The Top 10 Storylines of the 2024 West Coast Swing

From the desk of Owl P. Jackson, Esq.

Paige Pierce at the 2024 Portland Open. Photo: DGPT

“Go west, young man.”

Like generations before them, pro disc golfers (most of them, anyway) heeded the call in search of fame, fortune, and Pro Tour points. OTB Open, Portland Open, and the Beaver State Fling—what did we learn from the last month of disc golf?  In my opinion, these are the top 10 storylines of the 2024 West Coast Swing.

1. Paige Pierce wins post-injury

“Trying to bring down me, the champion? When y’all clowns gon’ see that it can’t be done?”

Paige’s triumphant win at the Portland Open was her first win in over a year. The 2024 season had been a slow climb back towards contention, but that is understandable. After her ankle injury in Norway last year, Paige wondered if she would even be able to play disc golf again, much less contend for wins.

In Portland, Paige looked like herself again. That’s great for FPO entertainment value. But it isn’t her play that stands out from that weekend. What is going to stick in everyone’s memories is the joy, relief, and gratitude that came pouring out in her post-round interview with Nate Perkins. Get your Bonnaroo tickets, everybody—Paige Pierce is back!

2. Holyn Handley finally gets it done

“Jim West, desperado; rough rider, no, you don’t want nada.”

One of the most fun (and frustrating) storylines to follow this year has been Holyn Handley chasing her first Pro Tour win. In a stretch where she was the favorite every week, Holyn kept us wondering if it would ever happen. At OTB, Ella Hansen and Holyn were lightyears ahead of the field going into the final round. Instead of giving fans a shootout, Holyn crumbled. At Portland, Holyn put together one of the best rounds of the weekend and finally delivered on the final day. But it was too little, too late.

Beaver State Fling looked like it was going to be more of the same from Handley, as she appeared to have fallen out of contention midway through the final round.  Then it finally happened. Holyn finished with four straight birdies, two huge putts, and a one-hole, seal-the-deal playoff. Let out a scream, throw up a flex, and drop some profanities—Holyn clutched up!

3. Gannon Buhr gets the Oregon sweep

“Now once upon a time in the west; mad man lost his damn mind in the west.”

Gannon Buhr has emerged as the clear best player in the world. He got his second win of the year at the Portland Open, but that is underselling his performance.  He dominated. In fact, he was so far ahead after three rounds that he could have skipped the final round and still had the best score.

He backed it up at the Beaver State Fling, although in a completely different manner. With seven holes to play, Gannon was one of nine players within 2 strokes of the lead. One by one, players fell back. Luke Humphries went O.B. twice on 17. Ezra Robinson airmailed a putt on the final hole. In the end, it was Buhr and his robotic consistency. After the round, he reflected, “I felt that flow state that all players love to have and kinda kept it rolling.”

Too easy.

4. MPO Player of the Year race

“Understand me, son, I’m the slickest they is; I’m the quickest they is, did I say I’m the slickest they is?”

There is really no way to argue against Gannon as the consensus number one in the POTY conversation.  But let’s take a look at the other players who deserve consideration.

Calvin picked up his second win in as many tournaments at the OTB Open in Stockton. Now that he is healthy and has his forehand back, he’s right where we expect him to be. In his last five tournaments, he has finished 5th, 1st, 1st, 6th, and 4th. Not even Gannon matches that stretch of average finishing place. We could easily be talking about Calvin as POTY favorite a month from now.

Anthony Barela started the season looking like he’d get double digit wins this year. But since his win at Jonesboro, he has been finishing progressively worse: 7th, 10th, 14th, 18th, 44th, 61st. Worst of all, the west coast courses seem tailor made for A.B.’s game.

5. Ella Hansen gets her first Pro Tour win

“Don’t even think about it, six gun, weighing a ton; 10 paces and turn, just for fun, son.”

