Tattar completes the single season grand slam
September 26, 2023 by Kingsley Flett in Analysis, Recap with 0 comments
A great victory needs a great opponent. In her triumph in the 2023 United States Women’s Disc Golf Championship at Cedarock Park near Burlington, North Carolina, this past week, Kristin Tattar had several. But in the end, she claimed her fifth straight major championship, an FPO record, while becoming the first FPO player ever to sweep the Majors in a single season.1
Over the closing stages, it was Ohn Scoggins giving Kristin no room to breathe. On her way to shooting a course record for the new Regulator layout with an eight-under-par, provisionally 1008-rated 61, Scoggins birdied 11 holes to keep within 2 strokes of Tattar for much of the back nine. But on hole 16, Scoggins’ tired and sore arm pulled her backhand upshot wide: the disc clipped a tree and dropped well outside circle two. The prospect of running the elevated basket from this distance was too much for even Scoggins and her deadly putting, so she laid up, effectively conceding the win and deciding to protect second place. Scoggins’ bogey in turn allowed Tattar to lay up for par and a four stroke lead with two holes to play.
When Kristin parked the shot across the water next to hole 17’s basket, there remained just a tap in before the long walk to tee 18 and her appointment with destiny. A slight misfire off the final tee didn’t matter. Tattar was able to play out the hole for par, hoist the USWDGC trophy for the second time and complete the grand slam of winning all four major events in a single season and the last five that she has contested.
“It’s amazing,” a relieved and tired Tattar said afterwards. “I wrote down in one of my notebooks that I want to win all majors in 2023. I can’t believe it happened because the competition is so tight, and these ladies are keeping me on my toes, so it’s an incredible achievement that I’ve managed to pull off.”
75 hours earlier, though, the prospect of a win for Tattar looked a long way off. Kristin’s first opponent seemed to be the course and her own form. After shooting three over par in the first four holes of the tournament, Tattar was tied for 44th place and well off the early pace of Hailey King, Henna Blomroos, and Missy Gannon. It wasn’t until an uphill putt from 40 feet on hole 7 that Tattar was able to put a tourniquet on the bleeding. That par save was followed by a run of five birdies in a row that saw her climb back up to a share of seventh place by the end of the round.
“The course was a little bit difficult and showed me its teeth,” sad Tattar following her win. “But I knew that even if everything is not going my way, I can still battle through and give my 100 percent and that’s all I can do.”
The new Regulator layout that had been developed for the tournament drew plenty of praise. The 8750-foot, par-69 track seemed well tuned to the abilities of the pro FPO field, testing a wide variety of shot making while not allowing the specific strengths of any particular player to dominate. “I love how uncomfortable this course makes every single player,” said DGN commentator Brian Earhart.
“We gave Lance Brown the map and the pen,” said tournament director Chuck Connelly. “The man has a creative eye for course design and a very good eye for variety. Then Jacob Wade and myself worked with him once he came out with the basic design. This course was designed by a committee of three to give balance and fairness.”
George R.R. Martin, the author of the Game of Thrones books, regularly killed off favorite characters in shocking and gory fashion. He was inspired by watching MacGyver on TV, seeing how he and his Swiss army knife would always win the day. Martin felt that this predictability reduced the tension that kept people reading (and watching) – he didn’t like it when the audience got to relax. It is unknown whether Brown, Connelly, and Wade are Game of Thrones fans, but their course design had the same effect, never allowing anyone to feel truly safe, even with a four throw lead and one hole left in the round.
There are plenty of holes in disc golf that can ruin your round. But one more level up the scale of terror are holes that can ruin your whole tournament. Such holes are rarer, with hole 17 at Winthrop and hole 16 on The Beast in Nokia coming to mind. There are no haybales to contend with on hole 3 on The Regulator, but hitting an early tree forces a perilous pitch out and then three or four great shots to have a hope of making the green. Two out of the lead card in round two were bitten hard by this hole, with Holly Finley’s 9 dropping her back down to a position from which she never recovered and Hailey King’s 8 forcing her to claw her way back into contention before a double bogey on hole 16 dropped her to a share of sixth place.
Henna Blomroos also found trouble early in round two before throwing an eagle on hole 6 and then shooting six-under-par for the rest of the round to claim the lead. Tattar, who last missed a major lead card at the 2021 Worlds and coming off the third card this time, found trouble early with a double bogey on hole 4. But Kristin kept her card clean after that and added six birdies to shoot the hot round for day 2 and settle in to second place, two strokes back from Blomroos.
