After warming up down under, the PDGA season hits the links
February 23, 2017 by Alex Colucci and Jacob Wilkins in Preview with 0 comments
From one desert golf course to another, the 2017 PDGA National Tour season kicks things off with a trip to the American Southwest for the Gentlemen’s Club Challenge in Henderson, Nevada, just outside of Las Vegas. A fixture at the beginning of the disc golf calendar for many years as an A-Tier, this year marks the first time the GCC has graduated to NT status.
The event boasts a field of 189 Open and Open Women’s players from 29 states and five countries. A course sponsorship from international athletic apparel company Adidas Terrex highlights the event.
Philo Brathwaite and Jessica Weese are the defending champions from last year’s A-Tier, while Ricky Wysocki and Paige Pierce come into the event as the winners of the most recent high profile event, last month’s Aussie Open.
If the Aussie Open proved anything, it was actually two things: Pierce is back, and Eagle McMahon is going to be a fixture at the top of big events well into the future. It’s just a matter of time until he wins one.
Since October and McMahon’s time leading the United States Disc Golf Championship, it’s been clear he can play with the likes of Wysocki and Paul McBeth. His current 1024 rating might not reflect that, but if he continues to rattle off rounds rated well above 1040 — and there’s not much argument he won’t — it won’t be long until he bests the top two disc golfers of the past five years.
Pierce, meanwhile, carded three of the four Aussie Open rounds well above her current rating — two of them crested 1000 — and seems more than ready to take on all comers in the women’s division. With Pierce in pre-2016 form; Catrina Allen coming off one of the best seasons ever; defending United States Women’s Disc Golf Champion Sarah Hokom consistently touring; and defending World Champion Valarie Jenkins still planning to hit most of the major events on the calendar, it would appear that the season on the women’s side already has its field of contenders set.
But perhaps not, as there is also this to consider: Who’s going to be the “Eagle McMahon” of the women’s side this year? Even more intriguingly, could there be more than one?
Eveliina Salonen is making her North American tournament debut this weekend before heading to Arizona for The Memorial Championship. Even though she was one of a select few to best Allen in 2016 — albeit on her home turf in Finland — this two week stretch will be the 17-year-old’s first significant test against deep fields of the top professionals in the world. Just like McMahon, her immense talent is clear, and this season might prove she can hang with the top names in the sport.
Jessica Weese is another player to pay attention to heading into the GCC. The defending champion of this event looked ready to take it to the next level at this time last year, before a shoulder injury at The Memorial derailed her season. She’s one of the few players not named Jenkins, Allen, Pierce or Hokom to win a National Tour event since 2011, taking the W at the 2015 Beaver State Fling. Weese has the competitive drive and talent to take make some noise on the lead card this weekend, and she has plans for the rest of the season too, saying in the run up to the GCC that she is “hungry…to win tournaments this year.”
A third name to watch is none other than our 2016 breakout player, Madison Walker. Walker seems ready to put all her touring experience from the past two seasons to use. She peaked at the end of 2016, finishing second the USWDGC, and came out of the gates strong in 2017 with a third place showing in Australia. In her three events since the year began, she has played golf well above her current rating and seems poised to continue that success.
The next two weeks could be shape up to be pretty illustrative as to the kind of season we’ll see in both the men’s and women’s divisions. With the World Championships earlier in the summer than usual, whoever can get off to hot starts this spring could have a chance to carry that momentum with them to Georgia this June.
Venue and Courses
The tournament will be played at the Wildhorse Golf Club for the second year in a row. Mere minutes from the world famous Las Vegas Strip, three courses will be in play for the Open and Open Women’s divisions; individual maps of each course, including hole-by-hole maps and an overall map of the golf complex, can be seen here.
DiscGolfValues.com Course (Thursday): Par 56, 7,016 feet — The shortest of the three courses boasts a triple-island par 4 on hole 6.
Innova Course (Friday, Sunday): Par 59/60, 8,310/8,469 feet — An altered version of the course seen in videos of last year’s GCC, out of bounds can be found here in abundance. Control is the name of the game.
Adidas Terrex Course (Saturday): Par 59, 8,476 feet — The longest of the three courses has two whoppers, with both holes 9 and 11 clocking in at almost 850 feet.
Past GCC Winners
|PDGA Tier||Open||Open Women|
|2020||A-Tier||Nate Sexton||Catrina Allen|
|2019||National Tour||Calvin Heimburg||Paige Bjerkaas (Shue)|
|2018||National Tour||Eagle McMahon||Paige Pierce|
|2017||National Tour||Ricky Wysocki||Paige Pierce|
|2016||A-Tier||Philo Brathwaite||Jessica Weese|
|2015||A-Tier||Paul McBeth||Paige Pierce|
|2014||A-Tier||Nikko Locastro||Catrina Allen|
|2013||A-Tier||Dave Feldberg||Catrina Allen|
|2012||A-Tier||Nikko Locastro||Valarie Jenkins|
The 2016 GCC was held at Wildhorse, but the layout has been altered slightly for 2017. Between 2004 and 2016 the GCC was an A-Tier played at Sunset Park in Las Vegas.
