircase. Childress/Force’s tee shot left them with a tricky putt from the left side rough and were not able to convert for birdie or their comebacker for par.
With Poland’s tee shot parked under the staircase, the two could’ve placed their next shot on the staircase to ensure an easy par putt, but decided to keep it interesting. Straight under the target, Montayne then threw a basketball type shot that toppled end over end into the basket for the birdie and the win.
USDGC Doubles Director Dave George wanted to thank all of the competitors for taking part in the successful event and is looking forward to making next year even bigger and better.
Here's a pic of USDGC Doubles Runners Up: Childress/Force
Photo by Alyssa Van Lanen
Depending who you are, you may call winning all of disc golf’s Majors a sweep or you may call it a Grand Slam. When most non disc golfers think of ‘Grand Slam,’ golf or tennis comes to mind. In those sports Grand Slam refers to winning all four of the year’s Major events, which are the same annually.
However in disc golf, the number of Majors and the events classified as a Major often fluctuate. This year there were only three Major events. When McBeth achieved the sweep or Grand Slam (whichever you want to call it) in 2015, there were five. But regardless as to what it’s called, it’s a monumental feat.
Photo by Tomi Mäkipää
Most USDGC spectators come for the final two days. But for those who make it to the opening round on Wednesday, they’ll get to see the event’s greatest champion, Ken Climo, take on Winthrop Gold one more time.
It will be his first full PDGA round since playing in the Throw Down the Mountain event in Florida in 2017. A nagging hip injury has prevented the 12-time World Champ and 5-time US Champ from competing the last few years.
Climo, 51, had similar hopes of playing the first round of last year’s 20th Anniversary of the USDGC, but scaled back to only playing the first hole in hopes of preventing any long-term damage to his injury classified as hip bursitis.
This year with Climo feeling the best he’s felt in three years, he’s very confident he can play the entire first round. What he’s uncertain of, is how he will feel after 18 Winthrop Gold holes. If the pain returns, there will be no question about it, he’ll stop after one round – even if he’s playing well.
He plans to arrive on Sunday, but has no plans on practicing prior to Round 1. He admits that he’s not trying to be a world beater, he’s just trying to save himself for Wednesday’s round and for the future.
“I’ve played about 10 rounds in the last three years. You can’t expect to come out on fire,” Climo said with a laugh.
It’s been a frustrating few years for disc golf’s living legend. Even though he’s able to conduct day-to-day activity relatively pain free this year and the back pain triggered by his hip injury has dissipated, he still can’t do strenuous activity for more than one day at a time.
He’s tried everything barring surgery to fix it: physical therapists, acupuncture, Cortisone shots, - “You name I’ve tried it,” but nothing has worked, and doctors appear unable to agree on the solution. With surgery out of the question (Climo feels like you never return to your old self after going under the knife), he’s considering alternative methods like stem cell treatment.
For now though, he’s just hoping to make it through one round at Winthrop. His last round two months ago gave him some optimism. He paired up with touring pro and fellow Clearwater, FL, resident Charlie Goodpasture for a bring your own doubles partner event at Cliff Stevens Park in Clearwater and was pain free.
The duo finished second by five strokes. Despite not winning, Goodpasture said they played well with his famous partner playing the familiar Climo way, hitting 40-footers no problem. Goodpasture, who will be playing in his third USDGC this year, said the Champ still has his touch and his incredible spin control.
Here’s a clip of Climo knocking one down at that doubles event. Special thanks to Goodpasture and PureLine Disc Golf for sharing it.
Along with Climo’s pile of wins, what’s just as impressive are the 28 years he was able to compete at the top level before his hip injury sidelined him.
Just four years ago, Climo, who was 47 at the time, was on the chase card for Round 2 of the 2015 USDGC. Climo started the day tied with Ricky Wysocki, James Proctor, and Paul McBeth. He battled with them for most of the round until he was bitten by Hole 13 and fell behind. However, he still managed an impressive tie for 10th that year.
Since then, his USDGC play has been limited. He withdrew after the first round of 2016, which was his last full round at Winthrop.
With Climo no longer in the spotlight, many wonder what the man synonymous with disc golf has been doing with his time. As you might imagine, course design is a passion of Climo’s. He and Goodpasture recently designed a gold version of the Cliff Stevens Course in Clearwater, adding some 2500 feet to the existing layout. Climo said the course, installed in 1986, was due for an update.
“We made a grand course that would test anybody in the game. I don’t see anybody shooting 14 down there. It ain’t gonna happen,” he said proudly, adding that he has a few other design opportunities on the horizon and would like to make that a bigger part of his life.
Goodpasture, who has worked with Climo on a few other properties, said it’s been a privilege to work with a man who has defined disc golf for so many.
“It was really cool working with him on the gold layout and bouncing things off each other because it is both of our home course,” said Goodpasture. He added that course design has helped get Climo excited again about disc golf as he’s worked to solve his frustrating hip injury problem.
