Flight Numbers: How The Las Vegas Challenge Winners Won

Measuring Heimburg and Bjerkaas' long distance accuracy and putting against the field

Photo: Alyssa Van Lanen – PDGA

Ultiworld Disc Golf’s coverage of the 2019 Las Vegas Challenge is presented by Innova Discs; all opinions are those of the authors. 

Ultiworld Disc Golf’s 2018 Breakout Players of the Year, Paige Bjerkaas and Calvin Heimburg, backed up those awards (and made us look quite good!) with their first ever PDGA National Tour wins at the Las Vegas Challenge.   

They won because they played well. How well? I’ll let these graphs speak for themselves.

Long distance accuracy (average of fairway hits, C1 and C2 in regulation, and holes parked) versus putting (average of C1 and C2 putting).  The dashed lines represent the average values for long distance accuracy and putting. Data from UDisc Live.
Long distance accuracy (average of fairway hits, C1 and C2 in regulation, and holes parked) versus putting (average of C1 and C2 putting).  The dashed lines represent the average values for long distance accuracy and putting. Data from UDisc Live.

OK, so our winners didn’t play perfectly. Paige Bjerkaas’s putting was below average (to the left of the dashed line in the plot). She ranked 23rd in Circle 1x putting and 11th in Circle 2 putting, which is a bit ironic because she won the tournament on the first playoff hole with a killer 38-foot putt. But she got the opportunity to play that extra hole based on the strength of her long game. As you can see in the plot, Bjerkaas was way above average from long distance. She was also ranked fourth or better in the field for fairway hits, parked holes, and C1 and C2 in regulation.   

As for Heimburg, he played pretty well all around. His short game was well above average, and his rankings do not properly reflect how well he putted. However, what stands out most from the plot is Heimberg’s long distance accuracy; it was better than anyone else in the field of 152 players.  

Nothing exemplifies his play better than his last two holes of the tournament. Eagle McMahon made a mad dash in the final round to finish 42-under par, tying Heimburg’s score after 16 holes and making it necessary that Heimburg birdie at least one of the final two holes to win. So he goes and birdies both of them. On hole 17 he throws a good drive, which lands inside C1, but is still required to hit a pressure-packed 27-footer. Then, for good measure, Heimburg parks hole 18 and has a tap-in for the two-stroke victory.  

The moral of the story is that the stats don’t lie — the LVC winners played well.  The breakouts of Calvin Heimburg and Paige Bjerkaas are over.

  1. Aaron Howard
    Aaron Howard

    Aaron Howard is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Franklin & Marshall College. He loves to play disc golf and to think about things he loves quantitatively. Contact him at ahoward1@fandm.edu and follow him on Instagram.

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