Thursday: Mostly sunny with a high temperature around 56°F. Conditions will be a bit windy from time to time, but nothing compared to practice rounds on Wednesday. Expect winds from the west-northwest around 8 to 15 mph. Conditions will also be quite dry, so hydration during any back-ups or between holes will be key.
- 7 a.m.: A bit of a chilly start despite mostly sunny skies. West-northwest winds around 10 mph likely. Temperatures will be right around 42°F.
- 10 a.m.: Mostly sunny skies with a temperature around 50°F. West-northwest winds around 10 mph likely. West-northwest winds could gust up to 20 mph.
- 1 p.m.: Mostly sunny skies with a temperature around 54°F. West-northwest winds around 10 mph likely. West-northwest winds could gust up to 20 mph.
- 4 p.m.: Mostly sunny skies with a temperature around 55°F. West-northwest winds around 10 mph likely.
With the wind coming out of the west-northwest most of the day, and given that the tournament takes place on a ball golf course, wind could become a factor on numerous holes. Take note of possible headwinds on holes 2, 5, 10, 16 and 18, as the pro fields play the DiscGolfValues.com Course.
Friday: Another relatively cool day is on tap for some disc golf. Mostly sunny skies will be accompanied by a high temperature of around 56°F. Winds will be lighter than Thursday as they shift out of the east around 5 mph.
- 7 a.m.: Mostly sunny and 38°F. Cold for a starting tee-time. Easterly winds around 5 mph likely.
- 10 a.m.: Mostly sunny and 47°F. Easterly winds around 5 mph likely.
- 1 a.m.: Mostly sunny and 53°F. Easterly winds around 5 mph likely.
- 4 a.m.: Mostly sunny and 55°F. Easterly winds around 5 mph likely.
Albeit a bit subdued, easterly winds should provide for slight headwinds on holes 3, 5, 7, 9, and 10 at the Innova Course. Of particular interest in this list is hole 7, a 560-foot par 4 that has water carry to the right of the fairway for about 400 feet. Could some drama happen on this hole due to the weather? Tailwinds will be more prominent on the back nine as most of the holes play back east to the tournament’s central hub.
Saturday: The warmest weather of the tournament will occur on Saturday. Mostly sunny skies will give way to a few more clouds than the previous two days. A high temperature around 61°F will be likely. Wind will almost be a non-factor on Saturday as conditions look to remain calm. The wind may pick up some on the last few holes of the lead card.
- 7 a.m.: Mostly sunny with a starting temperature around 40°F.
- 10 a.m.: Partly cloudy with a temperature around 51°F.
- 1 p.m.: Partly cloudy with a temperature around 60°F.
- 4 p.m.: Partly cloudy with a temperature around 61°F.
Sunday: This is a bit of a head-scratcher to forecast. There will be a chance of some isolated showers throughout the day, so an umbrella could come in handy. Conditions will once again be partly to mostly cloudy with a high temperature around 58°F. Wind should once again be close to a non-factor as it remains calm before picking up out of the southeast around 4 p.m.
- 7 a.m.: Mostly cloudy with isolated showers possible. Temperatures will be around 47°F.
- 10 a.m.: Mostly cloudy with isolated showers possible. Temperatures will be around 52°F.
- 1 p.m.: Mostly cloudy with isolated showers possible. Temperatures will be around 57°F.
- 4 p.m.: Mostly cloudy with isolated showers possible. Temperatures will be around 58°F. Wind will be out of the southeast between 5 and 10 mph.
Though play returns to the Innova Course on Sunday, wind will not be much of a factor until after tournament play has concluded. Any skins matches or putting competitions may see some increased breezes in the afternoon.
It should be noted that headwind forecasts do not take into account the local topography of the Wildhorse Golf Club. If there is quite a bit of elevation, change some swirling of the wind is possible. However, given the prevailing wind direction, and the overall openness of the course, a good guess can be placed on holes that may see headwinds.
How to Follow
Next-day video coverage of the Open and Open Women’s lead cards for each round will be provided by The SpinTV, in conjunction with Central Coast Disc Golf. The Saturday and Sunday lead cards will be live streamed through The SpinTV and SmashboxxTV, with Terry Miller and Avery Jenkins on the call, and PDGA Media will also be providing live scoring and updates via its Twitter feed.
As always, Ultiworld Disc Golf will be your home for written recaps and analysis, with live coverage from the ground on Saturday and Sunday. Be sure to give us a follow on Twitter and Instagram for insights in real time.