From the desk of Owl P. Jackson, Esq.
February 28, 2023 by Owl P. Jackson, Esq. in Opinion, Recap with comments
It’s a city built on a little bit of risk and a whole lotta luck. You arrive with high hopes and big dreams, but only a few will leave as winners. Welcome to fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada! We’ve got golf carts, rangefinders, and pestiferous geese—not to mention the hazards. In my not-so-humble opinion, these are the top ten storylines of the 2023 Las Vegas Challenge.
1. Disc Golf is Back
Ten oughta do it, don’t you think?
All in all, this was quite the entertaining offseason. It began with little promise of the previous year’s fireworks (or helicopters) but ended with blockbuster deals and legal discussions. Still, it is good to have disc golf back on our variously sized screens, isn’t it? Whether you’re listening to Ian or the JoMez folks, it’s good to hear familiar voices again. And, let’s be honest—All-Stars doesn’t really count. This is where things really begin. I’m hoping for a year full of close finishes, highlight moments, and plenty of storylines! Welcome back, everyone.
2. Calvin Heimburg
The house always wins. Play long enough, you never change the stakes, the house takes you. Unless, when that perfect hand comes along, you bet big, and then you take the house.
Calvin Heimburg was hitting putts from everywhere on Sunday. Still, it never felt like it was his tournament to win until the last four holes of the final round. Leader Kevin Jones had been playing cautious and conservative. Calvin took a more aggressive approach. In his post-round interview he said, “Being the first one on the box, I wanted to push the issue.” It always feels like there are a couple extra layers of pressure on Calvin (mostly because he is so good and so consistent). For example, he comes to mind first in the “best player without a major” conversation. Last year also brought the pressure to give a contract year performance. Now that he is set for 5 years, Calvin will be free to just play disc golf. That’s a good thing for fans…because he’s pretty darn good.
3. Catrina Allen
Smash and grab job, huh?
Slightly more complicated than that.
No Kristin. No Paige. No Val. If you didn’t pick Catrina to finish on the podium, there’s no helping you. Cat did exactly what we expected her to do, winning wire-to-wire. A sluggish performance on day four, combined with a surging Missy Gannon and Ella Hansen, gave us a glimmer of competitive excitement. In the end, it was never actually that close. If Catrina continues to play this well throughout the season, she will be the biggest threat to Kristin Tattar’s crown.
4. Kevin Jones Makes a Statement
Look, we all go way back and uh, I owe you from the thing with the guy in the place and I’ll never forget it.
Kevin Jones lost the lead on the final day. Kevin Jones did not win. But this was an important performance from KJ. One of the more controversial statements from Prodigy’s lawsuit against Gannon Buhr argued that Prodigy Disc would have no more elite level players if Gannon was allowed to leave. Obviously, many people saw that as a slight to their other sponsored players—most notably Kevin Jones. This weekend KJ reminded us that he is still a top-tier talent, capable of winning on any given weekend. He finished tied for 2nd, almost throwing in on the 18th to force Calvin to make a putt.
5. New Bag Check-In
Guys like us don’t change, Saul. We either stay sharp or we get sloppy, we don’t change.
Look, it is too early in the season to make any meaningful judgments rfegarding players who switched sponsors over the offseason. I acknowledge that. And yet, here we are. Holyn Handley and Anthony Barela seem to be adjusting just fine to their new Discraft plastic. They finished 3rd and T-8th, respectively. Lone Star’s Emerson Keith earned a top 10 finish as well. Nikko Locastro (Lone Star Disc) and Mason Ford (Mint Discs) were able to snag top 25 finishes but were never really in the mix. Simon started out strong with his new MVP bag, but gradually fell further and further down the leaderboard. His 47th place finish shouldn’t worry the Simon-heads out there though. Knowing your discs is one thing, knowing how your discs fly in windy conditions is another.
6. Top 10 Shoutouts
Be specific but not memorable, be funny but don’t make him laugh. He’s got to like you then forget you the moment you’ve left his side. And for God’s sake, whatever you do, don’t, under any circumstances…
To tell the story of this weekend, a few people need to be mentioned. In MPO, Ezra Aderhold (T-2nd) and Kyle Klein (T-4th) made their way toward the top, although not necessarily onto our screens. Matt Bell’s -12 round moved him up 27 spots to 8th place. Over in FPO, Henna Blomroos and Ella Hansen, two of the best power throwers in the division who showed flashes of brilliance in Vegas, finished tied for 4th place. But two people really deserve special attention this week: Zach Arlinghaus (7th) and Caroline Henderson (T-9th). Keep an eye on these two relative unknowns. They could be special down the road.
7. Return of the Cutline
My fence seemed confident enough.
Dealing in cash, you don’t need a fence.
The cutline adds a fun bit of dramatic flair to moving day. Of course, Nate Sexton made the cut. Some other notable names were not as fortunate. In MPO, Vaino Makela, Albert Tamm, Chandler Kramer, Chris Clemons, Paul Ulibarri, and Thomas Gilbert failed to make it through. World Champion Paige Shue, Kat Mertsch, Deann Carey, Emily Beach, and Eveliina Salonen were among the FPO casualties. A year ago, Eveliina was the number one ranked player in the world. Another abysmal putting performance took her out of the competition early. This was the first time she missed the cut in her entire career.
8. Course Thoughts
Why do they always paint hallways that color?
They say taupe is very soothing.
What is there to say about the Wildhorse courses? Moving to two courses per division was a positive. However, the majority of the holes are just not memorable. They fail to stand out from each other in any way—through the burnt grass, around a large shrub, up to a precariously placed basket. The final hole of the Innova course is wonderful. It is aesthetically pleasing and always seems to provide drama and decision making. The other hole I love is *ducks for cover* hole 6 on the Infinite course. Yes, I know the triple island hole is a horrible hole, but it’s memorable and I like to watch the suffering.
9. Get Out of the Way!
Is that right?
Yeah, imagine the odds.
Weird bounces are a part of disc golf. Different objects come into play from time to time (I’m looking at you, umbrella). However, the final round gave us three notable ones that must be mentioned. Cat landed O.B. after hitting a golf cart. Paul McBeth hit a goose that almost certainly cost him a birdie. Anthony Barela hit a DGPT employee who was rangefinding distances. Both the man and the disc landed in the hazard. I felt bad for A.B. but felt even worse for the man lying in the sand, looking woefully at the camera as it lingered on him long enough to become uncomfortable. Thankfully we didn’t end up with disc golf’s Steve Bartman. A.B. played himself out of contention.
10. Way-Too-Early Predictions
You gotta walk before you crawl.
There’s no better time than now for some way-too-early predictions. So, let’s overreact!
- Calvin Heimburg will win 3 Elite Events and 1 Major this year.
- Drew Gibson will only have one more top 10 finish in an Elite Event this year.
- Catrina Allen will win the first three Elite Events of the year.
- Caroline Henderson will have two top-5 finishes.
- We will have a first-time World Champion.
Thanks for reading, everyone! Let me know the storylines you think I missed. See you at WACO!