June 21, 2023 by Justin Westfall in Preview with 0 comments
The Disc Golf Pro Tour’s 78th Elite Series event begins this Friday, which also happens to be the 7th anniversary of the Tour’s inaugural event. The Des Moines Challenge has quickly become a fan favorite in just its 3rd year as an ES event, with weekend VIP passes selling out before the start of this week. Last year, Kristin Tattar claimed a four-stroke victory over Eveliina Salonen, who herself finished four shots ahead of the 3rd place finisher. The MPO tournament saw one of the most thrilling conclusions in DGPT history with Simon Lizotte defeating then-unknown player Robert Burridge in a four hole playoff. After hitting a big putt on hole 3, Burridge’s drive on hole 4 skipped off a tree stump and opened the door for Lizotte to claim his 3rd win of the season. Both players were six strokes clear of the field at the end of regulation.
The DMC exhibits an exciting course in Pickard Park, which continues to improve with each passing year. While the track is mostly the same as last year, small improvements have been made to over half of the holes on the course. The event has also become known as a big payday opportunity for the pros. With over $100,000 awarded last year, even more money is expected this time around, including equal five-figure payouts for the MPO and FPO winners.
Four Things We’ll Be Watching
1. For fans attending the event on Friday, there will be an ace challenge following the last putt, where 8 MPO and 8 FPO players have the chance to win a brand new Ford Bronco Sport. Players will be chosen by a fan vote, which is still taking place. Brodie Smith and Iowa local Ben Callaway currently lead the MPO voting; Maria Oliva and Rebecca Cox lead the FPO voting. The odds of hitting this one are incredibly low, as participants will be throwing 500 feet to Pickard’s hole 5 island green. It’s not quite the $1 million that the MVP Open offered up last year, but the excitement will be unmatched if somebody is able to make the hole in one.
2. Many were surprised to see the DMC come in as one of the biggest payouts of 2022, with a purse exceeding $100,000. It was the first ever 3-day tournament to cross the six-figure prize mark. The DMC team was able to raise $62,500 in added cash, exceeding the advertised minimum of $50,000. This year, the event is advertising a minimum $60,000 in added cash, some of which will be used to provide equal payouts to the MPO and FPO winners. Last year’s MPO winner Simon Lizotte was awarded $4,000 more than FPO winner Kristin Tattar. Entry fees for players were also $100 higher this year, so we’re excited to see just how large the purse is come Sunday. In a forthcoming interview on The Upshot podcast, DMC TD Ty Tannatt said that that he expects it to be around $105,000.
3. Eagle McMahon was forced to drop from the Portland Open less than three weeks ago after re-injuring his throwing shoulder. McMahon originally indicated that his goal was to return for the DMC, but he has not yet stated if he will play. Another MPO player to monitor this week is Gannon Buhr, who is coming off his worst finish of the year at the Dynamic Discs Open. Buhr finished in 50th place, his worst finish since 2021 and the first time he has failed to cash on tour since his very first event (2020 Jonesboro). Gannon hails from Urbandale, Iowa, which is just 30 minutes north of Pickard Park.
4. Kristin Tattar has played 18 Elite Series events over the past three seasons and won 9 of them. Surprisingly, she has yet to win the same Elite Series event twice, but she will have her third opportunity of the year to come away a repeat champion. Kristin missed the podium last week for the third time this season, though she has won the other three ES events she has played. Hailey King, on the other hand, is coming to Des Moines after her first win of the season, and now has four consecutive top-6 finishes including three podiums. The win helped push Hailey to 8th place in the Tour standings, despite a limited schedule. King will be looking to improve on a 20th place finish at this event last year.
Originally designed by 5x world champion and Iowa native Juliana Korver, Pickard Park has been in the ground since 1999 and played host to the 2004 World championships. This year, the course has undergone several changes to the OB lines, cleaned up a very rough tee shot, and increased the difficulty of the penultimate hole.
Holes 2, 8, 10, and 14 have all added more OB territory for this year or tightened up existing OB lies. Hole 10 also plays from a new pad, which makes the initial tee shot much more difficult. Hole 13 had some OB territory removed from behind the basket to make putting less treacherous.
Last year, only 3 of the 8 OB strokes in the MPO final round came from the player’s tee shots. Hole 3 was brand new last year and received some criticism for having too many trees without a clear line to the basket. The DMC crew has removed several trees this year and opened up the hole. The MPO drop zone on hole 4 has been moved back, likely forcing a throw rather than a putt to save par. Hole 9 will have a new and longer MPO basket, while hole 15 will now have a shorter FPO pin. The most significant change is to hole 17, which now has separate MPO and FPO baskets and a longer teepad surrounded by OB. Any teeshot that fails to cross in bounds will be forced to re-tee, while other OB tee shots can proceed to a drop zone, which is the old teepad.
2023 MPO: 9,752 feet Par 64
2022 MPO: 9,626 feet Par 64
2023 FPO: 8,405 feet Par 64
2022 FPO: 8,424 feet Par 64
Scattered thunderstorms are possible on moving day, but you might want to pack an umbrella for the entire weekend to help combat the heat. Some moderate winds are expected on Saturday and Sunday as well.
Friday: Partly cloudy with highs in the lower 90s. Winds 5-10mph.
Saturday: Scattered Thunderstorms with highs in the upper 80s. Winds 10-20mph. Chance of rain 40%.
Sunday: Mostly sunny with highs in the upper 80s. Winds 10-20mph.