Pierce, Other Pros Criticize USWDGC for Too Many Courses, Insufficient Practice Time

Comments from 3X US champ Paige Pierce highlight division discrepancy

Shady Oaks disc golf course. Photo: @jessiejak/UDisc

Paige Pierce reignited a long-simmering discussion early this week when she posted a series of critiques about the upcoming United States Women’s Disc Golf Championship in Northern California on her Instagram Stories.

We play three different courses at a PDGA Major championship,” said Pierce. “A lot of us top athletes are coming straight from another tournament, where we need a rest day and a drive day, and time to learn the courses if we’re going to play to the best of our abilities.”

“My question to the PDGA is, ‘Why do you keep doing this to the women’s division?’” she continued. “The men play one course and they learn it and play it well. And the women, every year, we have to play multiple courses. And on top of that, the courses don’t close down so when we’re out here practicing, practice rounds take three, four, five hours because we’re behind a bunch of locals. This is not professionally done and I’m calling you out. Get on your stuff, PDGA. Fix this.

The Open Women’s division at the 2021 USWDGC, the first professional Major of the season, is scheduled to play Auburn Regional Park in Auburn for round 1 on Friday, Shady Oaks Park in Orangevale for round 2 on Saturday, and Rocklin Disc Golf Course in Rocklin for the final round on Sunday. The three courses range from a 10 minute (Rocklin) to 27 minute (Auburn) drive from the official hotel of the event, the Best Western Plus Orchid Hotel and Suites in Roseville.

“This is the fifth or sixth year in a row we’ve done this,” said Pierce later on the Nick & Matt Show. “I think it’s unfortunate that [the PDGA] is overlooking this and making the statement that it doesn’t matter as much as the men’s majors…I think it’s more on the governing body to say we require one course for the pros. Maybe [the tournament] organizers] have more courses in the area they want to show off, but put those courses into use for the amateurs and juniors and masters.”

Pierce said she didn’t even know who to contact about the ongoing issue, while also acknowledging that nothing can be done for this year’s event. The 2019 USWDGC played two courses over three rounds, and the 2018 USWDGC played two courses and four separate layouts over four rounds. The 2020 event, which had been scheduled for NorCal, was canceled due to COVID-19.

“Throughout history, the majority of tournaments are played in public courses and it is extremely challenging to get more than just the tournament dates reserved,” said 2021 USWDGC tournament director Jenny Knisley, who noted that the postponement made schedule changes especially difficult. “Our team of volunteers is very excited and looking forward to hosting the 2021 USWDGC.” Knisley did not specifically address the decision to use three courses for the FPO field.

The caddy book for the 2021 event notes Thursday, the day before the event, as a practice day open only to competitors. Knisley also added that the process of selecting bids and locations should be directed to the PDGA.

When asked about the original bid process for this year’s UWSDGC and the rescheduling thereafter, the PDGA Events staff said it worked to create the most “equitable solution” for every division at the event.

“This format and scheduling created opportunities for a record number of participants at this year’s USWDGC across the amateur and professional fields. The PDGA worked with the local organizing committee (LOC) to determine a suitable number of courses for the expected number of registered competitors in the event,” said the events staff in a statement provided to Ultiworld Disc Golf by the PDGA Media Manager Matt Rothstein.

“The initial proposal included each of the three courses, as the LOC has established relationships in each of these communities through the local convention and visitors bureaus. Our tournament partners were eager to capitalize on this opportunity to showcase their local disc golf scene and grow these partnerships as our sport continues to strengthen its presence on a national stage.”

The PDGA Events staff also said that it has recorded Pierce’s comments to take into consideration for future events and encouraged players to voice their opinions directly to PDGA staff and committees more often in an effort to continue to grow the sport.

Pierce says she knows there is a need for more bids, capable tournament directors, and LOCs to pull off the organization of Major championships. Pierce told Ultiworld Disc Golf that no one from the PDGA had spoken with her since Monday.

The 2022 USWDGC was originally awarded to Madison, Wisconsin, in 2019 to be the 2021 event before the coronavirus rescheduling. Glide Disc Golf pro shop owner and 2016 PDGA Am Worlds Tournament Director Mike Batka led the bid, with the support of the Madison Area Disc Club and the Madison Area Sports Commission. In the original bid, one of four submitted, the courses proposed for the event included Heistand, Capital Springs, Token Creek, and Elver Park, all of which provide at least two sets of tees and multiple pin placements to cater to the range of divisions at the USWDGC. There was no potential course schedule provided for the Open Women’s division at the event.

When reached for comment, Batka said he had not spoken with the PDGA regarding next year’s UWSDGC course plans this week, but he was able to shed more information on the original bid.

“As we were preparing our bid, the PDGA communicated to us that the FPO division should ideally compete at one course and no more than two. Madison has a top-notch disc golf scene with several great courses, but none of them stand head and shoulders above the others,” said Batka. “The FPO division will be competing at Elver Park in Madison and the Vallarta-Ast Disc Golf Course at Token Creek County Park, just north of Madison, in DeForest, Wisconsin. Elver and Vallarta-Ast will complement each other nicely to provide the FPO division with a diverse and well-balanced challenge.”

Batka said that he has had conversations with Holly Finley and Madison Walker regarding the courses being used and noted that the PDGA Women’s Committee also reviews bids for the USWDGC. According to Batka, the courses will be closed to the public for one day prior to the event for practice.

Since Pierce’s comments, others in the disc golf community have spoken up in support, including Kona Panis, who also criticized the USWDGC courses for being too easy for elite FPO players, and several MPO players. Touring pro Brian Earhart said the lack of a fourth round and having three courses at a Major—plus the dearth of closed practice time—would have been non-starters for his participation.

“I really hope my concerns aren’t valid and the event runs smoothly,” said Earhart. “Just by those three things alone that I noticed, I likely wouldn’t have even signed up for the event. But I guess that’s a luxury MPO players have.”

The PDGA is currently seeking proposals to host the 2023 Majors and will accept bids through November 1, 2021. Hosts will be announced by the end of the year.

  1. Bennett Wineka
    Bennett Wineka

    Benn started playing disc golf in the '90s but has somehow never gotten any better. He lives in Decatur, Georgia and cares too much about Atlanta United and UNC basketball. Email him at bennett@ultiworld.com

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