McBeth Still Playing Aussie Open

Travel woes almost derailed defending champion's trip

Defending Aussie Open champion Paul McBeth will indeed make the trip down under. Photo: PDGA

Paul McBeth is indeed still playing the Aussie Open, he confirmed to Ultiworld Disc Golf this morning. He is flying out to the first PDGA Major of the 2017 season tomorrow.

McBeth hit some travel snags yesterday as he tried to get to the tournament, with his flight from Charlotte, North Carolina, being canceled and not able to be re-booked.

“I was sitting on the plane for two hours, in my seat, on the plane, ready to go,” McBeth said. “And then they’re like, ‘We have an issue with the plane and we can’t go.'”

McBeth’s original flight on Emirates was routed through Dubai, he said, but the airline told him that connecting flights from Dubai to Perth, where the Aussie Open is located, were full.

“They only have one flight from Dubai to Perth [each day],” McBeth said. “So the issue wasn’t getting out of the U.S. The issue was getting from my connection in Dubai to Perth, because they were booked for the next two or three or four days.”

After leaving Charlotte last night and driving back to his offseason home in Virginia, McBeth said he had “no intentions of going.” Then, he got a call from Disc Golf World Tour Director Jussi Meresmaa, who had been suffering his own travel issues as well.

“I said to Paul that he can take a nap in his home, book fresh new flights and still beat me [to] Perth,” Meresmaa said after landing in Frankfurt, Germany, with another 36 hours of travel still to go.

“Jussi called me and he’s like, we’ll cancel all media obligations for you,'” McBeth said. “‘We’ll do this, we’ll do that, we’ll do whatever it takes to get you here.'”

With that extra push from Meresmaa, McBeth looked at flights from the Washington, D.C., area and found them to be less expensive than his original trip to Australia. He and his friend Hunter — who McBeth said has long dreamed of heading down under — now leave tomorrow for a 50-plus hour sojourn that will take them to San Francisco, then Singapore, before reaching their final destination.

Even with the struggles of the last few days — in addition to his own flight cancellation, McBeth had been dealing with travel woes since before arriving at the airport, after his brother’s visa to Australia was denied last-minute, dooming his trip — the defending Aussie Open champion said he was not worried about any impact on his performance. Rather, he thought the new arrangement might benefit him.

“I don’t think it’ll affect my play in any way,” McBeth said. “I’m gonna go out and practice today probably, so I’ll get an extra day of play in here. It could probably help in the sense that now I have no media obligations and I can just focus on playing.”

Meresmaa said it only made sense to take care of McBeth as one of the sport’s marquee players and was not worried other players would be upset over the media plans.

“He has the star factor that makes any tournament more interesting to watch,” Meresmaa said. “He is also one of the nicest athletes to work with [in] all situations on and off the course. He got frustrated because [of] all [of the] things that went down yesterday. New day brings new opportunities. I do not see unfairness. This is a sport where you need to earn your position. He is in a good position.”

If McBeth had indeed missed the event, he would have been the third high-profile athlete to do so. Simon Lizotte bowed out earlier this month to focus on rehabbing his injured knee, while Dave Feldberg canceled his trip over financial concerns.

The Aussie Open begins Thursday, January 26.

  1. Steve Hill
    Steve Hill

    Steve Hill is the editor of Ultiworld Disc Golf. He provides reviews from the perspective of a low-powered player at Noodle Arm Disc Golf, and in the past served as the associate editor for Rattling Chains. Contact him at steve.hill@ultiworld.com or on Twitter.

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