February 11, 2022 by Charlie Eisenhood in Preview with comments
With sunny skies and highs near 80 degrees, Tucson, Arizona, will serve as an inviting host for the return of professional disc golf for a new season.
The Disc Golf Pro Tour All-Star Weekend kicks off today at the El Conquistador resort on a new temporary course on the Pusch Ridge golf course, co-designed by Pete Ulibarri and Jeremy Herr, the latter of whom was the TD for the Arizona State Championships that were held at the same property in 2021.
On Thursday night, the four team captains — Eagle McMahon, Calvin Heimburg, Paige Pierce, and Catrina Allen — each selected their teams via a snake draft, selecting players in each slot for the three different skills categories: distance, accuracy, and putting. The surprise addition of “wildcards” — an extra pair of players in both MPO and FPO — added some additional intrigue.
“We kind of thought, wouldn’t this be fun to add in a couple wildcards to spice up the event?” said DGPT CEO Jeff Spring during yesterday’s press conference. “We’re having fun with this exhibition, the new Ryder Cup style team format.”
Let’s break it all down.
The team captains selected teams in a snake draft, with the highest seeded player selecting first. Here are the teams and the draft order:
|Team McMahon||Team Heimburg||Team Pierce||Team Catrina|
|Eagle McMahon (C)||Calvin Heimburg (C)||Paige Pierce (C)||Catrina Allen (C)|
|Chris Dickerson (1)||Adam Hammes (2)||Missy Gannon (1)||Sarah Hokom (2)|
|Kevin Jones (4)||Kyle Klein (3)||Hailey King (4)||Holly Finley* (3)|
|Drew Gibson (5)||James Conrad (6)||Kona Panis (5)||Jessica Weese (6)|
|Garrett Gurthie* (8)||Matt Orum (7)||Ohn Scoggins (8)||Lisa Fajkus (7)|
|Gannon Buhr (9)||Ezra Aderhold (10)||Heather Young (9)||Deann Carey (10)|
|Nikko Locastro (12)||Paul Ulibarri* (11)||Madison Walker* (12)||Rebecca Cox (11)|
Note that each team was required to have one wildcard player.
On Twitter, 63% of respondents said that Team McMahon will win over Team Heimburg; 92% of respondents picked Team Pierce over Team Allen.
The MPO and FPO teams compete separately, with a cash prize going to each player on the winning teams.
Here’s the full video of last night’s draft:
The Basic All-Star Weekend Format
The All-Star Weekend is a three-day event, featuring a Friday skills competition, Saturday head-to-head doubles stroke play, and Sunday head-to-head singles stroke play. The MPO and FPO teams compete separately.
The teams are seeking to score points by winning each element of the head-to-head competition. There are a total of 13 points available.
On Friday starting at 3 PM Eastern, the skills competition features three different categories: distance, accuracy, and putting.
Distance [1 pt]: Throw as far as you can without going out of bounds. The four players involved will get multiple attempts to throw their furthest shot. Each player’s longest shot in feet becomes their score. The scores for each pairing are added together; the highest combined score wins the point.
Here are the distance matchups:
- Drew Gibson/Garrett Gurthie (Team McMahon) v. Calvin Heimburg/Ezra Aderhold (Team Heimburg)
- Paige Pierce/Kona Panis (Team Pierce) v. Catrina Allen/Jessica Weese (Team Allen)
Accuracy [1 pt]: Get it as close to the basket as possible to earn the most points. There will be several mandatories, requiring left-to-right, right-to-left, keep it over, and keep it under shots. The target area offers decreasing points from ace to bullseye to Circle 1 to Circle 2. The team that scores the most points wins the accuracy contest.
Here are the accuracy matchups:
- Kevin Jones/Nikko Locastro (Team McMahon) v. Kyle Klein/Matt Orum (Team Heimburg)
- Hailey King/Madison Walker (Team Pierce) v. Sarah Hokom/Rebecca Cox (Team Allen)
Putting [1 pt]: Make putts in Circle 1 and Circle 2, both open and obstructed. Players will putt on an elevated basket at 20 feet, 25 feet, 25 feet obstructed, circle’s edge (33 feet), circle’s edge obstructed, 45 feet, and edge of C2 (66 feet). The best combined putting performance wins the putting contest.
Here are the putting matchups:
- Eagle McMahon/Chris Dickerson/Gannon Buhr (Team McMahon) v. Adam Hammes/James Conrad/Paul Ulibarri (Team Heimburg)
- Missy Gannon/Ohn Scoggins/Heather Young (Team Pierce) v. Holly Finley/Lisa Fajkus/Deann Carey (Team Allen)
On Saturday, players will compete in head-to-head best shot stroke play doubles. The doubles teams have not yet been announced by the captains. The combined seeds of each pairing will determine the seeding order for the competition. The wildcard players (Gurthie, Ulibarri, Walker, and Finley) will not compete in doubles. There are 3 points available in doubles, 1 point for each matchup.
