2024 Waco Annual Charity Open Preview: Elite+, Plus a New Course

More points, and a brand new track

Just two events into the 2024 season and the first Disc Golf Pro Tour Elite+ event has already arrived. This year’s schedule has four Elite+ events, which consist of four rounds and award 25% more points than a standard Elite event. The Waco Annual Charity Open (WACO) begins today, but those familiar with this event are in for a few changes this year. Brazos Park East, better known as the bEast, will host rounds 1 and 3, while a new course, Lake Waco, will be utilized for rounds 2 and 4.

The FPO division is ripe with storylines this week, from the return of Kristin Tattar to a handful of emerging players that not only continue to raise the level of competition but should fare well on these courses in particular. In total, there are 22 FPO players rated 950 or above registered to play this weekend, up from 14 such players in 2023 and just 10 in 2022. Meanwhile, the MPO division could see a bit of a shakeup with the addition of the Lake Waco course. Fans of players like Paul McBeth will be watching anxiously to see if they can turn around their poor performances from the start of the season. Calvin Heimburg fans will have to wait, as he dropped from the event with elbow soreness.

Past Winners

YearTierOpenOpen Women
2023DGPTKyle KleinKristin Tattar
2022DGPTPaul McBethValerie Mandujano
2021DGPTNikko LocastroKona Panis
2020DGPTColten MontgomeryEveliina Salonen
2019DGPTPaul McBethCatrina Allen
2018DGPTJeremy KolingPaige Pierce
2017DGPTJeremy KolingPaige Pierce
2005NTDave FeldbergDes Reading
2004NTRon RussellJuliana Korver
2003ARon RussellDes Reading
2002ATodd BranchJuliana Korver
2001AMike YoungNadine Larkin
2000ACam ToddJuliana Korver
1999ARon RussellJuliana Korver
1998AChris Max VoigtAvan Eddy

Four Things We’ll Be Watching

1. World #1 Kristin Tattar will make her highly anticipated season debut in Waco. Tattar is coming off a Grand Slam season and winning her second consecutive Player of the Year award. This offseason, the Estonian’s celebrity status continued to grow, as she collected even more awards and took on a handful of new sponsorship deals, including Nike Europe. Kristin got off to a bit of a slow start last year, even though she managed to win this event on the final hole. Shy of winning yet another Grand Slam, it will be difficult for Tattar to continue to live up to expectations. Kristin’s first big test will come in just two weeks at the US Women’s Disc Golf Championships, where she will attempt to win a 6th consecutive Major. This week we will get to see just how sharp Tattar’s game is coming off a busy offseason, or if she’s already looking to be in midseason form.

2. Coming off her first tour win in nearly four years, Eveliina Salonen now returns to the site of her previous tour win. Salonen has traditionally been incredible getting off the tee at the bEast, winning the event in 2020 and leading in strokes gained tee to green in 2022. If Eveliina’s putting looks like it did last weekend, she should absolutely be in contention to win WACO again. Chess.com Invitational runner-up and 2023 WACO runner-up Ella Hansen will be looking for redemption this week. Hansen had the lead on the final hole last year before throwing her tee shot out of bounds. Ella also had a share of the lead to start the final round of the Chess.com Invitational but was once again unable to close it out. While the addition of the Lake Waco course should help her chances, it also plays favorably to Salonen, as well as other players like Holyn Handley and 2x WACO champion Paige Pierce.

3. Reigning Player of the Year Calvin Heimburg didn’t exactly get out to an ideal start at the Chess.com Invitational, coming in with his 4th worst pro tour finish ever and his worst since the 2022 Des Moines Challenge. Calvin was able to claim a podium finish in Waco last year and has finished in the top 5 two of the past three years. Now, though, he’ll have to wait to get a chance to bounce back. He announced on Instagram late last night that he would be dropping out due to the elbow injury that left him avoiding forehands last weekend. It’s too bad, as the addition of the Lake Waco course seems likely to have played to Heimburg’s favor. Paul McBeth took to Instagram to tell fans his play felt promising after a 6-month hiatus despite missing the cash line. He also asked to withhold judgment on his game until after next week’s Open at Austin. McBeth is a 2x WACO champion and is well-known for shooting an 18-under par round on the bEast back in 2019.

4. While some pros have seen repeated success at WACO, it’s more often been an event where certain pros struggle. Ricky Wysocki, for example, a terrific woods-player, has not cracked the top 10 here since 2019, and averages just a 1033 rating at the bEast. Simon Lizotte finished 60th and 42nd in his last two trips to Waco and averaged just a 1020 rating in five starts. The addition of Lake Waco, a longer and less technical course, could shake up that narrative and help bring a few more players into contention. Players like Gannon Buhr, Aaron Gossage and Anthony Barela who just played the Memorial Championship should be more tuned to a course like Lake Waco than the bEast. The question remains how fans will react to the new course, which will take center stage when the final round is played there on Sunday. Will the new lake course overshadow the Brazos River, or will it fall flat in the wake of one of the tour’s most technically demanding tracks?

The Courses

Located on the banks of the Brazos River, Brazos Park East or the bEast as it’s better known offers a challenging mix of open and wooded holes. While the bEast is one of the shortest courses on the Disc Golf Pro Tour, it does not lack for difficulty. Scrambling through the woods and controlling the disc on the more open and often windy holes are essential to scoring low. For the first time since 2021, there has been a change to the bEast layout, with hole 15 getting removed. Fans may remember hole 15 as the one with several guard rails and electrical boxes in the middle of the fairway. The former hole 16 will now play as hole 15, and a new par 3 that plays along the banks of the Brazos River has been added as the new hole 16.

The bEast

2024 MPO: 7,774 Foot Par 63
2023 MPO: 7,957 Foot Par 63
2024 FPO: 7,404 Foot Par 66
2023 FPO: 7,677 Foot Par 67

Event organizers teased a new Waco course last year, and this weekend we will see the debut of Lake Waco on the pro tour. Temporarily built on a traditional golf course, this layout challenges players with long fairways, water carries, tight OB lines, OB golf greens, and several mandatories. Aesthetically, it’s not the bEast; we’ll see how the golf looks. Hole 17 has gotten buzz — a tough water carry par 3 with the green tucked right between an OB golf green on the left and water hazard on the right.

Lake Waco

2024 MPO: 10,514 Foot Par 64
2024 FPO: 9,400 Foot Par 66

Extended Forecast

Waco always seems to bring about heavy winds, and this year looks to be no exception. Rain and thunderstorms threaten the early rounds, though Sunday should see fair conditions with light winds.

Thursday: Cloudy with occasional rain and possible thunderstorms, highs in the lower 70s. Winds 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 40%.
Friday: Potential for severe thunderstorms in the morning, then partly cloudy late, highs in the upper 70s. Winds 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 70%.
Saturday: Partly cloudy with highs in the lower 60s. Winds 15 to 25 mph.
Sunday: Partly cloudy with highs in the mid 60s. Winds 5 to 10 mph.

  1. Justin Westfall
    Justin Westfall

    Justin Westfall is a contributor at Ultiworld Disc Golf who enjoys living in Southern California, where he can play disc golf year-round. Off the course, he works in the film industry and prides himself on being a lifelong Buffalo Bills fan. You can find Justin on Twitter and Instagram @PDGAStats.

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