When he’s not carving out fairways, Climo can be found at home raising his 16-year-old and 7-year-old kids (he also has a 25-year-old adult son), as well as taking care of various things around the house. The last several years he’s dedicated more of himself to his family, he said.
For the last many years, the first week in October has meant a regular pilgrimage to Rock Hill, SC, for Climo. This will be his 20th USDGC Appearance (he’s only missed the 2017 edition). His record at Winthrop will be tough for anyone to beat. Of the 17 USDGC appearances that he completed the event, he finished 12th or better more than 80% of the time and either first or second more than 40% of the time.
Though it is unlikely that Climo will play more than one round this year, he will be making repeat appearances commentating for the live broadcast – a job like course design he seems perfect for.
Last year it was great to see Paul McBeth, James Conrad, Nate Sexton, and Kevin Jones battle it out during the final round. But it was even cooler to hear Climo, the man who has lived it all himself, commentate about it.
When it comes to his approach to commentating, he said he doesn’t really have one.
“I just call it how I see it,” said Climo, adding that last year’s USDGC live broadcast was his first real opportunity.
Be sure to sign up for the USDGC’s 2019 Live Broadcast for Rounds 2, 3, and 4.
Though he will miss former holes 1 and 2, he believes the former Hole 3 is a great hole to start on – even better than the original one. There’s some OB to keep you honest and an aggressive tee shot is required to land on the green. Plus, it should play fairly fast since there are no early trees to hit, he said.
He has not seen much of the new holes 3 and 4. The question to ask will be if the new holes will have comparable toughness and playability to the holes removed, said Climo.
Climo would still like to get back in the game. If his health returns, he could see playing eight to ten events a year including the biggies like the Masters World Championships and the US Masters Championship.
“I miss it. I’m kind of jones’n over here for some action,” said Climo.
So who will be paired up with Climo on Wednesday? Last year, for his special Hole 1 appearance, Climo was paired with another USDGC legend Barry Schultz. It was a special moment seeing the two, who had so many close matches, play that hole again. Then again, maybe he’ll be on the same card as some of today’s greats like Wysocki, McBeth or McMahon? Or still yet, he may even get paired up with his Florida doubles partner, Charlie Goodpasture. Come Wednesday to find out.
The USDGC and its live stream media partner Fulcrum Media are pulling out all of the stops for this year’s live coverage. More cameras. More technology. More hands-on deck. And, best of all more live lead card disc golf.
Here’s a closer look at how live coverage will play out this year.
Live stream pay-per-view will feature lead card coverage for rounds 2, 3, and 4, and includes commentating from 5-time US Champ Ken Climo. Fans may purchase the entire 3-day broadcast for $9.99 now. Proceeds will benefit the Educational Disc Golf Experience and help fund the broadcast itself.
Going into 2018’s production, Fulcrum and the USDGC knew they’d be facing the same challenges of other live disc golf productions, chiefly limited cameras and signal to follow the lead card properly. What resulted was a focus on Hole 17 with occasional drop-ins on the lead card.
Here's a look at the final holes from last year's broadcast:
However, they learned that as much as USDGC fans love the drama that Hole 17 provides, they wanted more lead card coverage including the reactions from players and fans, said Fulcrum co-founder Luke Johnson. So that’s what they’re going to bring this year, lots and lots of lead card coverage.
Live viewers should expect to get closer than ever to the USDGC’s lead card. To ensure the lead card is amply covered, Fulcrum is bringing their 18-foot production van to follow the lead card on nearby roads. Essentially a home base on wheels, the addition of the van will allow Fulcrum to package complete multi-camera coverage of the lead card with graphics, replays, and more all while having a consistently strong signal.
“That’s a huge advantage,” said Johnson, whose team has broadcast American Ultimate Disc League games online and to TV the last few years, many from the exact van.
Unlike many of today’s lead card coverage with one or two cameras, Fulcrum will employ four. Connected to the production van will be three camera operators to capture the players’ shots, the discs’ flight/landing, and the reactions of the players and fans. In addition to that, a live video drone will be used for large scale shots.
“We’re hoping that it will bring fans as close to the action as possible,” said Johnson.
All of that lead card coverage will be sent to the commentator booth/production studio positioned near the Pro Shop. Five cameras will be on hand here including two focused on the commentators, one in the new player warm up area, one perched near Hole 18 catching scenic shots, and another in a special spot to be determined. Calling the action will be familiar USDGC faces Jamie Thomas, Hannah McBeth, and 5-time US Champ Ken Climo.
“That’s another thing that separates this live broadcast from the others, is to have people like Ken Climo involved,” said USDGC Event Director Jonathan Poole. “With Paul McBeth chasing another Grand Slam and Climo calling the action, it’s going to be can’t miss TV.”
This is going to be an incredible presentation of live disc golf – possibly one that others will be measured against. We believe disc golf and the USDGC are worth this extra effort and those that tune in to watch will find it to be a worthy investment.