Hammes wins his third Elite Series; Tattar wins her third of the season
June 6, 2023 by Kingsley Flett in Analysis, Recap with comments
Adam Hammes sank to his haunches in despair. Then he rolled forwards to sit on the grass of Glendoveer East’s 18th fairway. For a moment, he pulled his head between his knees in a yoga-style stretch before staring ahead with an expression of blank resignation. His tournament was over. In a last ditch bid for an eagle that might have erased Aaron Gossage’s one stroke lead to force a playoff, Hammes had thrown a roller from 400 feet that had turned early and rolled out of bounds outside Circle 2. This left Gossage two simple layups away from his first career Elite Series win.
Or so we thought. Portland finally got weird.
The pair had been fighting it out for all four rounds of the Elite+ event. Sharing the lead after round one with Corey Ellis, Carter Ahrens, and Isaac Robinson — the top five all shooting 1060 rated 10-under-par 55s — Hammes dropped to a share of seventh place after round two, carding a 2-under-par 60. But he then bounced right back to the top of the board after shooting a course record 10-under 56 in round three. Following Hammes into championship Sunday was Gossage and Ellis one stroke back with Robinson a further two behind.
A streak of six birdies in a row in the middle of the final round pushed Hammes to the lead. “That’s the stretch I like to go perfect on,” Hammes said after the tournament. ‘To birdie all six on both rounds was awesome.”
After he drained a step-through putt from 40 feet on hole 12, he held a 2-stroke advantage over Gossage and Ellis, while Isaac Robinson was continuing the 2023 Pro Tour tradition of contending from the chase card, only one throw back. Gossage and Ellis reeled those two throws back in the next two holes and after the lead card played hole 14, we had a four-way tie between Hammes, Gossage, Ellis, and Robinson (who was already in the clubhouse). Gossage and Hammes pulled away from Ellis with birdies on 15, then Hammes gained a crucial break on hole 16 when he drained another step-though bomb from beyond the circle. We then watched Gossage’s putter bury itself into the heart of the chains before being rejected in one of the cruelest spit-outs you’ll ever see. Even though Gossage had done nothing wrong, the miss must surely have been raising some ghosts of the OTB Open in Stockton and his putting in the closing holes there.
Hammes one-stroke lead over Gossage and Ellis, who had also birdied 16, didn’t last long: his roller off the 17th tee hit the one tree it needed to miss, and he was left out of position 450 feet from the basket. Hammes failed to get up and down, then left his layup short of the edge of circle one. Gossage skipped a low drive to within 16 feet of the basket with the gallery sounding like it was booing him but who were really chanting ‘Gooose!’ Then came another Hammes step-through putt from beyond the circle, but this time it hit the top band and the Wisconsin pro slammed his putter into the bag on his caddie’s shoulders in frustration after carding the only bogey for the round of the top 5 finishers. Gossage’s 16-footer was low, but fortunately the basket was in a slight depression, and it dropped, giving him a two-throw swing and a one-stroke lead over Hammes and Ellis.
Ellis’s drive on hole 18 ended up with a cramped lie behind a tree. Gossage drove a little too far right. Hammes was the best positioned of the three contenders, his drive landing in the middle of the left channel. That brings us back to the beginning of the weirdness.
Furthest out and only needing to lay up twice for the likely win, Gossage threw to within 150 feet of the basket, pressuring Hammes and Ellis to try something special to force the playoff. Both rolled out of bounds, Ellis to the left and Hammes to the right. But instead of throwing a backhand hyzer around the one tree guarding the left side of the green, Gossage attempted to skip a forehand under its overhanging branches, leaving the disc at the edge of circle one. As DGN commentator Philo Brathwaite said, “Goose just laid an egg.” Seeing the door slightly ajar, Hammes kicked it open with another step-through putt from circle two, this time for the full 60 feet. If Gossage wasn’t rattled already, the roar of the large Portland gallery would not have settled his nerves.
Gossage threw yet another putt low, and it was playoff time.
Hammes threw a high arcing anhyzer on the first playoff hole that looked like it was stalling too late but faded in bounds at the last second. He was only 200 feet from the basket but surrounded by trees. Gossage threw a forehand to center fairway. The shot gave him an open look at the basket but was 100 feet further out. Spoiled for choice, Gossage seemed to take an age to decide between a forehand and a backhand approach before eventually throwing a backhand hyzer that was a bit too wide left and outside the circle. Hammes was gifted an open channel to the basket through the trees from what had initially looked like a bad lie, and he didn’t waste the opportunity, laying a delicate hyzer to within 16 feet. Gossage didn’t leave his put short this time, it had a perfect weight, but was a few inches too far right, skipped off the rim of the basket, into some chains and then out. Then, after a wild rollercoaster on the last few holes, Adam Hammes made no mistake with his 16 foot putt to claim his third Elite Series title.
