1106-Rated Round Fuels Barela’s Second Victory of the Season; Anniken Steen Makes History in FPO

Steen becomes the first Norwegian to win an Elite Series event

Anthony Barela makes it two wins in 2024 at Texas States. Photo: DGPT

HOUSTON — The 2024 Texas States Disc Golf Championships, the fourth stop on the Disc Golf Pro Tour, celebrated this year’s first repeat winner in Anthony Barela in MPO and the first Norwegian champion ever at an Elite Series event in Anniken Kristiansen Steen in FPO. If we count the Laos origin of Laotian-American Ohn Scoggins, Steen also represents the fifth nation to be represented as a DGPT winner this year.

Both winners had to hold steady in thrilling final rounds. Barela and Steen both wobbled slightly as they were chased down the stretch by two players with a strong winning pedigree in Gannon Buhr and Kristin Tattar, respectively.

Barela keeps the wheels on

Anthony Barela entered the final round with a six-shot lead, the result of a blistering 1106-rated 16-under-par 47 in round two — the first 1100+ rated round on tour since James Conrad shot 16-under almost a year ago at the Jonesboro Open — that built on the one stroke lead he had gained over a chasing gang of Calvin Heimburg, Mason Ford, Ezra Aderhold, and Buhr by shooting 10-under-par in round one.

Round one had been played in strong winds that proved hard to read, while the final two rounds enjoyed far more scorable conditions.

“The wind was kinda swirly at times,” said Gannon Buhr after the first day. “Sometimes it feels like you are just tossing a coin up and hoping you’ll land on the good side of it. You can only do so much to put it in the correct air space.”

The wheels didn’t quite fall off the Barela-mobile in the final round, but from hole 10 through to hole 14, it looked like a couple of lug nuts might have come loose. The former junior phenom and recent first-time tour winner at the Chess.com Invitational to start the year was watching his lead dwindle as Aderhold and then Buhr posted huge birdie streaks to apply pressure.

Despite throwing the 2023 European Open monkey off his back with his first DGPT win in Florida in February, Barela’s reputation for folding late in tournaments, deserved or not, was the narrative being spun by those who hoped for a nail-biting finish in the final round.

Five holes into the final round, the margin was the same six strokes and Barela looked in total control. An OB penalty on hole 6 led to a two-stroke swing and the lead was pared to four. Then soon after he released his drive on hole 10, Barela said, “Oh, why are you flipping?” as the disc sailed right, forcing him to scramble to save par while Aderhold and Buhr both birdied the hole. The lead was down to three.

The very next hole, Barela went out of bounds off the tee but so did Aderhold, maintaining the three-stroke margin but allowing Buhr — who began the day eight strokes back of Barela — to jump two strokes closer and just a stroke behind Aderhold. Buhr was now on a heater and birdied the last 10 holes of the tournament, posting a 15-under 48 that also eclipsed the 1100 rating threshold. He caught Aderhold on hole 12, passed him on hole 14, then got to within two strokes of Barela on the same hole as Barela again went out-of-bounds.

“I’d been under committing my shots on those holes (10-14) all week,” said Barela afterwards. “No lead is safe with these guys chasing you. There’s never a calm moment out there. I’m always stressed out. I just had to keep my composure down the stretch.”

Much like his counterpart in FPO winner Anniken Steen, Barela fought for that composure and his lead by hitting two edge-of-circle birdie putts: one on hole 16 and the other on hole 17, to keep Buhr at bay and hold a vital two-shot lead on the final tee. “I’ve been trusting my putt this whole year,” said Barela. “I knew if I committed and followed by hand towards the basket they were going to go in.”

Buhr parked the final hole, nearly acing for the second time in the round, but Barela still just needed to land safe. He could have chosen to play more conservatively but instead confidently sailed his power hyzer drive high and wide and tombstoned it into the side of the hill for an easy layup and the win.

2024’s best player so far — and the only pro with multiple DGPT wins this season — had some simple advice for himself: “I’m just going to keep being myself and keep playing consistent. That’s all I’ve got to do.”

In the moments that have mattered so far this year, Barela has come up big.

Anniken who? Steen writes her own script

Anniken Steen held off the top two players in the world to win her first DGPT Elite Series. Photo: DGPT

Who is Anniken Kristiansen Steen? The sixth-year pro hails from Hamar, Norway, nestled on the shores of Mjøsa, Norway’s largest lake, and 37 miles down the E6 from Lillehammer, host city of the 1994 Winter Olympics. The 942-rated left hander is Norway’s second highest-rated FPO player after Lykke Lorentzen and three-time and reigning Norwegian champion. Steen’s previous best finish in an elite series event was 5th at Waco in 2023 during her first extended US tour (she did play the Champions Cup and the Throw Pink in 2022). She is a former professional figure skater and highly rated choreographer who was given the honor of carrying the Olympic Torch for the final leg prior to the 2016 Winter Youth Olympics.

