Paul McBeth rallies, Paige Pierce battles to win in Vegas

When the Gentlemen’s Club Challenge comes around, you know disc golf season is about to kick into gear. We had an early tease with the Aussie Open, but the 96 man men’s pro open field in Las Vegas, NV this past weekend is where the disc golf season really starts. Everyone wants to start the year off with some momentum heading into the first national tour event–the Memorial Championship.

Paul McBeth is always an early favorite, heading into any tournament, and the Gentleman’s Club Challenge was no exception. Coming off wins at the Aussie Open and the Wintertime Open, McBeth looked to keep his hot streak going. With guys a host of Prodigy players like Paul Ulibarri, Jeremy Koling, Cale Leiviska, Will Schusterick, and Ricky Wysocki ready to overtake him, McBeth had his work cut out for him.

It didn’t seem like McBeth was going to run away with this tournament, but who would bet against the 3-time defending world champion? Consistency was key, but McBeth’s strong final round vaulted him way ahead of the competition.

Ulibarri and Koling jump out to the early lead

There was a lot of talk about the changes that were made to the Sunset Park disc golf course layout. Longer holes, more out of bounds, and tougher tee shots faced the pros for each of the three rounds. Jeremy Koling and Paul Ulibarri were unfazed in Round 1.

Sunset Park listed as a Par 65 course for the weekend. Koling and Ulibarri crushed that. The two Prodigy stars built on their 2014 successes and tied for the hot round with 14 under par–1080-rated 51s. With scores like that, it seemed like the Gentlemen’s Club Challenge might be a two horse race this year.

Ulibarri and Koling ran away from most of the field in Round 1. But Paul McBeth sat in second place, just two back of the lead. Even when you shoot 14 under par, you can’t really escape McBeth. Heading into the second round, the lead card would be Ulibarri, Koling, McBeth, and Bobby Musick, who tied a few players with a 54. For all the talk of Ulibarri and Koling running away with the weekend, the race was very tight.

The leaderboard gets a little less crowded in Round two

Scoring took a bit of a dip on Saturday, but Ulibarri and McBeth were able to stay on top. Jeremy Koling was unable to maintain his high level of play, throwing a 998-rated 62 on the day. With such a talented field of disc golfers, shooting under 1000-rated rounds is not the way to take a big victory.

Ulibarri’s score slid a little bit, too, but his 1043-rated 56 was nearly the hot round again. Who was going to beat it, though? Enter Paul McBeth. McBeth failed to take the lead, but his 1050-rated 55 brought him within one of Ulibarri. Ever since Pro Worlds in Portland, OR last year, Ulibarri has really been stepping up his game. I don’t think anyone would want to head into a Sunday round with McBeth so close, though.

McBeth blows ‘em away

Paul McBeth has earned comparisons to Tiger Woods by absolutely dominating final rounds of so many disc golf tournaments. Earlier this year, McBeth was battling Simon Lizotte at the Aussie Open and was able to put together a clutch performance in the final few holes to make a tight match seem like a blowout.

Maybe that’s going to be a theme for McBeth this year. Through 5 holes in the final round, McBeth still trailed Ulibarri by one stroke. The total score doesn’t quite tell the story that the hole-by-hole scores do. Through five holes, McBeth was a picture of consistency with four pars and a birdie. Ulibarri, on the other hand, shot two pars, a bogey, and a birdie. This is how McBeth always seems to win or find himself near the tops of leaderboards.

After Ulibarri bogeyed Hole 6 and McBeth took another birdie, the three-time world champion seized the lead. Unsurprisingly, McBeast did not look back. Ulibarri kept himself close, down just two throws with four holes to go. Just like at the Aussie Open, McBeth turned it on and ended up cruising to a five stroke victory.

In the end, it really was a two-horse race. The scoreboard says that McBeth won by five throws, but Ulibarri played much closer than that throughout the weekend. The rest of the field, though? The next closest competitor, Cale Leiviska, finished 9 back of McBeth. Things are looking a lot like 2014 for Paul McBeth, and it’s just what he must want heading into the 2015 Memorial Championship.

Paige Pierce vs. Catrina Allen—the 2015 edition

It seems like when we talk about the female pro open field, big tournaments like this one come down to Paige Pierce and Catrina Allen. For the best female disc golf players, the fact that consistency is key is all the more apparent. Even though Paige Pierce never shot the hot round throughout the weekend, her ability to consistently put together 980- to 990-rated rounds proved to be the difference maker.

Paige Pierce did not finish as strong as she may have wanted, shooting two strokes worse than her two previous rounds. But she was the only woman to keep her scores around par through the whole tournament. In fact, her strong play put her at one under par for the event, the only woman to beat the Par 65 Sunset Park disc golf course. We saw Paige Pierce beat a host of men at the USDGC Performance Flight, and her score at the Gentlemen’s Club Challenge would have beaten more than half of the Men’s Pro Open field. We’ll see if Paige can ride this momentum to a repeat performance at the Memorial Championship.

It may be Paige Pierce and Catrina Allen at the top of the leaderboard, but the female talent in disc golf is getting stronger by the event. Just look at Jessica Weese and Jennifer Allen as proof. Jessica Weese came storming out of the gates in the first round, shooting a 997-rated 61. She faltered in the second round, but she is clearly capable of posting scores that could shake up the tops of leaderboards throughout 2015.

Jennifer Allen finished in fifth place out of 21, which is great. But her performance in Round 2 is what really shined. Jennifer Allen beat Weese’s hot score of 62 with her own 61. The score came in with a rating of 1006, which bested some of the Men’s Open players’ top scores. It’s great to see so many women performing at such a high level and it’ll be great to follow the action all throughout 2015.

Looking ahead

We’re here. We’re finally here. It’s been a long three to four months since we’ve gotten lost in the drama of a disc golf major or national tour event here in the United States. Sure the Aussie Open was able to tease us a bit, but the Memorial Championship is where we all start to feel like disc golf is upon us again. On February 24th, the 27th Annual Memorial Championship will begin in Arizona. Will Paul McBeth win again? Or can someone tame the McBeast? This event will set the tone for 2015, and we’ll be here to recap all the action for you!

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