When asked how he felt after his first win in almost two years, Hammes shook his head and said, “I don’t really know yet.” In this case, the comment was literally true as he swung between surpressing tears and giggles in the same interview.
“It’s weird how this game can go. You’ll have your ups, and you’ll have your downs and sometimes those downs last a long time. But to be finally back on top, man, that feeling was missed. This might have been the stiffest competition we’ve had all year. It was the first Elite+ event, and it felt like a major.”
Tattar picks up where she left off
2023 has taught us a little more about Kristin Tattar. Her performance so far this year has solidified her as the best female disc golfer in the world right now. She’s such a steady, unruffled, and grounded player, but it seems that she needs time away from the high tempo of the tour to re-establish that foundation.
Returning to the Disc Golf Pro Tour in Portland after a one-month break, she said, “I just lived a very ordinary, normal, quiet life. Something that I missed because whenever I come here, I feel like I’m this unicorn that comes from a faraway land and gets a lot of attention. Sometimes it gets a little bit draining and sometimes I long for a bit of ordinary, normal, quiet life, and that’s what I got. “
Speaking about the tournament, Tattar said, “For me it all comes down to confidence. I feel like if I have confidence in my shots then I shoot well. But if I have doubt in my mind, it leaves room for errors. I just want to see what’s the best highest percentage shot on each hole and them stick with my game plan.”
Despite a bogey on the last hole of round one, Tattar finished strong with a streak of four birdies on holes 14 to 17 that created the gap from the rest of the field that was never bridged. She stretched the four throw lead over Sai Ananda after the first round to six throws after round two and out to nine throws during round three, before a late flurry of birdies from Ananda brought it back to six strokes heading into championship Sunday.
“On the back nine I felt like I cooled off a little bit,” said Tattar after round three. “It was a little bit frustrating, and I think that might have caused some errors. Overall, I think I played well because the whole card played well, and I was just happy to keep up with them.”
After scoring her first bogey in 32 holes on hole 15, Tattar later conceded that fatigue was by then playing a role. “I must admit I was tired,” she said. “I had to remind myself that there were more holes to play and be in the moment and don’t give up. I can’t say I’m ever comfortable on the course – if I’m leading or not leading. You have to have that discomfort in you in order to play well. Because if I feel too comfortable, I’m going to start making mistakes.”
Pushing the world champ all the way was Ananda, who seem to have announced herself on the Tour in the past few events. “I had dreams of maintaining position,“ she said. “Since I’m a little fresh on tour I have to manage my expectations and not beat myself up if I don’t rise to those expectations. I’m ecstatic to have maintained position and executed some amazing shots out there with some of the best players in the game. I think what sets these elite events apart for me is, although I have had a lot of wins, it’s been in junior, advanced, and a handful of open wins, so I think that the level of competition makes it all the more gratifying to shoot well. I feel like I’m still taking strides in my skill. I don’t think I’ve reached the pinnacle of my throwing form or my putting form, so I think I haven’t reached my ceiling yet.”
Joining Ananda, Tattar, and Missy Gannon on the lead card for the final round was five-time world champion Juliana Korver, fresh off her FP50 win in the Tim Selinske World Masters Championships the week prior. Seeing Korver still competing at the head of such a stacked FPO field, 28 years after competing in her first pro event, and 31 years after her first tournament, gave her many fans much joy. After making a putt from circle 2 on hole 16, Korver gave a yell and a joyous little uppercut to the air which showed that, after all this time, the game still gives her plenty of joy too.
Tattar’s six-shot lead slipping to just four in the last round had as much to do with Ananda’s brilliant play as it did with Tattar going off the boil. Although after looking unstoppable with the putter in her hand in the first three rounds, Tattar missed her second circle 1 putt, which seemed to set the tone for a shaky day on the green, driving her C1X percentage down to 67% on the day after averaging 94% from inside the circle in the first three rounds. Ananda had crept to within three shots of the lead with three holes to play. A bogey on hole 17 finished her chances of stealing an unlikely victory, though.
“I’m so relieved it’s over,” said Tattar. “It was one of the toughest rounds of my life. I’m just fighting not to cry right now because it was so tough. I kept reminding myself to fight and I’m not a quitter. Things weren’t going my way but now that it’s done, and I came out a winner. It’s just amazing.”
Tattar spared a thought for one of her heroes, Juliana Korver, after the round. “She has the same mindset that I tried to tell myself today,” Tattar said. “Not to give up. I feel like she has it otherwise she wouldn’t be here. Just to witness greatness in a person. Not only in disc golf but I think the whole package is so great. When I grow up, I want to be like Juliana.”
The tour heads back east now, with a good number of the touring pros tackling the Zoo Town Open in Missoula, Montana, next weekend, before winding their way towards Kansas and the Dynamic Discs Open.