The Top 10 Storylines of the 2023 LWS Open at Idlewild

From the desk of Owl P. Jackson, Esq.

Valerie Mandujano at the 2023 LWS Open at Idlewild. Photo: DGPT

If you squint just right, you’ll see them. There—illuminated by the light of the moon—sit storylines. We have a return to the top, a battle of the year’s best, and a good weekend for the old dudes. In my opinion, these are the top 10 storylines of the *takes deep breath* 2023 LWS Open at Idlewild presented by Dynamic Discs and the Nati. Bring a flashlight.

1. Long road back for Valerie Mandujano

“We have clearance, Clarence.”

Last year, Valerie Mandujano was beginning to be mentioned with the likes of Kristin Tattar, Paige Pierce, and Catrina Allen as a weekly contender. That quickly stopped in January, when Val suffered a serious ankle injury. What she thought might sideline her for four weeks and the All-Star event ended up sidelining her until Dynamic Discs Open in mid-June. Well, Val is back.

“It feels unbelievable,” she said. “It feels like I’m dreaming right now.”

Could Val challenge Kristin when she returns to the states? Someone needs to.

2. Gannon Buhr gets his third elite win of the season

“I need the best man on this. Someone who knows that plane inside and out and won’t crack under pressure.”

Talking in his post-win interview, Gannon Buhr remarked, “I think starting the tournament hot and hitting my gaps early helped a ton…I always say the goal—especially when you’re on a lead card—is to make the other players scared. It’s not fun and games out here. We’re trying to win tournaments.”

Gannon certainly started hot on day 3, going 6-for-6 to start and 8-under through the front 9. Calvin Heimburg did his best to track him down, but it was too little, too late. Even a hole 18 spit out wasn’t enough to slow down the young superstar. Buhr said that he wanted to prove that he could win in the woods, and not just on open courses. Point proven. The kid has it all.

3. The case for Calvin

“I’m doing everything I can… and stop calling me Shirley!”

The biggest talking point coming out of this tournament is going to be MPO Player of the Year picks. There are two clear candidates. Let’s make their case in 100 words or less.

Calvin has been insanely consistent this year. Sure, it has been a while since Calvin grabbed his two early season Elite wins and an early season Silver win. However, the results speak for themselves. Calvin is leading all MPO and FPO in cash earnings. Calvin has only missed the top 10 once this season and hasn’t missed the top 4 since Portland. Calvin in currently dropping T-3rd finishes from his DGPT points total. This week’s 2nd place Elite finish earned him a measly 13 points. Calvin is the Player of the Year.

4. The case for Gannon

“What mountains? We’re over Iowa!”

Plain and simple, Gannon Buhr wins more than anyone else. So far, he has tallied Elite wins at the Open at Austin, Des Moines Challenge, and LWS Open. He has also added two Silver wins at the Blue Ridge Championships and Kansas City Wide Open. Sure, Gannon has missed the top 20 five times this year. However, everyone is going to remember that Gannon won Idlewild. No one is going to remember that Calvin took 2nd. Gannon is the Player of the Year.

5. My Player of the Year rankings

“Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.”

Well, the time has come for me to take a stand. Here are my player of the year rankings…so far.

1. Kristin Tattar
2. Everyone else

1. Calvin Heimburg
2. Gannon Buhr
3. Isaac Robinson
4. Ricky Wysocki

42. Parker Welck (Seriously though—still crazy to think this happened.)

6. MPO Top 10

“I won’t deceive you. We’re running out of time.”
“Surely there must be something you can do.”

MPO Top 10 was filled with the usual suspects…from 2014. These players aren’t actually old. But when the last two Elite Series winners have been 18 years old, they are comparatively ancient. Shout out to Paul Ulibarri who followed up a solid Ledgestone with a 4th place finish at Idlewild. He is trending in the right direction as the tour heads towards more Uli-friendly courses on the East coast. Nikko Locastro (6th), Matt Orum (T-7th), and Jeremy Koling (T-10th) also deserve a little late career recognition. Big Jerm, in particular, gave us a ton of circle 2 highlights throughout the tournament. Thanks, big guy!

7. What happened to Catrina Allen?

“First time?” “No, I’ve been nervous lots of times.”

Catrina Allen finished in a tie for 33rd place this weekend. Not shocked yet? Let’s put it this way then. Catrina Allen lost by 28 strokes. Still not surprised? Let’s take the historical view. Catrina Allen has only missed cash in FPO one other time in the last almost 11 years. Catrina still sits at #3 in the Pro Tour standings, but she has been trending in the wrong direction over the past two tournaments. She needs to figure things out quickly if she wants to be a Tattar-challenger at Worlds.

8. The dark

“Captain, maybe we ought to turn on the searchlights now.” “No… that’s just what they’ll be expecting us to do.”

I’m not even sure this is really a storyline, but it sure was memorable. As darkness set in on day 2, play was suspended for the MPO lead card with only a few holes to go. The horn sounded, Terry Miller walked off the course, and—wait a minute…they are still playing! Sure, the picture quality was terrible, but the viewing experience was great. Gavin Babcock with a glow disc, Gannon using a flashlight to find the right disc in his bag, and a screen darker than the battle of Winterfell—little moments like this are actually part of the reason why I love disc golf. Grow the sport? Sure. But don’t go changin’!

9. Dynamic Discs baskets

“Listen, and you listen close: Flying a plane is no different than riding a bicycle, just a lot harder to put baseball cards in the spokes.” 

I know, I know…just make the putt. Stop complaining. Play the course. But c’mon…you can’t have one basket that is clearly much worse than all the other baskets on tour. These things make Prodigy baskets look like Jerry Rice. It will be interesting to see if the DGPT moves towards some sort of basket standardization. I know sponsors want their baskets on screen, but does Dynamic actually want people seeing this? Just chuck an “Emporia Knows Disc Golf” sticker on a Discatcher and call it a day.

10. Postseason disc golf

“You’d better tell the Captain we’ve got to land as soon as we can.”

DGLO brings the first playoff event of the year…but does anyone really understand these playoffs yet? The event designation lacks any real gravitas when 96 MPO and 48 FPO players are invited to compete. 96 and 48? That is everyone you’ve ever heard of and tons you haven’t. Also, you can theoretically take last place or skip the event entirely and still easily make the cut for the next playoff event. However, there are more points available to be won in the playoffs and making the Pro Tour finale is a major goal for many players.

So, let’s take a look at the finale bubble to see who needs these bonus points most. In MPO, players like Nikko and Garrett Gurthie are just inside the top 32. Currently just outside, but close—Uli, Robert Burridge, Eric Oakley, and Brodie Smith. In FPO, it’s Paige Pierce, Sai Ananda, Rebecca Cox, and Henna Blomroos who are holding onto top 20 spots. Notably, Paige and Henna will not be competing at DGLO. Lisa Fajkus and Hanna Huynh look eager to move into their spots with a solid finish next week. Keep an eye on all of these players as we make the final push of the season, and remember that winning an Elite Series event gets you an auto-qualification.

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

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