Glass Blown Open Preview: Who Will The Winds Carry To Victory?

Is 2019 a year for first time champions?

Photo: Glass Blown Open

It’s the most well-attended disc golf tournament in the world, and soon our eyes will also turn to Emporia, Kansas to take in a week’s worth of action and festivities.

The Glass Blown Open is one of the most highly anticipated events of the season, and not just for those hundreds of players and spectators it draws to the Heartland. As the second stop on the PDGA National Tour, the GBO has consistently provided some of the best finishes on the pro circuit, and tournament organizers upped the competition by adding a fourth round for 2019.

Last year, the Open division gave fans one of the more dramatic final rounds of the season with Eagle McMahon, Drew Gibson, and Ricky Wysocki duking it out all over the Emporia Country Club. The battle had it all: legendary highlights, controversy, a field ace, and a chain-out ace, with McMahon ultimately taking home the win.

The Open Women’s division was similarly contested, as Paige Pierce took the win by just two strokes over Lisa Fajkus. It wasn’t until Pierce putted out on the final hole of the event, however, that she was able to celebrate, as a rocky second round had left things wide open.

Two former GBO champions look primed to repeat as Open victors. McMahon has three top tier wins on the season, but Paul McBeth has four wins, a “perfect round,” and is playing like a man possessed. The favorites will need to be on the lookout for Wysocki though. He’s finished second or third at the event the past three seasons and won his first PDGA Pro World Championship on this course, but has never raised the GBO trophy. He is also still on the lookout for his first elite win of 2019.

We’ll have two players who have played well in Emporia returning from hiatus. Nate Sexton is playing in just his second event of the season and will have had plenty of time to rest a sore shoulder, and Gibson is also registered, having not played an event since hurting his Achilles early in the spring.

In FPO, you have to go all the way back to 2011 to find the last time GBO was won by someone not named Pierce or Allen. Pierce has looked relatively shaky throughout the first third of the season, while Catrina Allen has looked rock steady. Allen last won the GBO in 2016 but had a less than stellar event last year. Don’t sleep on “local” Paige Bjerkaas though. She’s never finished better than fourth, but she’s also had to work at the Dynamic Discs store when not on the course at previous events. The extra focus and off hours will obviously be an advantage.

We’re trying not to overlook the Masters division, as hometown kids Eric McCabe and Dixon Jowers, a rejuvenated Steve Rico, and wind magician Ron Convers should provide a lively contest.

Emporia Country Club Glass Blown Open Course Preview

The Course

Emporia Country Club: MPO  – 10,604 feet, par 65; FPO – 9,229 feet, par 64

The Open field moved to a single course, the Emporia Country Club, for the first time last season. The Open Women’s division will be making the same move this year and joining the men at ECC for all four rounds. It’s a welcome decision as the women weren’t too enthused by playing three separate courses in 2018, including a new course for the pros at GBO.

It will be the first time FPO have played Country Club since 2015 and it will be looking much different. Holes 8 and 9 were combined to create a new par 5, old hole 10’s tee pad was pushed back into the woods to create a tunnel shot off the pad, and a new hole was added between old holes 12 and 13. In addition, FPO will play several different tees or pin positions than MPO.

Robert McCall, Team Director for Dynamic Discs, Latitude 64, and Westside Discs, summed up the alterations nicely.

One of the biggest changes at ECC is that all tee pads are now moved off of cart paths, so several holes look different than previous iterations — holes 2 and 7 are notable examples,” McCall said. “Also, hole 9 (old hole 10) will create even more scoring separation with its new tunnel tee shot. I think we’ll see many more pars and bogeys there instead of the relatively easy birdie from years past.”

What hasn’t changed are the long distance shots with massive OB areas necessitating accuracy to go along with the aerial bombs. That goes for both MPO and FPO.

Check out the full GBO Caddy Book.

Past Winners

 PDGA TierOpenOpen Women
2018NTEagle McMahonPaige Pierce
2017NTPaul McBethPaige Pierce
2016NTCam ToddCatrina Allen
2015NTPaul McBethPaige Pierce
2014ASimon LizotteCatrina Allen
2013AWill SchusterickPaige Pierce
2012AWill SchusterickCatrina Allen
2011ACale LeiviskaValarie Jenkins
2010AEric McCabeLiz Lopez
2009ANate DossRobin Reimer
2008ADavid HemmelineLiz Lopez
2007AEric McCabeJennifer Allen
2006AKevin McCoyAngela Tschiggfrie
2005BEric McCabeTavish Sanders
2004BDaniel StacyTerri Clark
2003BRon ConversShelly Bunch

Extended Forecast

Emporia will be situated perfectly between two weather systems to start the tournament. This will lead to dry conditions throughout the event. The high temperature each day will reach the 70s with some windy conditions expected Thursday through Saturday.

Wednesday: The calmest day of the tournament. Morning temperatures around 50° will warm to around 70°. A north wind around 5 mph will give way to an east wind in the afternoon.

Thursday: High pressure will begin to descend out of the north. This will prompt northerly winds to increase in speed up to 15 mph. Gusts up to 20 mph will be possible. Morning temperatures around 50° should warm into the mid to upper 70s.

Friday: High pressure should move just to the southeast of the region, leading to the development of gusty southerly winds. Gusts up to 20 mph will once again be possible. Highs will reach the mid 70s.

Saturday: Rain will be exiting the region Saturday morning. Strong southerly winds will be possible in the morning hours, gusting over 30 mph. These southerly winds will turn out of the north throughout the day. Highs will once again reach the mid 70s.

Will Eagle and Paige be able to repeat as GBO winners? Or will the wind carry someone else’s play to the podium?

How To Follow

There will be no shortage of coverage at GBO. Smashboxx TV will be livestreaming an FPO and MPO card all four rounds. If you’re more into post-produced video, JomezPro is going all out and dropping MPO 1, MPO 2, and FPO1 card coverage for your next day consumption. Gatekeeper Media is covering FPO 2 and Dynamic Discs MPO 3, but no word yet on when to expect those video to be released.

Smashboxx also announced on the Disc Golf Answer Man that it would be broadcasting an uninterrupted livestream from the island hole 16 to complement the coverage.

PDGA will be producing daily video and podcast recaps, Alyssa Van Lanen will tackle photography, and UDisc Live is, of course, handling live scoring.

Check back with Ultiworld Disc Golf for daily updates and analysis.

  1. Christopher Wiklund
    Christopher Wiklund

    Chris is a contributor at Ultiworld Disc Golf. He lives and works on Cape Cod in Massachusetts where he plays as much disc golf as he can, and reminds people he lives on Cape Cod. He likes spending time outside when he isn't playing video games and watching TV.

  2. Jacob Wilkins
    Jacob Wilkins

    Jacob Wilkins is a disc golfer from Bowling Green, Kentucky who has a bachelor of science degree in meteorology from Western Kentucky University. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram for a solid mixture of disc golf and weather.

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