Paige Pierce Picks Up Portland Prize, Buhr Dominates MPO

Paige's first win in over a year following her ankle injury last summer.

Paige Pierce at the 2024 Portland Open. Photo: DGPT.

Victory in the Portland Open this weekend seemed to carry different meanings for Gannon Buhr and Paige Pierce. For Buhr, the MPO victory was a clinical display that placed him firmly back at the forefront of predictions for 2024’s Player of the Year after Anthony Barela and Calvin Heimburg have led that discussion. Meanwhile, in FPO, Pierce rode a wave of emotion to her first win in over a year after recovering from a traumatic lower leg injury that threatened her career.

The drama of the final day on the Glendoveer East course were played out in rain that steadily grew heaver throughout the day, but the Portland locals just shrugged their shoulders, said “what rain?,” and turned up in droves to spectate anyway. The West Coast swing of the DGPT is certainly bringing the crowds and the atmosphere that some of the earlier events have lacked.

The renaissance of Paige

After a major injury, one of the last faculties to return is called proprioception – the sense we have of where a part of the body is located in space. After the damage is healed and the strength returns, it can be a long, frustrating wait for our brain to fully commit weight to that limb again. In the case of Pierce and the left ankle she broke in three places in Norway last year, the challenge has been for the synchronicity to return to her throw so that she could trust it again, long after she was healed enough to play tournaments.

“Overall, the absolute biggest challenge has been patience and trust,” said Pierce in the mini documentary about her rehabilitation on her YouTube channel. It was an emotional Pierce who referred to the return of this faith in her body after the two stroke win over Holyn Handley on Sunday.

“Winning is definitely icing on the cake for sure but just being back and feeling confident again and stepping up to a teepad and knowing where my disc is going to go, that’s the more exciting part,” she said. “That vase is amazing and I’m definitely going to put it in the trophy room, but this is more about the confidence this is going to give me moving forward.”

Pierce’s fifth place in the OTB Open two weeks ago suggested that she was coming into some good form. While trailing Ohn Scoggins by four strokes in a share of fourth place after round one, Paige’s 3-under-par 65 was good enough to land her on the lead card for round two. A 7-under-par 61 round two followed by a 9-under par round three gave her a two shot lead over Kat Mertsch and Scoggins on Championship Sunday, with British Columbia’s Sofia Donnecke, playing just the second Elite Series event of her career1, a further throw back in fourth.

The early battle in the final round was between Pierce and Mertsch. Kat’s high-risk upshot and even higher risk 40 foot putt for eagle on hole 5 drew her back to with two strokes of Pierce, but a two-shot swing on the next hole, then another stroke gained by Pierce on hole 8 followed by a bogey by Mertsch on hole 10, meant that Pierce’s lead over her cardmates was six strokes with eight holes to play. The only realistic rival was Holyn Handley, who was charging home on the chase card with an 11-under-par 56, a new course record. Pierce was still able to enjoy the luxury of standing on the hole 18 tee with a five stroke lead, though.

“I wasn’t aware of scores at all until hole 15, the hole I bogeyed yesterday,” said Pierce after the round. “I thought ‘what’s my margin right now and who is closest to me. When [my caddie] Henry [Pearson] told me it was more than four, I clubbed down to a putter and just played for par. [On hole 18] I knew I needed quadruple bogey or better. That took some pressure off the last tee shot. I do wish the drive had been safe, but a win is a win.”

Nobody was dry out on the course because of the rain, but there also wasn’t a dry eye in anyone who listened to Paige’s post round interview with old friend Nate Perkins. Only Paige and those close to her would know how much she has relived the trauma of her accident, but in that moment, she seemed to revisit the painful event again. Her voice carried the emotion she’d been holding back.

“Usually when a tournament is over — thank the spotters, thank the volunteers, and all that — but for me, I have a years worth of people to thank,” she said as her voice broke. “The first two people that come to mind are Missy [Gannon] and Tom [Szevin] because they were with me when it happened. Missy was two feet behind me and I’m screaming bloody murder. It’s 8:15 in the morning. Tom takes his shirt off instantly, removes the OB flag, and makes me a little tourniquet. Missy calls Seth [Munsey] and says ‘Seth, you need to come to the course right now.’ Jules drove me the whole way to the hospital. She sat with us all day and Ayla is singing in my ear to calm me down while they are putting my leg back in place. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to walk again or play. I don’t even care about this tournament. I don’t mean it like that, but it’s so much bigger than a tournament. “

It was 382 days since Pierce’s last win and not since 2011 has she gone a year without at least one first place finish. It is good to have Paige back, and throwing her into the mix of contenders for the rest of this year just made the FPO field a lot more interesting.

Gannon Buhr at the 2024 Portland Open. Photo: DGPT

Buhr goes coast-to-coast

Gannon Buhr’s dominant win at the Portland Open marks his second straight DGPT Elite+ victory after he won WACO earlier this season. The 19-year-old, five-year pro from Iowa is leading this year’s DGPT standings for more than just the wins though — he’s finished in the top 10 in every event apart from the OTB Open in Stockton.

Buhr put his stamp on this event from the start, shooting a 10-under-par 53 in round one to open up a two stroke lead over Drew Gibson, then stretching that lead to six strokes with another 10-under-par round two and effectively ending the tournament as a contest with a 9-under-par round three that saw him entering championship Sunday with a 10-stroke lead.

Buhr’s first two rounds, in particular, were notable for their fast starts. “If you get under par on this course early, it makes the back a lot easier,” Buhr said after round two. “Then it doesn’t even tempt your brain to go for stupid stuff. You play a lot smarter.”

While not as scintillating as the previous three rounds, Buhr’s 4-under-par 61 in the rain was enough to guarantee a comfortable eight stroke win — tied for the largest victory margin of the last five years on tour — over his good friend Cole Redalen.

“I’ve never been a good player in the rain, so I’ll take a four under today, not bad. What has been stopping me winning this in the past is that I’ve had one bad round early on in the tournament. It felt good to put four solid rounds together,” Buhr said.

The closest Buhr had to a nervous moment was throwing into the hazard on his way to a bogey on hole 14. “That was a little tough,” he said afterwards. “I know there was four holes left and I had five strokes. I was a little bit nervous there but I bullseyed the shot on hole 15 for a birdie and once I had six strokes again with three holes to play, I knew it was pretty much over.”

It’s clear that Buhr enjoys this part of the tour.

“These courses fit my game so well,” he said. “A lot of flex shots and a lot of placement golf in the open. There are not too many tight gaps. I didn’t really make too many circle-two putts all week but my throwing was so good that I was putting it inside circle one and I capitalized on most of those. I love Portland and I love this event. It’s in my top three of events for the year; the crowd is amazing.”

The renaissance woman

Sofia Donnecke at the 2024 Portland Open. Photo: DGPT

The first Canadian disc golfer to find the podium at a DGPT event and the first in any Elite Series since Elaine King, British Columbia’s Sofia Donnecke caught everyone’s attention with a course record, 10-under-par 58 in round two. Coming from one of the great independent disc golf scenes — full of unofficial events, festival golf camp outs, and tone poles — in British Columbia, Donnecke is on a mini tour to try the pro scene on for size. So far it fits well, and the only question remains is whether disc golf can hold her attention from the Harvard graduate’s PhD in organic chemistry, horse riding, and photography. Oh, she speaks German too.

  1. after OTB Open, her first, two weeks ago 

  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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