Preserve Championships 2024: Wysocki Gets His Win, Gannon Outbattles Handley

Fending off challengers until the last hole, Gannon secured her third win of the season, and Wysocki his first

Ricky Wysocki hoists the trophy after winning the 2024 Preserve Championship. Photo: DGPT

As the Disc Golf Pro Tour heads back east to one of its most loved stops, big statements were made by both winners in the Preserve Championship in Clearwater Minnesota this weekend. For Ricky Wysocki, the repeat victory is his first win in 2024 and the third time he has claimed this tournament in its five-year lifespan on tour. Wysocki also celebrated a PDGA MPO record 14th consecutive year with a DGPT, NT or major win. For Missy Gannon, prevailing in an absorbing battle with Holyn Handley is the continuation of another year of consistent excellence for the eight-year pro out of Beacon, NY. The coast-to-coast win was Gannon’s third in a year where she has only been outside the top 10 once in DGPT or majors and where she currently sits in third place in the DGPT standings.

Missy Finds the Warrior Within

For Gannon and Handley, the tournament developed into a head-to-head battle from midway through the first round. Playing in the early card on day one, Gannon set the mark with a 10 under par 56 that Handley couldn’t quite catch a couple of hours later, shooting eight under par on the feature card. By the end of round two the two stroke gap between the pair remained, while Handley had stretched the margin to Norway’s Lykke Lorentzen to three strokes.

Although Lorentzen only seriously dropped out of contention after consecutive bogeys on holes 8 and 9 in the final round, championship Sunday took on the appearance of a match-play battle between the two leaders from early in the round. After five holes Handley erased the two stroke deficit from Gannon and then went ahead by a stroke after carding a birdie on the 700 foot par five hole 6.

“I was basically only paying attention to Holyn,” said Gannon. “I mean I never want to count anybody out, but she got off to a hot start yesterday as well. I knew I just had to stay patient. I seem to play the back nine a little bit better so you know just stay patient, not get too crazy, don’t get anxious, just know that I can do it and that there’s birdies coming up.”

The pair were never separated by more than a stroke during the middle of the round. Handley missed two chances to pull ahead by failing to convert from inside the circle on holes 11 and 12 before Gannon recorded only her second bogey of the tournament on hole 13 to fall one behind. It was a decisive moment for Gannon.

“You know you just have to (stay calm),” said Gannon on her mental state after the slip up. “If you get a little ahead of yourself it’s not going to do you any good. I just have to focus on the next shot. I can’t do anything about what’s already happened, so I just have to put all of my energy into the next shot and thankfully today I have the energy.

“I felt like such a freaking warrior after yesterday,” she continued. “I had a migraine all day. I don’t even know how I shot what I shot yesterday. And today I don’t really remember yesterday at all. Today I was just like ‘if it’s not mine then I don’t know what it is’ because I wanted it so bad after playing like that yesterday.”

The next two holes decided the tournament. Gannon birdied the par 4 hole 14 while Handley went into the rough and failed to scramble for par. The two stroke swing put Gannon ahead again. Then on the next hole, looking to take advantage of her extra distance, Handley late released her drive into the mando tree short and was forced to pitch out. A double bogey eventuated and the resulting three stroke gap was the largest between them so far. Both players missed off the tee on hole 17 and only Handley was able to scramble to save par, but a two stroke lead on the last tee was all Gannon needed. She was able to play the hole conservatively and pitch up for the bogey and the win.

The win had some meaning for Gannon. “I remember the first time we played this course,” she said. “It was that COVID year. It was the first or second event back and I took my second podium here. I’ve always loved coming here, it’s a great getaway. We get to camp right on the course and the dogs have a great time and so I feel like there’s a lot of extra joy that I get out of being here.”

As we come into the part of the season that plays on a side of the country where nerveless accuracy tends to win out over big distance, Gannon is looking forward to the coming months. “I’m going to Des Moines,” she said. “Gotta go back there. It’s where I got my first pro tour win. I love that place. Then I’m heading off to Europe. So it’s on to the next one but I hope this isn’t the last win of the season.”

