A brilliant season from one of the brightest young stars in the game.
February 5, 2021 by Bennett Wineka in Awards with comments
With fewer events on the calendar last season, margins between players in 2020 were razor thin. The Open division felt more up for grabs than it has in years as eight different players won at least one of the 12 Elite Series or Major events in North America, with no player winning more than two.
When deciding on the 2020 Men’s Player of the Year, the conversation started with the four two-time winners on the Elite Series and the lone Major winner, as it felt like the logical place to start: Chris Dickerson, Calvin Heimburg, Kevin Jones, Eagle McMahon, and Paul McBeth.
From that list, the Ultiworld Disc Golf staff was split between two players. Here’s a quick blind look at some 2020 stats.
Player A: 14 total events, 2 DGPT wins and 4 DGPT podiums, 1 Major podium, 6 finishes outside top five, 2nd DGPT Tour points, 10 point year-over-year rating increase, $34,047 earnings
Player B: 14 total events, 2 DGPT wins and 5 DGPT podiums, 0 Major podiums, 1 finish outside top five, 1st DGPT Tour points, 8 point year-over-year rating decrease, $32,729 earnings
Who do you think wins this comparison?
The Ultiworld Disc Golf 2020 Men’s Player of the Year is Calvin Heimburg, or, as you were previously introduced to him, Player A.
The Floridian followed up a 2019 season in which he captured the PDGA National Tour points championship with a year where he became only the fourth player in history to reach a player rating of 1050 or higher, firmly entrenched himself as a contender week-in and week-out, and delivered one of the more memorable tournament rounds of recent vintage.
Heimburg recorded one of his worst finishes of the season, 10th place, in his opener in Las Vegas while trying to defend his title. He would erase any doubts that weekend brought up a few days later by taking home the Memorial Championship with a hot round on the final day.
It was after the season restart in summer, however, that Heimburg came alive with consecutive second place DGPT showings in Kansas and Minnesota. A mid-season “lull” by his own standards still included hot rounds and top 10 finishes.
The finish to the year was the separator for Vinny, as his friends call him. Third place at Maple Hill, a win in Jonesboro, a sprint from the chase card to nearly win USDGC, and a spot in the finals of the DGPT Championship.
Just think about that final round at USDGC again. Heimburg was 10-under par on a day where tee pads were flooded, rain was unrelenting, and other leaders struggled to stay close to par. It all came crashing down on hole 17, but in an unfamiliar way. Instead of missing the island entirely, Heimburg was left to watch as his putter found OB inside the circle. This picture by Alyssa Van Lanen captures the tired, drenched Heimburg showing as much emotion as his stoic composure allows.
If this isn’t the most memorable tournament moment of the year, I don’t know what is.
As Heimburg cashed in a Circle 2 birdie on an elevated basket during the final hole of the DGPT Championship, it felt like a fitting end to a season where the player was always able to find the extra gear in big moments.
Heimburg’s season-long stats on UDisc Live are S-tier, with every driving category either leading the division or coming in no lower than fourth. An 85% Circle 1X putting rate, good for 17th on tour, can be slightly skewed considering he led the year in parked shots and connected on almost a third of his C2 attempts.
When we look back at the 2020 season, what will we remember the most? In terms of on-course performances, Heimburg’s constant presence on lead cards and leaderboards, and his outing at the USDGC and head-to-head against other challengers were the difference makers.
From 2018 Breakout Player of the Year to 2019 NT champ to 2020 POTY, Heimburg continues his ascent in the sport. Now it’s time to win a big one.
If you hadn’t already deduced who Player B was at the top of the article, it was Paul McBeth. McBeth was neck-and-neck with Heimburg in our staff voting, and like the eventual POTY winner, McBeth had a superb resume on the season. Charlie Eisenhood already laid out the case for McBeth and others here:
So why not McBeth this year? He can arguably have been POTY almost any year in the past decade, and, like Charlie wrote, we can’t hold his own legacy against him. In 2020, it came down to Major play and giving up final round leads to Colten Montgomery in Waco and Heimburg in Jonesboro that setting a new player rating record of 1062 couldn’t quite overcome.