Wins long in the making.
April 26, 2022 by Christopher Wiklund in Analysis, Opinion with comments
Calvin Heimburg and Kristin Tattar both got off the schneid this weekend with their first wins of the 2022 season in Jonesboro. Both players had come up heartbreakingly short of victory at the Champions Cup last week, and were still trying to break through with an Elite Series win. Heimburg had been on the podium, but not in the center position, at all but two events this season. Tattar had been on the left or right side of the podium at every event this season.
Tattar cruised to her win. Missy Gannon, who finished second for her first podium of the year, fell 10 strokes back of Tattar when all was said and done. Tattar was dominant. She was first in all but two of the big six statistical categories this weekend: she was fourth in parked at 11% and 10th in C1X putting at 70%, but she led the pack everywhere else. Tattar took only two bogeys on the weekend and never went out of bounds. This was Tattar’s first crack at Disc Side of Heaven: it’s no surprise that it set up well for her powerful game off the tee.
So far this season, Tattar has taken home $18,845 in prize money. In 2019, when Paige Pierce finished on the podium at 16 of what we would now call Elite Series or Silver Series events, she took home a total of $33,630. We are less than a third of the way through the season, and Tattar is on pace to easily eclipse that total. She will likely not pass Missy Gannon’s FPO record setting $67,529 from last season (unless she finishes at the top of the DGPT Championship), but Tattar’s winnings do well illustrate the significant growth of the FPO purse over the past several years.
Kat Mertsch and Ella Hansen are probably going to be happy to meet Tattar’s current earnings over the course of the season, but they both enjoyed their time in Jonesboro, each landing on the podium at an Elite Series event for first time this season (and, for Mertsch, the first time in her career). Mertsch is having a tremendous start to 2022 and making a strong argument that she should be considered a top 10 FPO touring player. Up until this year, Mertsch had never finished better than eighth at a DGPT event. This season, she has three top 5 finishes to her name.
Calvin Heimburg’s second career win at Jonesboro was decidedly more stressful than Tattar’s. Heimburg had to outlast Kevin Jones and take down Paul McBeth in a playoff in order to take home the win. Like Tattar, though, Heimburg was top of the pack off the tee and good enough on the green. Heimburg did take one more bogey than did Tattar but he was able to erase those mistakes, bouncing back with birdie every time.
This was Heimburg’s second career win in a playoff at an Elite Series event. His 2019 Hall of Fame Classic win over Adam Hammes also required some bonus golf. If you want to feel old, go back and watch the event on Jomez. Both Hammes and Heimburg look positively youthful.
Coming down the back nine in the final round, Heimburg, Jones, and McBeth all had legitimate shots at the win. In fact, going into 18 it was anyone’s to win. Heimburg’s remarkable drive that set up a simple upshot should be in early contention for shot of the year.
While we hate to dwell on the negative, Kevin Jones has started to develop a pattern of making costly mistakes at crucial moments down the stretch of tournaments. This weekend it was his tee shots, but his rollaways on hole 16 at Worlds and the painful hole 15 at the 2021 Portland Open come to mind as moments where Jones has seemed snake bit in big spots.
Had it not been for a playoff between Heimburg and McBeth, Simon Lizotte’s climb up the leaderboard and Alden Harris’s play would have been jockeying for position as the the most exciting thing to happen this weekend. Lizotte took most of 2021 off to rehab an injury, and 2020 was, well, 2020. So it’s been a while since we’ve seen Lizotte consistently on the road, and it’s easy to forget that he is more than cool vlogs and wild lines. Folks either forget or do not really know about his 2019 season when he was one of the most consistently excellent players on tour. In 2019, Lizotte was second in tour points and only finished outside of the top ten in five of his 26 events. He is signed up for most of the upcoming season, which is great news.
One of the historical (and not totally off base) criticisms of Lizotte is that in tournament play he can sometimes be more interested in putting on a show than playing to win, and he’s even made statements to that effect. On the one hand, that approach certainly played a part in building Lizotte into one of the most popular players of his generation, but outside of a few events, rarely earned him the win. With a young child at home, an elbow that can’t necessarily tolerate the strain of putting on a show with every shot, and some years of maturing, one has to wonder if Lizotte’s approach to the game has changed and if that will translate into a return to his 2019 form.
During the Jomez coverage of the second round at Jonesboro, Jeremy Koling pointed out that Alden Harris is a player that he and many of the other pros are well aware of but is not as known to the fans because he doesn’t make coverage as often. For Harris at least, that’s changing. He has finished in the top 10 at three of the last four events, and The Upshot’s Josh Mansfield even picked him to win at one of the Silver Series events. Koling’s point about the increasing depth of the field meaning that there are many skilled players we’ve never seen is well taken, and it makes me wonder if the ‘win-or-no-one-cares’ model that disc golf seems to be in is a bit broken.