Blomroos was asked if she was discouraged or disappointed with her slow start in round two. “Yes, of course,” she said. “It felt impossible to throw today. But I’m happy that I didn’t give up and I kept going. Nothing changed on the back nine. I just hit my lines barely better than the front nine and that’s the key here.”
“It has felt like such a struggle for me for some reason,” said Tattar after round two. “I feel like I don’t have the right mindset or focus. Something feels off. Coming into today I told myself to turn things around but then I took a double bogey again and it felt like the same struggles as I had yesterday. I was a little bit grumpy on the course, I’ll admit. But I’m here and I’m playing and I’m not going to quit, so I might as well try my best.”
Round three was played in almost constant rain which tested the drainage of the new course and the mental strength of the players as conditions underfoot became treacherous. Blomroos and Tattar distanced themselves from the field and engaged in an absorbing battle, with Kristin barely hanging on as Henna’s accurate and powerful drives began to take over. While other players were slipping in the wet and struggling to stay in bounds, Blomroos was the only one to keep a clean sheet and was beginning to exude the confidence of a player who was putting some of her inconsistency behind her. By hole 11, Blomroos had increased her lead over Tattar to three strokes. Tattar reduced that lead to two strokes with a birdie on hole 16, and it looked like the two Europeans would be going into championship Sunday with the same two stroke gap that they’d started the day with.
Then came the devastating turn of events on hole 18 that rattled everyone’s nerves and made it seem that no lead would be safe on this course until the final putt dropped. Blomroos’ consistent driving up to that point let her down and she threw straight into first tree just to the left of the teepad. Henna then pitched out to the fairway, but her third shot hit a tree guarding the right side of the crucial gap onto the second fairway and kicked left. Obviously shaken, Henna then misplayed from behind a disc that she had placed on the ground. After taking the one throw penalty and pitching out, Blomroos’ score of 8 turned her two throw lead into a two throw deficit heading into the final round.
“You never want to win against someone who is not playing well,” Tattar reflected afterwards. “You always want to play your best and you expect other players to also do their best. So of course, it was hard to see [Henna] struggling.”
Tattar’s battle with the front nine continued in the final round. All of the bogeys except for one on Kristin’s scorecards for the weekend came in the front half of the course.
Bogeys on holes 1 and 5 erased her lead over Blomroos, who had appeared to rebound well from the previous evening’s disaster. It could have been worse for Tattar, but for an almost miraculous scramble on hole 2, where she had kicked so far deep and right after hitting an early tree that most were doubting her ability to even save bogey from the lie. She threaded a forehand uphill through a gap that only she could see to land at circle’s edge and save her par. Again on hole 7, Tattar played both her drive and second shot through the rough on the left side of the fairway before shaping a high, hyzer forehand through a seemingly invisible gap, to land 16 feet from the pin.
The turning point in Tattar’s battle with Blomroos was on hole 9. As she had for most of the first half of the round, Tattar again misfired slightly off the tee, pulling her forehand to the right. But the disc found a gap between two trees and landed inside 16 feet. “From my perspective it was a little bit of a lucky shot,” Tattar said afterwards. Then the demons of the 2022 World Championships final round, holes 9 and 10, visited Henna again. Blomroos, after missing her birdie bid from circles edge, inexplicably missed the 12 foot comebacker. Suddenly Tattar’s lead was two strokes again and nobody was able to get any closer. Blomroos missed three more circle-one putts over the next six holes to fade from contention and eventually into third place as Scoggins began her birdie run.
“Coming into the final round I felt like I’m not on top of my game,” said Tattar afterwards. “That I’m not playing the level that I’ve been playing before, but I just kept telling myself to not count myself out of the game. Even if you are struggling, even if you are scrambling, just keep going. I mean I was not hitting fairways at times. It felt awful and it felt like I don’t know how to play disc golf, because my shots were all over the place. But I was like ‘OK, now I’m here, what can I do to fix this.’ I just kept my eyes forward and just kept going. Not giving up. It just proves how incredible our capabilities are. How only the sky is the limit. It only encourages me to dream even bigger and I hope it shows to everyone else that anything is possible.”
If our sport overall now has a figurehead, then that person is Kristin Tattar. The ages of Paul McBeth, Paige Pierce, and Ricky Wysocki are temporarily suspended, if not over. Disc golf, at the moment, has one ruler, and the crown sits well.
min. three majors ↩