WI Disc Golf Tour Continues as Players Battle Weather at 2013 Prairie Open

Matt ParkerContributor IIIApril 10, 2013

The Prairie Open attracts women disc golfers from all over the area. Photo credit: Steve Taylor
The Prairie Open attracts women disc golfers from all over the area. Photo credit: Steve Taylor

On Saturday, April 6, the 11th Annual Prairie Open began with the Pro and Advanced divisions ready to tame the University of Wisconsin-Parkside's campus course.

Biting cold and swirling wind gusts reaching more than 35 MPH were prevalent throughout the bulk of play, as the 2013 Wisconsin Disc Golf Tour continued with its second stop in Kenosha, WI.

The weekend's challengetwo rounds of 21 holes eachwas met by a total of 205 players.

However, birdies were at a premium, as the high winds made even routine putts an adventure.

Reigning WI Disc Golf Tour champion Chris Heeren, whose 13-under par total of 113 averaged an unofficial 1020 round rating for the day, won the Open Men's division by two strokes over CJ King and Scott Burtard, who tied for second place.

Heeren shared his excitement Saturday via Facebook: "2013 Prairie Open Champion! Very humbled to win my first Coveted Black Disc of the year so early in the season."

Dana Vicich took fourth, shooting 10-under par, while Sean Butler and Corey James shared fifth place at nine-under par.

Saturday's field sold out more than a month in advance, but at least 10 players benefited from joining a waiting list, according to tournament director Sergio Correa.

Correa addressed the sellout as a great problem to have: "I think that one of the best things that has happened for the Prairie Open has been moving it to the early spring. It used to be held in late August, right before Sandy Point [Resort & Disc Golf Ranch's Northwoods Open] and often just after the Mad City Open. By moving it earlier in the year, we have seen a great increase in participation. We have sold out with a wait list the last three years."

2010 Masters Women's World Champion Barrett White, whose enthusiasm for the sport is truly contagious, defeated Michigan's Liz McKinnon in a playoff to decide the Pro Women's field of 13 competitors.

Jayne Snider of Lansing, MI finished third.

White and McKinnon (then Carr) battled down to the final hole last year as well, with McKinnon coming out on top by one throw.

The event has become a must-play for women disc golfers in the area. I asked Correa what has led to this upswing in female participation: "In 2011, we had 23 women players; in 2012, there were 26; this past weekend we had 28, with unfortunately two women having to withdraw on Friday.

"How has this happened? I really believe that it isn't just one or two people, but rather a group of women that have created such great friendships both on the disc golf course and off.

"Carla [Correa] met many of these ladies playing the United States Women's Disc Golf Championships and has continued these friendships to this day. She has really been a big factor in the recruitment of such a large group of ladies. The generosity of Barrett White has also introduced some of the newer players to play in divisions they may not usually consider."

Another factor?

"Location! Location! Location!" says Correa. "We're pretty lucky to be located in a place where we can draw players from Wisconsin, Illinois and more recently, Michigan and Iowa."

Players from all around had umbrellas in tow, as early forecasts called for rain on Saturday. However, players were spared for the better part of the day, with just a few spells of precipitation during each round.

The campus course is a perfect blend of wooded shots and open holes, with an elevated basket on No. 4. But Parkside’s signature hole isn't just its most picturesque; it could also be its toughest to complete.

Playing about 440 feet across an open field, the basket on No. 4 is set on a mound and surrounded by boulders making for a tricky putt—especially on windy days.

Yes, the key to success, as always, was control. Those who executed the most came out ahead.

Brad Wendt came from behind to win the Masters division by seven strokes with a six-under par 57 in the second round.

Jason LeQuesne, tied for third after the morning round, triumphed by one stroke in the Advanced Men's division.

Sondra Kirkland won the Advanced Women's circuit. Local Evan Good won Advanced Masters, while Tom McManus of Gurnee, IL beat out 16 others in the Advanced Grandmasters group.

Sunday's action was not without its own share of dramatic finishes.

Joseph Williams outlasted a field of 48 golfers to win the Intermediate Men's division, after beginning the second round in eighth place. Drew Detzner, who finished second, was in 12th place before his second-round surge forced a playoff with Williams.

John Andrews of Oshkosh, WI hit his first hole-in-one, or "ace," on No. 19, a 220-foot temp hole that plays slightly downhill with out-of-bounds marked no more than 15 feet behind the basket.

Shayla Finley, 12, won the Intermediate Women's division by shaving 11 strokes off her total from last year's event, when she placed second.

Shane Ferguson of Waukesha, WI overcame a one-stroke deficit at the break and held off Seth Schofield to win the Recreational division by a single throw. Oshkosh's Robert Goyke finished third in the field of 43 players.

Hayden Schultz ran away with the Junior Boy's 16-and-under division, winning by 18 strokes.

The Visit Menomonie Open, the third leg of the tour, will be held April 20, with one round each at Wakanda Park in Menomonie, WI and tournament director Steve Kinde's private course, Axldog Acres in Boyceville, WI.

A bring-your-own-partner doubles event is scheduled for Sunday, April 21 at the Brickyard DGC in Menomonie.

*All quotes obtained directly unless otherwise noted.

**For more information on the growing sport of disc golf, visit www.pdga.com

***For a complete schedule of events and tour standings, visit www.widiscsports.com