The Top 10 Storylines of the 2023 OTB Open

From the desk of Owl P. Jackson, Esq.

Emerson Keith after winning the 2023 OTB Open. Photo: DGPT

Wow! What a bizarre tournament…we’ve got first time winners and winners who have won more than anyone else. And yet, the tournament itself felt far less important than everything going on around it. So, let’s get to it. In my opinion, these are the top 10 storylines of the 2023 OTB Open.

1. Natalie Ryan returns to DGPT play

“Walking through the forest…”

Natalie Ryan had been absent from tour so far this year, due to the PDGA’s policy on transgender athletes and the DGPT’s adoption of said policy. On Friday, she returned to play. At what felt like the eleventh hour, a California court granted her a temporary restraining order, allowing her to compete. By day’s end, Natalie was in fifth place and only one stroke out of a tie for the lead. She noted on Instagram, “I will not be threatened, I will not be intimidated, I will not be erased. It is a breath of fresh air to be competing where I belong.”

2. Natalie Ryan is removed from DGPT play

“Laughing back and forth at what the other’n has to say…”

Well, that didn’t last long. As quickly as Natalie returned, she was once again barred from competition. The DGPT won on appeal and was able to once again enforce the PDGA’s policy. Natalie was forced to DNF but did not lose her willingness to fight for the right to play. In a now removed Instagram post, she said, “If you thought I was fighting hard before, just wait. They are going to burn with me.” Naturally, this whole situation has produced strong and polarized feelings. As you might expect, the story has been picked up by various non-disc golf media outlets. Look for this story to pick up speed as we approach the Preserve in June.

3. Paige Pierce is back on top

“Reminiscing this and that and having such a good time…”

A lot of the narrative surrounding Paige Pierce this year has centered on her competitive drive (or lack thereof). Well, the 5x world champ is clearing the air. “I absolutely want to win,” she said. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t sign up for these events.” This weekend was vintage Paige Pierce, even though she was returning from injury. Good distance, great putting, and largely avoiding the O.B…when Paige can put that together for three straight rounds, she is going to win. “But Kristin…,” you begin to say. Even Kristin Tattar wasn’t catching her this weekend. Look, Paige has had some bad tournaments this year, but she has won half her elite events. “Two for four…,” Paige noted, “that’s a good record in my book.”

4. Emerson Keith gets his first Elite Series win

“Oo-de-lally, oo-de-lally, golly, what a day.”

How many of you had Emerson Keith on your podium this weekend? If you did, stop lying! Nobody saw this coming. Emerson’s first year with Lone Star Disc has been a demonstrable dud. That all changed with a hot 12-under round on Saturday. It took him from 23rd place to the lead card. During the final round, as others stumbled around him, Emerson stood tall. Woo!

5. Aaron Gossage goes cold

“Never ever thinking there was danger in the water; They were drinking, they just guzzled it down.”

Going into the final round, it was Aaron Gossage ahead of Keith. Gossage put together two solid rounds (-8, -9) and seemed like the best bet on a card full of players lacking final round, lead card experience. But he went brutally cold. Airballs to the right, left, and above. Putts landing five feet short of the pole. Gossage has shown he can win tournaments off tour. But you can’t putt that poorly and win on the biggest stage.

6. Gannon Buhr from the fifth card

“Never dreaming that a scheming sheriff and his posse was a-watching them and gathering around…”

Chase card drama is so last week. I’m talking about that deep card drama. Gannon Buhr started Sunday on the fifth card, following a pedestrian -1 round two that included a quad bogey. Nine straight birdies dragged him right back into the thick of things. If he could’ve birdied hole 18 (instead of floofing it O.B.), he would’ve been tied for the lead. Who knows how that would have changed the way Emerson attacked the final five holes?

7. The also-rans

“Running through the forest…”

A couple shout-outs are in order. Congratulations to Emily Beach, picking up her first podium finish of the year. Ella Hansen seemed like the best chance of catching Paige, but finished in 4th after an abysmal -1 final round. She is still right on the cusp! Sai Ananda finally returned to tour after her Texas States victory and was able to finish in the top 10. Over in MPO, seemingly no one could get it going on the final day. Lackluster round 3s kept Isaac Robinson (-3), Cole Redalen (-2), Calvin Heimburg (-4), James Proctor (-4), Gavin Rathbun (-1), and Jakub Semerad (+1) from being a factor after promising starts.

8. One of us!

“Jumping fences, dodging trees and trying to get away…”

Pros! They’re just like us! Which hole 17 meltdown moment do you find more relatable?

Option 1: Simon Lizotte chains out (again! Seriously, these baskets…) after hitting dead center chains. He spikes his other putter into the ground and walks to the water’s edge and sprawls out on the ground as the world continues around him.

Option 2: Catrina Allen goes full Tin Cup trying to clear the water. She throws not one…not two…not three…but four shots into the murky depths and evaporates from contention. Septuple bogey? Is that a thing?

9. Standings check-in

“Contemplating nothing but escape and finally making it…”

Both of this week’s winners sit outside of the top 15 in Pro Tour points. Here are some other random thoughts from the standings:

  • Ohn Scoggins has moved into 2nd place. That is ahead of heavy hitters like Paige and Cat. That is ahead of new hotshots like Holyn and Ella. It’s ahead of proven winners like Missy and Hailey and Kat Mertsch.
  • Calvin Heimburg is still way out in front. He sits more than 100 points in front of young guns Gannon Buhr and Isaac Robinson.
  • Paul McBeth is still in the top 10. Let’s see how far he will drop while he backpacks around Europe.

10. Trophy Redemption

“Oo-de-lally, oo-de-lally, golly, what a day.”

OTB Open produced the most lackluster trophy of 2022, a disc. In my opinion, they have fully redeemed themselves with the swirly fox trophy. No one is asking for it, but this seems like a good time to revisit my 2023 trophy rankings.

1. Music City Open—Gibson electric guitar
2. OTB Open—swirly fox
3. The Open at Austin—Stetson cowboy hat
4. WACO—that bridge thing
5. Champions Cup—cup with chains
6. Innova Open at Texas States—belt buckle
7. Las Vegas Challenge—blackened milk jug
8. Blue Ridge Championship—three-legged teardrop
9. New World Championships—small glass droplet
10. Lake Marshall Open—glass shape
11. Jonesboro Open—really big little league/middle school track meet trophy

Thanks for reading, everyone. Let me know the storylines you think I missed. See you in Portland!

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