2023 Las Vegas Challenge Preview: The Season Starts

The 2023 Elite Series debuts in Las Vegas

Catrina Allen at the 2022 Las Vegas Challenge. Photo: DGPT

The 2023 Disc Golf Pro Tour season is finally upon us as the Elite Series kicks off this Thursday in Las Vegas, Nevada for the third consecutive year. After yet another offseason of big sponsorship changes, plenty of old faces like Simon Lizotte and Paige Shue will be throwing new plastic competitively for the first time. Notably absent this week are the 2022 Players of the Year as Ricky Wysocki rehabs a wrist injury and Kristin Tattar will wait for the Texas swing to make her season debut.

In the past, players have taken issue with having to practice three separate courses for this event. While all three courses will be featured this weekend, each division will only need to practice and play two of them this time around. Any players who were hoping to escape winter weather for sunny Las Vegas however will be disappointed to see rain, heavy winds and near freezing temperatures in the forecast.

Past Winners

  • 2022 DGPT Drew Gibson, Catrina Allen
  • 2021 DGPT Eagle McMahon, Paige Pierce
  • 2020 A-Tier Nate Sexton, Catrina Allen
  • 2019 NT Calvin Heimburg, Paige Bjerkaas (Shue)
  • 2018 NT Eagle McMahon, Paige Pierce
  • 2017 NT Ricky Wysocki, Paige Pierce
  • 2016 A-Tier Philo Brathwaite, Jessica Weese
  • 2015 A-Tier Paul McBeth, Paige Pierce
  • 2014 A-Tier Nikko Locastro, Catrina Allen
  • 2013 A-Tier Dave Feldberg, Catrina Allen
  • 2012 A-Tier Nikko Locastro, Valarie Jenkins

Five Things We’ll Be Watching

  1. After taking most of the 2022 season off to rehab his throwing shoulder, Eagle McMahon is finally back on tour. Aside from his long-term health, the question on everyone’s mind is will he return to the power sidearm, or continue throwing only backhand shots. In his first four career starts at the Las Vegas Challenge, McMahon never finished worse than 3rd and earned two dominant wins. His hyzer sidearm played a major role in those wins, and it would certainly benefit Eagle to have it available to him this weekend. It’s worth noting that McMahon won the Challenge at Goat Hill earlier this month without throwing a single sidearm. Even if the forehand is in play, he’s certainly taking load management into consideration. Of course Eagle won the 2022 European Open and averaged the highest event rating in PDGA major history while only throwing backhands. Regardless of whether he needs it in order to win, utilizing his sidearm on these courses will gain strokes on the field.
  2. Gannon Buhr made a splash at the 2022 LVC, displaying his elite putting and pushing Drew Gibson to four playoff holes before eventually coming up just short of his first big win. Buhr made another splash last week, but over a much more unfortunate set of circumstances. After a very late announcement that he would be leaving Team Prodigy, the disc manufacturer has sued the 17-year-old for breach of contract. Gannon has not signed with another sponsor and is still throwing Prodigy discs as his contract requires. This legal battle will likely drag out for some time and could stretch well into the season. If Buhr is able to keep his mind focused on disc golf this weekend rather than his contract situation, the reigning U.S. Champion should be considered a favorite to win.
  3. With both Kristin Tattar and Paige Pierce skipping the season opener, reigning and 4-time LVC champion Catrina Allen should be considered the clear favorite despite being just the 5th highest rated player in the division. On the other hand, Ohn Scoggins will likely have an uphill battle despite being the highest rated player in the field. The length of the Innova course in particular does not set up well for Ohn’s game. Scoggins averaged just a 940 event rating and finished 18th at the 2022 LVC.
  4. Aside from Catrina Allen and Paige Pierce, the only FPO player to win this event since joining the Elite Series is Paige Shue. The 2018 World Champion has re-committed to touring full-time after taking the last couple of years off, and is now sponsored by Discraft after previously throwing Dynamic Discs. While it may take some time for Shue to readjust to touring life and a new bag, we’ll certainly be interested to see how she fares in a field that is far more competitive than she left it.
  5. Perhaps the biggest development in the FPO division this year is that JomezPro will be taking over the division’s lead card post production coverage. Previously featured on GK Pro’s YouTube channel, Jomez has over three times the subscriber count and should bring some fresh eyes to women’s disc golf by covering the Elite Series. At the Disc Golf Industry Conference last week, Jomez founder Jonathan Gomez said they plan to devote equal coverage to FPO, with the same approach they take to covering the MPO division. No announcement has been made yet as far as a commentary team for the FPO coverage. Jomez has covered some FPO events in the past, most recently the U.S. Women’s Disc Golf Championship.

Course Changes

Traditionally played on three separate courses, this year each division will play four rounds on just two different courses. The FPO division will play on the Infinite and Innova courses, while the MPO division will play the Millennium course (formerly named the Innova Factory Store course) and the Innova course.

Infinite Course

The shortest course on the property will no longer be used for the MPO division. For this year, the course has gotten even shorter but will play one stroke more difficult. Hole 6 features the signature triple-island par 4, at just 285 feet players can get aggressive and try to stretch for the eagle.

  • 2021 FPO: 7,115 foot Par 61
  • 2022 FPO: 6,902 foot Par 60

Hole 7 has been redesigned with a shorter tee position and OB along the entire left side of the fairway. The biggest change to the course is a new basket position on hole 18, which shortens the hole and now plays as a par 3 rather than a par 4.

Millennium Course

  • 2021 MPO: 8,992 foot Par 61
  • 2022 MPO: 8,666 foot Par 60

Without a doubt the premiere course on the property, both divisions will close out the weekend here on Sunday. This year the course measures a touch shorter with some very minimal changes. The hazardous hole 7 brought an end to Drew Gibson and Gannon Buhr’s playoff last year, and is the site of Garrett Gurthie’s Albatr-ace back in 2020.

Innova Course

  • 2021 MPO: 8,824 foot Par 61
  • 2022 MPO: 8,762 foot Par 61
  • 2021 FPO: 8,824 foot Par 69
  • 2022 FPO: 8,762 foot Par 69

Extended Forecast

The fields were certainly hoping for some better conditions to start the year. Las Vegas will be quite chilly with some high winds and even precipitation in the forecast this weekend.

  • Thursday: Cloudy with highs in the upper 40s. Winds 20-30mph with heavier gusts at times.
  • Friday: Rain and snow showers in the morning with highs in the upper 40s. Winds 15-25mph, chance of precipitation 70%.
  • Saturday: Cloudy with periods of rain, highs near 50. Winds 10-15mph, chance of rain 90%.
  • Sunday: Partly cloudy with highs near 50, winds 5-10mph.

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