The one-day event featured 89 players waking up to fresh snow on the ground at Wakanda Park; however, the competition dawned a bright and sunny 30 degrees with light winds.
Wakanda is a challenging blend of wooded and open fairways, with several elevation changes and blind shots.
After one round of 18 holes at Wakanda, players headed over to nearby Boyceville to play Axldog Acres, the private course of tournament director and reigning Pro Masters Wisconsin Tour champion Steve Kinde.
Axldog features 21 holes playing up and down through woods and rolling hills.
For this year's tournament layout, golfers played 19 of the 21 holes, skipping No. 7 and No. 8.
But it was not without drama.
Shooting an eight-under 46 at Wakanda gave Heeren a three-stroke lead over Keith Warren after one round, with Hall in third.
However, birdies on six of the first eight holes at Axldog gave Hall the lead over the two seasoned pros.
And Heeren knew it.
"Chris Hall came out of the blocks on fire the second round," Heeren said. "Even though he was down by five strokes after the first round, he birdied eight out of the first 10 holes and took over the lead halfway through, making for an intense back nine."
Birdies were coming easy for Hall, but it was a hole-in-one eagle that would ultimately turn the tables back in Heeren's favor.
I asked Heeren about his ace on No. 12. (Please note when looking at scorecard that No. 7 and 8 were not played.)
"It is a very short, blind, spike-hyzer shot over some pine trees," Heeren said. "It's a tough little hole, as the trees surrounding the basket make even 10-15 foot putts challenging. I used a (Discraft) Drone and pitched it over the top of the trees. This was a huge turning point in the match, as it put me back into a tie for the lead and gave me momentum to finish the round strong with four more birdies."
Momentum and some cash to boot.
"It also happened to be the hole before the toughest hole on the course, which had two groups backed up waiting to throw that got to witness the ace, which led to a few $5 bills being handed out," Heeren said.
'It's Me Against the Course'
Unlike the Prairie Open, which saw close to 30 women competing in several divisions, Holly Finley was the lone female at Saturday's tournament. I asked her how she approached a tournament where she was essentially playing herself.
"It's me against the course," Finley said. "My goal was to shoot two 900-plus (rated) rounds and hopefully bring in a 950-rated round. The gentlemen on my card were very supportive and pushed me to make better shots and longer putts. It was a great time."
Other pro division winners included "Hot Shot" Scott Slauson in Masters and one of last season's Wisconsin Tour champions, Troy Campbell, in Grandmasters, with each shooting a seven-under-par 104 on the day.
The Amateur Divisions
Peter Leslie overcame a one-stroke deficit after one round to best a group of 21 players in the Advanced Men's division by two throws.
The Recreational division was won by Nathan Richards of Sauk City, Wis.
Kevin Loos won the Junior Boys' 16-and-under division.
Tom McManus gained a six-stroke cushion in the morning round, which turned out to be the winning margin for his third consecutive Wisconsin Tour win to begin 2013.
McManus lives in Gurnee, Ill., but you will see him at just about every Wisconsin Tour event. I asked him what keeps him coming back for more.
His answer was simple: "Wisconsin disc golf is one big community."
Kinde elaborated by explaining that players know they're getting a quality event that functions as part of a larger standard: The Wisconsin Disc Golf Tour. The series of events works as a collective effort to promote the sport.
After three consecutive sellouts, a fourth appears likely.
Split over two weekends, the Standing Rocks Open is expected to host around 300 players.
The amateur event is Saturday, April 27, while the Pro and Advanced divisions will compete for three rounds over two days, on May 4-5, in Stevens Point, Wis., at Standing Rocks DGC.
What makes this tournament so special?
"It's got a great course, a great TD (tournament director) and a bunch of great players that make it an annual ritual," Kinde said. "Oh, and don't forget the delicious beer from Central Waters."
What They're Playing For
The Wisconsin Disc Golf Tour is a series of 15 events in which players can track their progress throughout the season.
Players are awarded points based on the number of players they beat or tie in their division. For example, if a player beats 25 out of 27 players in their division, they are awarded 92 points.
Each player's top-eight finishes (out of a possible 15) with regard to point totals count toward their season standing in the race to be named Tour Champion.
Tour standings for every division are updated after each event.
*Scorecard illustration by Matt Parker. Scorecard statistics provided by Chris Heeren.
**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.
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