Ricky’s Back

As in most sports, when trying to predict the outcome of a disc golf tournament it pays to look at recent form. A winner often comes from one of the handful of players with podium finishes and near misses in recent tournaments. Case in point is Ricky Wysocki, whose recent finishes include second at the Beaver State Fling and third at the Portland Open, finishing a string of seven top-ten finishes and four podiums. It’s been clear for a while that Wysocki is back; he just needed a win to break the ice.

In the first two rounds at The Preserve, Wysocki hovered within two strokes of the lead while the early running was made by Benjamin Callaway, Cole Redalen and Kyle Klein in round one and then Klein and Isaac Robinson in round two.

Wysocki’s first bogey for the tournament came in the second hole of the final round and dropped him three strokes off the lead. “That was a big momentum shift for sure,” Wysocki said. “It was a real bad shot. I feel like that’s something I able to well though. Bounce back and have that mental edge. I feel like I kept that today and that’s what makes me play my best disc golf. I was able to do that in the right moments and hit some big putts.”

Wysocki proceeded to birdie eleven of the next sixteen holes. He hit the first of two momentum-swinging big puts on hole four, draining a 65 footer for birdie. The next came on Victoria Creek, hole 11, where Wysocki hit from 55 feet from below the iconic castle wall in front of a huge gallery and a bleacher full of fans to stay in touch with the leaders.

“I always feel like that hole gives a lot of entertainment, creating that atmosphere with the bleachers,” Wysocki said. “That hole has turned into an amazing atmosphere for the players and the spectators so it’s awesome that we are able to showcase our skills right there.”

Providing much of the entertainment early though, was Matthew Orum who was on a tear from the chase card. Matty-O strung together eight birdies in a row and had the opportunity to take the outright lead on hole 11 before his birdie attempt struck the cage. Most of the round was a back-and-forth battle between Orum, Robinson and Kyle Klein with Gannon Buhr and Wysocki hovering one stroke behind.

Kyle Klein was the only member of the lead card to birdie hole 14, creating a one stroke lead which would have stretched to two on hole 15 but for an unlucky spit out. With three holes to play, the tournament was there to be won by Klien, Wysocki or Robinson. But it was Wysocki who closed the best, finishing with three birdies. Klein was the only one of the three to miss the birdie on hole 16 and then, on the narrow tunnel of trees of the hole 17 fairway, Robinson and Klien both caught early trees while Wysocki’s drive perfectly split the gap and parked to within four feet. Robinson saved par while Klein’s drive kicked out of bounds.

Standing on the tee of hole 18 at The Preserve with a lead is familiar territory for Wysocki. It was a hole he’d birdied every round so far and he knew the pressure was on Robinson and Klein to do something special. Robinson’s drive was too high and faded out of position left, making it almost impossible for him to try for an eagle and force a playoff. His attempt at a turnover approach to the green from the left side faded early and went out of bounds. Kleins drive left him with the opportunity to try for eagle, which he managed to claim a share of second place with Orum after almost hitting a fairway ace to force the playoff. Wysocki had the luxury to miss on his approach slightly, leaving it long, but then pitch up and tap in for birdie and the one-stroke win.

If we needed any more proof Wysocki is fully rehabilitated from his injury, the sight of him doing raptor legs holding up the heaviest trophy in disc golf dispelled any doubts.

“I told Cale before the tournament that if I win three bears this specific one is coming home,” said Wysocki. “I gotta somehow find a way to get this one home. It’s heavy but I feel like I earned it. This thing means a lot.”

Wysocki echoed a sentiment he seems to share with most of the pros who get to visit the Preserve. “Cale’s done a great job with new ownership and everything. Every time we come out here it’s just in great shape and there’s really nothing to complain about out here,” Wysocki said. “It’s just fun disc golf. You feel like a kid in the candy store, all the shots are just so fun. We love coming here.”

  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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