The PDGA's top ladies head to the Northeast for their final Major of 2016
September 23, 2016 by Alex Colucci in News, Preview with 0 comments
This weekend marks the seventeenth iteration of the United States Women’s Disc Golf Championship, the second to last PDGA Major of 2016. Eighteen Open competitors travel to Sabattus, Maine, for this year’s installment, which is the last big tournament of the season for those in the FPO division.
Hannah Leatherman was a bit of a surprise winner at last year’s USWDGC, coming from behind to beat Catrina Allen, Paige Pierce and Sarah Hokom in the final round. Leatherman hasn’t competed as much in 2016, though, and struggled in her most recent event at the Disc Golf Pro Tour Championship semifinals, adding a layer of curiosity to her hopes at a repeat.
Allen, meanwhile, hasn’t been giving the field a chance to make a run at the win once she has a lead, regularly outpacing her competitors by considerable margins this season. Even though she missed out on 2016’s first PDGA Major opportunity for FPO at Pro Worlds in early August, this weekend she’s not only presented with a chance at redemption, but also the opportunity to collect her eighteenth win of the season. If she can pull off the Major, her year has a chance to be in the conversation as one of the greatest FPO seasons ever.
Tournament And Courses
The professional divisions will play four rounds at two of the four Sabattus Disc Golf Complex courses: Eagle and Hawk. The Eagle course will be played Friday and Sunday during rounds one and four, while the Hawk course will be played twice on Saturday for rounds two and three.
While both courses include numerous wooded holes, the Eagle course is roughly 1,000 feet longer than the Hawk course, while the latter leans toward a more open layout. To get a sense of the courses and venue being played in this competition here is video from the 2013 Sabattus Disc Golf Open showing the Hawk course, and another from the same tournament showing the Eagle course. Here’s an additional video of Paul McBeth and Nate Sexton’s visit to Sabattus earlier this year.
After her tie for second at this year’s Worlds, Allen has gone on to win the last four events she’s played in dominant fashion: the Ledgestone Open, Brent Hambrick Memorial Open, Green Mountain Championship, and the DGPT Championship. With Valarie Jenkins’ late exit from this event, that leaves even less resistance for Allen in her attempt to take home yet another victory. Allen won the 2012 USWDGC in Huntsville, Alabama, and there shouldn’t be much question who the favorite is, again, heading into another big tournament.
While it might be hard to pick against Allen, Hokom could be as good a bet as any to pull it off. She’s one of only four women to have beaten Allen in 2016, doing so at the Majestic, a tournament that features courses not unlike those in Sabattus. Hokom has a reputation for playing well through the trees and has plenty of Major wins under her belt, including 2013’s USWDGC title.
Pierce is the other clear contender to challenge Allen, having beaten her earlier this year at the Vibram Open. Pierce is no stranger to winning Major tournaments – this one included – but she’s had difficulty staying with Allen this season, finishing second repeatedly and, with only a few notable exceptions, often by a wide margin.
Leatherman of course still has a chance to win a second in a row. The courses in Sabattus aren’t that dissimilar from those played in Mid-Ohio last year, and perhaps the move to the more tight and wooded courses in Maine will be a boon to Leatherman’s game. At last week’s DGPT Championship, Leatherman struggled on the more open, out-of-bounds laden Fox Run course, hitting fairways just 53% of the time, and successfully scrambling on only 47% of her attempts. She came from behind to win last year, and to win this time she’ll probably have to do that again.
Elaine King, Zoe Andyke, Madison Walker, Holly Finley and Michelle Frazer are in the next tier of competitors who have a chance to challenge the top four. King bested Hokom earlier this month at the Blockhouse Labor Day Marathon on similar courses, while Andyke and Walker both passed up Leatherman last week. Finley finished a close third to Hokom and Jenkins at this year’s Silver Cup, and has high finishes in National Tour events in past years. Frazer finished 6th in this event last year and tied for 5th at this year’s Brent Hambrick Memorial Open.
A dark horse to watch is the 909-rated New England native Erica Johnson. She’s cashed at NTs and beaten some of the names in this field before.
Past USWDGC Champions
2015 – Mid-Ohio – Hannah Leatherman – (Field Size: 14)
2014 – Appling, GA – Paige Pierce – (29)
2013 – Portland, OR – Sarah Hokom – (26)
2012 – Huntsville, AL – Catrina Allen – (15)
2011 – Round Rock, TX – Valarie Jenkins – (22)
2010 – Jacksonville, NC – Valarie Jenkins – (18)
2009 – Quad Cities, IA, IL – Sarah Stanhope (Cunningham) – (18)
2008 – Huntsville, AL – Angela Tschiggfrie – (23)
2007 – Peoria, IL – Elaine King – (26)
2006 – Peoria, IL – Angela Tschiggfrie – (27)
2005 – Peoria, IL – Elaine King – (23)
2004 – Peoria, IL – Des Reading – (16)
2003 – Peoria, IL – Des Reading – (19)
2002 – Peoria, IL – Des Reading – (18)
2001 – Rock Hill, SC – Lesli Todd – (9)
2000 – Rock Hill, SC – Lesli Herndon (Todd) – (6)
There’s a chance of rain in the morning on Friday for the first round of competition. High temperatures for all four rounds will be in the mid-60s, and there will be roughly 10 mph winds coming from North-Northwest in the afternoon each day.
How To Watch It
The Disc Golf Guy will be providing recorded coverage rounds two, three and four of the event. Some next day videos of early rounds should be available Sunday morning, and PDGA media will be on the ground with live scoring and Twitter updates.