On Sunday, players will compete in head-to-head stroke play singles. The matchups are determined by the initial seeds coming into the event (not the draft order). 7 points are available, one point in each matchup.
Here are the MPO singles matchups (Team McMahon v. Team Heimburg):
- Eagle McMahon v. Calvin Heimburg
- Kevin Jones v. Adam Hammes
- Nikko Locastro v. Kyle Klein
- Chris Dickerson v. James Conrad
- Drew Gibson v. Ezra Aderhold
- Gannon Buhr v. Matt Orum
- Garrett Gurthie v. Paul Ulibarri
Here are the FPO singles matchups (Team Pierce v. Team Allen):
- Paige Pierce v. Catrina Allen
- Missy Gannon v. Sarah Hokom
- Hailey King v. Jessica Weese
- Kona Panis v. Lisa Fajkus
- Heather Young v. Deann Carey
- Ohn Scoggins v. Rebecca Cox
- Madison Walker v. Holly Finley
The 18-hole temporary course is a brand new design, built atop the Pusch Ridge 9-hole golf course on the El Conquistador resort by Pete Ulibarri and Jeremy Herr. The MPO layout is a 8,601 foot par 57; the FPO layout is a 7,867 foot par 60. MPO will play 15 par 3s and 3 par 4s. FPO will play 15 par 3s and 3 par 5s.
“About half the course is going to be great for exhibitions — ace runs, gotta get that birdie — and the other half will be extra challenging,” said Spring.
As it is a golf course layout in Arizona, there will be a large number of open shots, though the trees along the edge of the golf fairways come into play on some holes. Every hole features out-of-bounds areas, and water hazards come into play on two holes.
Here is the full caddie book.
Schedule & How to Watch
Friday’s skills competition and Saturday’s doubles play will be exclusively available on Disc Golf Network for subscribers, with FPO action beginning at 3 PM Eastern on Friday and 10 AM Eastern on Saturday. MPO action starts at 6 PM ET on Friday and 2:30 PM ET on Saturday.
Sunday’s singles play to conclude the event will air both on DGN and YouTube at 10 AM (FPO) and 2:30 PM (MPO).
Here’s our full post on how to watch.
Even though this is purely an exhibition event, it still marks the unofficial start of the 2022 professional disc golf season. It is the first chance to see players competing live since last October at the DGPT Championship.
There are some key players missing this weekend. Paul McBeth, Ricky Wysocki, and Kristin Tattar all turned down invites. McBeth is starting his season in March, Wysocki is working on dialing in his new Dynamic Discs plastic, and Tattar found out too late to rearrange travel from Estonia.
But the players in attendance are still a who’s who of the sport’s best.
Lots of players will be revealing new bags this weekend. In MPO, Chris Dickerson (Prodigy→Discraft), Matt Orum (Prodigy→Westside), and Nikko Locastro (Westside→Gateway/Clash Discs) will be throwing new discs. In FPO, Hailey King (Discraft→Innova), Kona Panis (Innova→Dynamic Discs), and Madison Walker (Aria→MVP) are making a switch.
How dialed in will the players look after a chaotic offseason in the sponsorship department? There will be plenty of chances to evaluate their feel for their new plastic with skills challenges putting them to the test right out of the gate.
A Season-Long Springboard?
Last year, Kona Panis’ win at the All-Star Weekend foreshadowed her success later in the year. She had her best season as a pro, won her first Elite Series event at the Waco Annual Charity Open, and ultimately signed a huge contract with Dynamic Discs as a reward.
Although this year’s event won’t have an individual winner, strong play this weekend could suggest a potential breakout in competitive rounds later in the year. Can the precocious Gannon Buhr keep raising his star coming off of a DGPT Championship semifinals appearance? Could fuller touring schedules for Dickerson and Orum translate into more success? Could Hailey King’s move to Innova drive her to new highs?
It’s an Exhibition, Have Fun with it
Sure, there’s a little bit of money on the line, and these players are all naturally highly competitive, but this is a fun event that players likely won’t take too, too seriously. And that’s just fine. A little banter back and forth will be refreshing compared to the often subdued interactions during competitive play.
The skills competitions should be a lot of fun. This year’s format also removes the weirdness of last year’s doubles play combining with singles play, which put some players essentially out of the running on Sunday. The team format will create a more friendly vibe, and every day will have drama. Even if a team sweeps all the points in skills and doubles, it’s still possible for the trailing team to win if they sweep the singles competition.
And the trash talk is already starting. Calvin called out Eagle during the draft for slotting Chris Dickerson into putting after Dickerson won the Skillshot Challenge, an accuracy contest at last year’s World Championships. And Paige Pierce predicted on her Instagram story that her team is going to sweep. Mic the players!