The 40th British Open: A Defining Moment Of Revving Up And Winding Down

A young-gun wins, and a Master chases challengers off his lawn

Blær Örn Ásgeirsson at the 2018 British Open. Photo: Steve Hurrell

From raiding their shores during the Viking era, to cutting their nets during the infamous Cod Wars, to sending them packing at the 2016 UEFA European Championship, the tiny island country of Iceland has always had an easy time defeating the British and their so-called empire on every front imaginable. And the results out on the disc golf course last weekend fell right in line with this history.

Amidst a faint hope that the World Cup might be “coming home” to England, the 40th British Open was no different, as 15-year-old Blær Örn Ásgeirsson — fresh off a warm-up lap at Tyyni — dropped by the British Isles to take their silverware away.

Humorous hyperbole aside, among the many stories that unfolded during the weekend at Quarry Park in Lemington Spa, Warwickshire, our’s will focus on those of two men (well, one man and one child, to be more specific). That’s the aforementioned, 963-rated, Ásgeirsson who captured the first signature win of his career, and British frisbee legend Derek Robins, through whose efforts all things are made possible.

First up is Ásgeirsson, who despite a lackluster 949-rated first round, fought back to average 1002-rated golf on the weekend. A feat that featured a 1043-rated, 7-under par 50 third round. It was a performance that helped propel him to a comfortable six-stroke win and was the single highest rated round ever shot by an Icelandic player.

“I played solid disc golf this weekend,” Ásgeirsson recalled when speaking with Ultiworld Disc Golf after his win. “My first round started with a lot of struggles, I could not get anything going.”

But things were about to look up for young Ásgeirsson.

“After the first round I was six back off the lead,” he continued. “I was very disappointed with that. In the second round, I knew I was going to play better, and I did! I shot a 5-under par 52 and shared the hot round with Maxime Tanghe.”

Ásgeirsson went on to talk about the all-important third round.

“After [two rounds during] day one I was only one back from the lead,” Ásgeirsson said. “The third round felt good and I only missed one putt inside Circle 1 while shooting the hot round of the tournament…I felt good going in to the finals. I didn’t find any stress in me all tournament, so I think the mental game was my biggest advantage.”

Blær Örn Ásgeirsson going for a jump putt at the 40th British Open. Photo: Steve Hurrell

Apart from the Herculean mental game, Ásgeirsson’s greatest advantage during the tournament was his putting, which he said felt good all weekend. At just 15 years old, with a confident putting stroke and no outside pressure or expectations plaguing you, strategizing becomes fairly easy. And Ásgeirsson, who fell a single stroke short of the title last year, exuded that confidence and youthful exuberance when he reflected on his game plan.

“After the first round when I was six strokes back my plan was the same, to win the tournament,” Ásgeirsson explained. “I knew I could do it!”

Tanghe, who finished second, is a Belgian player coming back with a splash after what looks like a long hiatus — according to his PDGA player page, he hasn’t competed in a PDGA sanctioned event since 2015. In third place, putting out of the United States, we find multiple-time putting and doubles world champion, Jay “Yeti” Reading, who made the trip across the pond with his wife, three-time PDGA Professional World Champion Des Reading. She, in turn, walked the Open Women’s win home by 25 strokes over Finland’s Katja Hiironen.

Quarry Park, a demanding par 57, pay-to-play course on the outskirts of Royal Leamington Spa, is the crown jewel of the British disc golf scene. Owned and operated by community mainstay Derek Robins, the course has been a staple on the scene since 1995. The story of the man, the venue, and the event is also the story of British disc golf.

“I was really keen to have the 40th British Open at Quarry Park because it had particular significance for me on several counts,” Robins tells us. “I won the very first Open back in 1979 and I don’t suppose I have missed any since, though many of those years are now shrouded in the mists of time.”

Derek Robins (far left) congratulating the Open podium finishers at the 40th British Open. Photo: Steve Hurrell

The 40th British Open, where Robins won in the Pro Masters 50+ division, also marks another turning point for Robins.

“There was a personal milestone too, in that my first disc golf tournament was 40 years ago at the World Frisbee Championships in Los Angeles,” Robins explains. “I don’t know how many tournaments have been packed into those 40 years as the UK didn’t routinely sanction tournaments with the PDGA until 2006. My PDGA profile shows 69 wins, but I dare say that’s not even half of my career total.”

Although much of Robins’ achievements may be lost to us, there is one statistic he never forgets.

“The only stat that I do track is countries that I have competed in, and that now stands at 29 for disc golf,” Robins tells us of his remarkable feat. “I feel so lucky to have traveled around the world playing the sport and made friends in so many places.”

Besides reminding many of us why we do what we do as disc golf enthusiasts, the story quickly turns to his baby, the glorious Quarry Park.

“Those friends know of my passion for my own course,” Robins said. ” [That’s] Quarry Park, which I bought 24 years ago and developed from 15 acres of empty grassland to a technically challenging 18 hole course in beautifully landscaped parkland.”

Those of us who have been there know these are more than empty words, as the stunning venue on the river Avon features both storybook views and laser straight backhand lines galore.

“In the last year, I added a new pro shop, off-grid electricity, courtyard social area, extra parking and feature 18th green,” Robins continues, detailing the ever ongoing site developments, before winding with up some choice final words. “I was really keen to invite my friends from the UK and around the world to see how Quarry Park has matured, and so I was delighted to be able to celebrate these milestones with players from France, Germany, Belgium, Finland, Netherlands, Iceland, New Zealand, Poland, Estonia, and USA.”

The 40th British Open was truly an international event, and, for now, this is where our story ends. But the story of Ásgeirsson is just beginning, and while the story of Robins may soon be starting to wind down, his contributions to the sport of disc golf will live on forever.

  1. Bogi Bjarnason
    Bogi Bjarnason

    Bogi Bjarnason is a contributor to Ultiworld Disc Golf. Bjarnason is an underemployed tour bus driver from Reykjavík, Iceland, who likes big putts and blast beats. He runs the Frisbíllinn mobile disc golf store and won't stay quiet about death metal and disc golf in publications the world over. Add him on Instagram if you must @rvkdiscgolf or to hit him up with lucrative business propositions at: bogi@rvkdiscgolf.com.

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