2024 Des Moines Challenge Preview: The Last Stop Before Europe

Could we see a Gannon sweep?

Pickard Park. Photo: DGPT

With the European Open just two weeks away, the final United States DGPT event until the Ledgestone Open in August will begin this Friday, July 5th. The TruBank Des Moines Challenge, played at Pickard Park in Des Moines, Iowa, has been a staple on the Disc Golf Pro Tour since 2021. Several touring pros have already made the trip overseas and will not be competing this weekend; in fact, there is not a single European player in the MPO or FPO field.

Last year, weather delays in round 2 forced the MPO division to cut their tournament to 36 holes, playing their second and final round on Sunday. The FPO division had to finish their second round on Sunday morning and immediately play a third and final round afterwards. Kristin Tattar finished the second round with a three stroke lead over Missy Gannon and was able to pick up another three strokes in the final round, leading to an easy victory. In MPO, Gannon Buhr was tied with Gavin Babcock after the opening round, and both players had a two stroke lead on Gregg Barsby and Simon Lizotte. Buhr was able to pull away from the rest of the lead card, but Isaac Robinson was making a strong push from the third card. Robinson took a triple-bogey on the final hole, and Buhr was able to walk in a three stroke win.

Past Winners

PDGA TierOpenOpen Women
2023DGPTGannon BuhrKristin Tattar
DGPTSimon LizotteKristin Tattar
2021DGPTPaul McBethMissy Gannon

Four Things We’ll Be Watching

1. Reigning champion Gannon Buhr is extremely familiar with Pickard Park; he lives just 30 minutes north in Urbandale, Iowa. With a somewhat limited field this week, Buhr is the clear favorite coming off a 5th place finish at the Preserve and back-to-back wins in the two events prior. There will still be some good competition, including 2022 champion Simon Lizotte and both Isaac and Ezra Robinson, who finished in 2nd and 3rd place last year, respectively. Another name to keep your eye on this weekend is Kyle Klein, who’s coming off a 2nd place finish at the Preserve. Klein finished in 61st at last year’s DMC, competing at less than 100% in his first event back from an injury. In 2022, however, Klein finished just one stroke off the podium.

2. Ohn Scoggins, Missy Gannon, and Holyn Handley are not only the three highest rated players in the FPO division this weekend, they’re also the only players in the field who have already tallied wins this season. Gannon has an opportunity to go back-to-back coming off a win at the Preserve. She is also a previous champion of this event, taking home the trophy in 2021. For Scoggins, it will be her first time playing in this event. Handley finished in 17th last season after a very poor performance in which she struggled to putt and keep the disc in bounds. Considering these factors, it’s hard to bet against Gannon this week, who would become the clear front-runner for Player of the Year by picking up her 4th win of the season.

3. Hailey King, Kat Mertsch, and Valerie Mandujano are the next three highest rated players in the FPO division competing this weekend. While none of them have earned a win yet this season, all three of them had at least one victory in 2023.  King has the most career wins among these players and went to a playoff with Missy Gannon at the Dynamic Discs Open earlier this season.  However she is yet to have a good showing at the DMC, finishing 20th in 2022 and withdrawing from the event last year.  Mandujano finished in 6th here last year, and her game seems to be rounding into form coming off back-to-back top-10 finishes.  Mertsch may be the most intriguing of this group, with three career top-8 finishes at the DMC.

4. The DMC has quickly become known for having one of the largest purses on tour for a standard Elite event. After exceeding a purse of $100k in 2022, the DMC crew led by Tournament Director Ty Tannatt were able to surpass $110,000 for last year’s event. The title sponsor TruBank will once again be providing added cash to create equal payouts for both the FPO and MPO winners. In a year where purses have remained relatively flat, we’ll be curious to see where this year’s total lands.

The Course

Originally designed by 5x World champion and Iowa-native Juliana Korver, Pickard Park has been in the ground since 1999 and played host to the 2004 World championships. Pickard Park offers a wide variety of both open and wooded holes with multiple water carries and island greens.

There are a handful of changes to the course this year beginning on hole 7. Fans will remember this as the uphill par 3 with a hexagonal green, the fairway outside of the green plays as hazard territory in the MPO division. This year, the FPO teepad has been moved in 100 feet and will now play the same as MPO, with any shot landing off the green being in hazard territory. Hole 16 has been removed from the layout and replaced by the previous hole 17. The new hole 17 is a unique par 4 that requires players to hit a gap out of the woods, and then carry a second shot 250 feet over OB territory onto an island green that is shaped like the state of Iowa. Hole 18 has also been shortened this year and will play as a par 4 rather than a par 5.

2024 MPO: 9,609 Feet Par 64
2023 MPO: 9,752 Feet Par 64

2024 FPO: 8,132 Feet Par 64
2023 FPO: 8,424 Feet Par 64

Extended Forecast

A little bit of everything this weekend with warm temperatures but also some heavier winds and a chance of rain in the forecast.

Friday: Mostly sunny with highs near 80. Winds 15 to 25 mph.

Saturday: Mostly sunny with highs in the lower 80s, a stray shower or thunderstorm is possible. Winds 5 to 10 mph.

Sunday: Showers in the morning then partly cloudy in the afternoon, highs in the lower 80s. Winds 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 50%.

  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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