2023 Preserve Championship preview: Last stop before Europe

Governorate. Image: DGPT

It’s been a grueling month of competition on the Disc Golf Pro Tour, which has covered 2,600 miles from Portland in just the past four weeks. For many players, this week will be their last adjustment before traveling another 3,800 miles across the Atlantic, as Norway’s elite series will resume at the PCS Open.

The Preserve Tournament was born in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, when course designer Cale Leiviska purchased an abandoned golf course along the banks of the Mississippi River and began transforming it into a golf destination. Airborn Disc Golf Preserve is located an hour northwest of the Twin Cities and now features three courses that are combined into a championship-level Black Bear layout.

Last year, Paige Pierce went to wire to win the event for the second time, defeating Missy Gannon. Many fans were shocked to see Bradley Williams win his first Elite Series event since the inaugural DGPT event in 2016. Williams will not be present to defend his title this year, as he is currently competing in Europe.

The Preserve contains one of the most unique trophies in the sport, a giant black wooden bear etched with the winner’s initials. While the bear is still in Preserve, last year’s winners also received custom gold rings with the Airborn logo. With a well-scoring run and a much better forecast than last weekend, the players are going to need three hot innings if they want a chance to raise the bear.

Before the tournament gets underway, the PDGA and DGPT once again found themselves in court this week defending their policies on eligibility for gender divisions after Natalie Ryan sued for a temporary injunction.

Previous winners

year class MPO FPO
2022 DGPT Bradley Williams Big Pierce
2021 DGPT Ricky Wysocki Christine Tatar
2020 DGPT Nico Locastro Big Pierce

Five things we’ll be watching

1. For the second time this season, Natalie Ryan She obtained a temporary injunction against the PDGA and DGPT, which will allow her to compete in Preserve’s FPO division. Ryan had a similar ruling in May at the OTB Open. An appeals court overturned OTB’s decision on the basis of jurisdiction after the opening round, forcing Ryan out of the event. While another appeal could be made in this case, the issue of jurisdiction is not an issue this time.

The state of Minnesota established some legal precedents in a similar case when the judge ruled in favor of JayCee Cooper, a transgender weightlifter. In Ryan’s order, Judge Carey Willis noted that Ryan’s case “involved issues strikingly similar” to those in Cooper. In a statement released Wednesday evening, the DGPT said it “does not agree (with) the decision but will comply with the order, and the event will proceed as planned.”

According to current PDGA policy, Natalie is only allowed to compete in the FPO division at A-level and lower events. Ryan has played 6 A-Tiers this year and won 5 of them, with an average rating of 957. Natalie placed 18th in last year’s Preserve Championship but recently won the Minnesota Majestic.

2. Christine Tatar She finally became a repeat winner in the Elite Series last week at the Des Moines Challenge and now comes in an event she didn’t play in 2022 but dominated the previous year. The 2021 reserve was a major turning point in Tatar’s career. Having just beaten Paige Pierce to win her first ES Championship at the Great Lakes Open, Tatar finished her 2021 US Tour by shooting rounds of 1005, 998 and 998 to win the province by 10 strokes.

In Christine’s absence last year, Big Pierce He won the Preserve Award for the second time, with an average of 1009 and a 998 rating in those wins. Pearce said in her press conference last week that she was “tired of messing around,” and when play was suspended due to weather on Saturday, she was the outspoken leader. Once play resumed on Sunday, Paige shot an over-par 9 and went back to the 9th. Given both players’ history in this tournament and Paige’s recent competitive regeneration, this week looks set for a Tatar vs. Pierce battle.

3. Eagle McMahon He has yet to return to action after re-injuring his shoulder at the Portland Open. McMahon withdrew from the Des Moines Challenge but participated in a meet-and-greet this past Monday in Minneapolis. Eagle didn’t play the event last year but came second to Ricky Wysocki in 2021. Kyle Klein, on the other hand, managed to come back from injury last week but came in with his worst finish ever in the Elite Series at 61st. in the hottest round of the week at the 2022 Preserve and finished just three strokes behind the winner. Kyle admitted he was less than 100% last week: He struggled to get off the tee and stay in the bounds.

With the European Open less than a month away, Discmania’s top two players certainly want to put in one good tournament before heading to Europe.

4. THE OTHER PLAYER WHO STRUGGLED IN DES MOINES WAS Ricky Wysocki, who finished 18th and was uncharacteristically shaky in putting greens. Wysocki also struggled at Pickard Park last year, with a 57th-worst finish in the Elite Series. One property that Ricky hasn’t struggled with is the Airborn Preserve, and he’ll be looking to recover this week. Wysocki won the 2021 Preserve and finished second last year. No matter how well he hits off the tee this week, the situation will need to clean up if Sockibomb is to lift the bear a second time.

5. HOW LONG MEASURE THE BLACK BEAR TRACK Traditionally this event has been a bird or die when it comes to staying in contention for the win. With the perfect weather forecast, this week should be no exception. The lowest equivalent MPO score in a three-round Elite Series event this season is -31, which was the winning score three times. Don’t be surprised if this week’s winner drops: they’ll likely need to average 10 or 11 below par each round. For the FPO division, it can be hard to match Paige Pierce’s -25 performance at the OTB Open, but few players in the field are certainly able to top that number with a few hot rounds.

Course changes

Airborn Disc Golf Preserve was purchased by Cale Leiviska in 2020, and the Black Bear course was very quickly laid out for its premier conservation tournament that summer. The course went through many changes last year and has been reworked again for this year’s event.

Hole 5 is an all-new design, 275-foot par par. To make room, the previous hole 13 was removed. The MPO division now plays the 14th hole as par 5 of the previous hole 13 teepad, and the FPO division will now play the 14th hole of the former MPO teepad. Hole 10 has a new basket placement and teepads but uses most of the same area of ​​the course. It still measures 1,000 feet for the FPO, but the MPO design is now 122 feet shorter than last year’s 1,158 feet. Hole 12 plays the same role as last year, but the mandatory FPO section has been removed. Hole 15 plays very similarly, but has a new and mandatory teepad near the tee. Finally, the OB will now be left in the tunnel shot on the 17th hole as well as in the water behind the basket.

2023 MPO: 11,081 ft Par 67
2022 MPO: 10,896 ft Par 66

2023 FPO: 9,648 ft Par 67
2022 FBO: 9,674 ft Par 67

Expanded expectations

Low winds and high temperatures should make for a lot of high temperatures!

Friday: Mostly sunny with highs in the 80s. Winds 5-10 mph.
Saturday: Partly cloudy with highs in the 80s. The wind is light and variable.
Sunday: Mostly sunny with a high close to 90. Winds are light and variable.

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