Tournament Talk: Playoffs?

I didn't quite get the postseason feel.

The first run at a playoff system for the Disc Golf Pro Tour has come to an end with two excellent events in New England. The on-course action and wins from Ricky Wysocki, Kristin Tattar, Simon Lizotte, and Natalie Ryan were all thrilling and emotional for different reasons. Tattar cemented her status as the runaway favorite for FPO Player of the Year, Lizotte capped off his career-best regular season, and Wysocki continued to demonstrate the season long excellence at Elite Series events which he prizes so highly. Natalie Ryan continued her historic season, demonstrating her trademark skill on the course and remarkable grace off it. In a system where their wins carried actual consequences for their participation in the DGPT Tour Championship, these playoff events could count themselves as among the most exciting couple of weeks in recent disc golf memory.

But that’s not the case, is it?

All four of the winners in these playoffs had long since punched their ticket to the DGPT Tour Championship event in Charlotte, as had many of the players in both fields. Indeed, almost every consistently touring player in FPO will be in the field at the Championship. In MPO, performance in these events was crucial for a handful of players who are usually considered “middle of the pack,” at least by the standards of touring pros. These players, for whom the past two weekends DID have the sort of implications–play well or go home–were not necessarily the primary focus of the major media teams.

So what we had was, and rightfully so, tons of eyes on the highest quality of play and most compelling storylines, and very few eyes on the players for whom the term “playoffs” holds much resemblance to the generally accepted and used definition in most major US sports.

If I were to tell a new fan that it was the DGPT playoffs, they might look at the scoreboard at the end of MVP Open and see Calvin Heimburg’s name all the way at 26th, or Missy Gannon down in 15th place and reasonably draw the conclusion that they had been eliminated from championship contention. I would then have to explain the whole point series and watch their eyes glass over and steel myself for the following conversation.

“Well, why is it called the playoffs then?”

“Well the points are worth more!”

“That seems contrived, so this is really for those people on the bubble of making the actual playoffs which you people call the championship?”

“Yeah, pretty much.”

“So why not just have the folks on the bubble play in these events?”

“The courses are too good and we draw more viewers focusing on the best.”

“Makes sense. Why not have events specifically for those sorts of players who aren’t necessarily going to compete at the big events against the best but are still very good. Against a smaller pool of high end competition, they could rack up enough points to make the championship and make for a cool Cinderella run, and you wouldn’t have to do weird mental gymnastics and branding to call these events playoffs?”

“We have those.”

“So what’s the issue?”

“Many of the best players play those events because it’s convenient and relatively easy money.”

At this point, the person blinks, shakes their head, and changes the subject.

What this very worthwhile experiment in branding and points distribution has illustrated, to me at least, is that the Silver Series needs to be a protected series of events in which the likes of Wysocki, Chris Dickerson, Tattar, and Catrina Allen are simply not allowed to compete. If you have an Elite Series win within the past three years (or whatever) and/or are rated 1035/960 or better, you are welcome to spectate and caddy but not compete.

The DGPT Championship needs to reserve AT LEAST one spot for the Silver Series points leader. This will add importance to those Silver Series events and establish their purpose and identity as a developmental circuit with a pipeline to the Elite Series.

The word “playoff” has near universal meaning and understanding. You lose, you go home. The stakes are high and anyone can get bounced out early or make a run to the top. The DGPT Championship is a playoff; what we had at GMC and MVP, however awesome the golf was, were not playoffs. Give us stakes, give us meaning, don’t try to tell me that McBeth and Pierce were sweating their finishes.

Goose Looseness Index

As the season’s end draws near, I promise we have our best people trying to round up that loose goose! Current index is down significantly from a few weeks ago, in the 6.5 range. Perhaps the fall New England air has him thinking about migrating south. That being said, USDGC does represent a big window for some potential looseness. The US Sidearm Championships compare favorably to Emporia and the sorts of courses where Aaron Gossage has played well this year.

Stray Thoughts

– I am looking forward to dissecting this season. It started off so chaotic. The center could not hold and there was no guessing who was going to win anything. And then, of course, we regressed to the bell curve. Ricky Wysocki and Simon Lizotte accounted for a combined eight of the the 14 DGPT wins in MPO, Kristin Tattar and Paige Pierce won seven of them in FPO along with three of the four majors. The cream does indeed rise to the top.

– In MPO, the emergence of Gossage, Gannon Buhr, Corey Ellis, and Isaac Robinson has been super fun to watch. In FPO, Valerie Mandujano’s early season run was the absolute coolest thing in the game. What separates the Wysocki’s and Pierce’s from the new group is longevity and consistency year after year. Fingers crossed.

– Shout out to Pocatello, Idaho, home of The Upshot’s Josh Mansfield and two contestants on Lego Masters. The small town is punching well above its weight in its national media reach.

  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.



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