Remember 2023 WACO? Ella Hansen fell apart on the last few holes to give Kristin Tattar the victory. Hugs, tears, etc. It remains one of the most memorably crushing losses of the recent past. Since then, Ella Hansen has been chasing that first Tour win, scooping up top 10 finish after top 10 finish along the way. When Holyn fell apart during the final round at the OTB Open, Hansen kept on chugging.

“I’m a little in disbelief,” said Hansen. “But it’s awesome to be loved by my friends. I’ve had a lot of really close ones. I’ve had a lot of top five and top two finishes and I think for me I just wanted to keep playing my own game and having good rounds and throwing good shots.” We all knew it was bound to happen eventually.

6. Eagle and Paul

“If you ever riff with either one of us, break out, before you get bum rushed.”

Time to check in with our recovering superstars. Paul McBeth went 18th, 7th, and 43rd over the West Coast Swing. At the very least, it was great to have Paul back on our screens more than usual. Still, I don’t expect him to be back in the winners circle this year.

Eagle, on the other hand, seems to be on the right track. After an absolutely dismal appearance at Champions Cup, Eagle went 13th, 10th, 12th out west. Bodily confidence will continue to grow and he will continue to fine tune his new bag. Eagle will win this year. Come to think of it, European Open is right around the corner…

7. MPO Top 10 Check-In

“Then through the shadows, in the saddle, ready for battle; Bring all your boys in, here come the poison.”

At this point, we are halfway through the season. Soon, low scores will start to drop. Here is what stands out when I look at the MPO standings.

  • Sitting in 2nd place, Ricky is due for a win. The Preserve could be the one.
  • Ezra Robinson (6th) is having a great season and is still the best Robinson brother. He throws with what looks like reckless abandon, and I love it.
  • Look at 8th place Gavin Rathbun! This guy has more DGPT points than any player on Latitude 64, MVP, Westside, Kastaplast, Infinite, Clash, Thoughtspace, Lone Star, DGA, etc. Should be a fun offseason for him.

8. FPO Field

“So, if you barking up the wrong tree we coming; don’t be starting nothing.”

It was awesome to see Ella, Paige, and Holyn get their first wins of the year. And I firmly believe that a win is a win. You can only beat the players that compete.  And yet, we all hear that little “but” in the back of our heads. I, for one, am looking forward to getting the whole gang back together again.

9. Kristin Tattar injury

“Swallow your pride, don’t let your lip react; you don’t wanna see my hand where my hip be at.”

Speaking of the dearly missed Europeans…unfortunately, one of the biggest stories took place off the course and half-a-world away. Fresh off becoming the first 1000-rated woman in history, Kristin announced on Instagram, “In a freak accident amidst our home renovation, I stumbled among scattered items, resulting in a broken rib. After consulting with some wonderful doctors, I’ve decided to prioritize my recovery, leading to my withdrawal from the Portland Open and Beaver State Fling.” Kristin aims to return at the Krokhol Open.

10. Odds & Ends

“We going straight to the wild, wild west.”

Here are some things I loved that may or may not be worth mentioning…

  • Nate Doss playing again at Beaver State. He wasn’t anywhere near contention, but he finished under par. It was probably the first time many fans have ever seen him toss a Buzzz.
  • Fans visible on camera, especially at Portland Open.
  • OTB and Portland giving us examples of good disc golf courses on golf courses. Not sure it’s Champions Cup material, but you work with what you’ve got. The natural beauty of Oregon. Some places just look better than others. Bring Worlds back to Oregon!
  • The emergence of Sofia Donnecke. It was a lot of fun to learn about disc golf’s renaissance (wo)man. Hopefully it’s not another Caroline Henderson and she is around for a while.
  • Luke Humphries showing up after the first month of the season.
  • People’s overreaction to Paige Pierce releasing her list of the Top 100 Disc Golf Podcasts:

1. The Upshot
2. Smashboxx

100. Tour Life
*Unranked: Staggered Stance

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