Many were seeing Steen’s name for the first time after round one, when she finished the day in second place, one stroke back from Ohn Scoggins after a 10-under-par 53, posting the first 1000+ rated round of her career. Steen then matched that 10-under-par effort in round two to share the lead with Scoggins going into the final day.

After a slow start and a couple of bogeys in round one, world #1 Kristin Tattar found her groove in round two to shoot the hot round for the tournament, a course record 12-under-par 51 that lifted to her into third place, three shots back. A welcome addition to the lead card for round three was 2012 world champion Sarah Hokom, who had unfortunately damaged the ligaments in her foot earlier in the year, forcing her to hobble through the final day.1

Steen fell one throw back after the first hole, then drew back level with a birdie on hole 3. She then pulled ahead on hole 5 after Scoggins, the best circle 2 putter on tour, missed her third putt from beyond the circle on her way going 0-for-8 from C2 for the round. Given how many of those Scoggins C2 putts drew metal, it was a frustrating day for the Open at Austin champion.

Steen then handed the lead back to Scoggins with a double bogey and a two-throw swing on hole seven, before pulling one throw ahead again after birdies on holes 8 and 9. By this stage, Tattar had hit five birdies to be only two strokes behind Steen and one back from Scoggins. On the next hole, Tattar hit a deep Circle 2 putt to draw level with Scoggins and then birdied 11 to draw level with Steen.

The script says that when the best player in the world has chased you down, you succumb and be proud of the effort it took to hang with the best for that long. But Steen rewrote that story on the very next hole when she took a birdie after Tattar allowed some gallery distractions to break her concentration on her short birdie putt, which she left low. Steen then fought to hold the lead, matching Tattar birdie for birdie over the next four holes – including hitting back-to-back circle’s edge putts on holes 13 and 14 after Tattar had parked the holes.

Both Steen and Tattar missed C2 birdie putts on hole 17 and arrived at tee 18 with the one stroke gap intact. Steen’s drive crossed the water and hit a tree but landed in bounds. Then, just as she did in the first round, Tattar threw her drive long out of bounds, allowing Steen to lay up for the win. The Norwegian clasped her hands to her head in disbelief before being swamped by well-wishers.

“My hands are shaking worse than when I was on hole one,” said Steen afterwards, trying to come to terms with her win. “I have no words right now. I just need to say thank you to everyone who has been rooting for me this week: my family, my husband, the crowd, the volunteers, everyone.”

After five rounds of the DGPT, we have five unique FPO winners this year. 2024 is proving to be far more dramatic and entertaining than predicted. The only sure thing we can say about who might win in Jonesboro is that it won’t be Anniken Steen. She’s headed back home for the time being and will join the tour later in the season.

If the courses were too easy, then why was this tournament so much fun to watch?

Some of the early courses on tour this year have had their critics for being a little short and at times too easy. Kristin Tattar spoke in such terms about Brock Park this week.

“This course is – at the same time, it’s so easy, like everybody can birdie every hole. It doesn’t matter who you are. You can be 800-rated or almost 1000-rated, you could play the same score. This is the course we are playing this week, and it’s just creating some difficulties inside because when you are not taking birdies you feel like you are falling behind.”

These ‘birdie or die’ courses are also ‘bogey and die’ tracks and create their own unique type of pressure. The requirement to keep hitting precise lines when a chaser has their confidence up and is stringing birdies together means that no lead is truly safe.

The aesthetics, too, of watching beautifully shaped shot after another slide near to the basket makes disc golf seem like the game they play in heaven. This makes better viewing to me than huge hyzers crushed over the trees. Seeing pros decimate a course that the average amateur can play also seems to make the game more accessible and enjoyable to watch. The DGPT would be boring if it were only played on courses like these, but it can be argued that they belong among the spectrum of challenges the top players face. Distance is not everything.

  1. Hokom is scheduled for foot surgery on April 22nd; she’ll be out 3-6 months. 

  1. Kingsley Flett
    Kingsley Flett

    Kingsley Flett is a writer, photographer, and disc golfer who lives in Western Australia. You can find some more of his work on Instagram. He told us that he rides a Kangaroo to work every day, but we don’t believe him.


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