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Cleared for Takeoff – 2023 LWS Open at Idlewild Round 1 Recap

By Nick Quargnenti

Day 1 from LWS Open at Idlewild

Saturday, August 12, 2023 – 12:38

All smiles for Madison Walker, FPO leader after round one. Photo: PDGA Media/Danny Voss

Amidst the roar of planes taking off from the nearby airport, the FPO and MPO divisions shaped and scrambled their way through the woods in the opening round of the 2023 LWS Open at Idlewild Presented by Dynamic Discs and The Nati.

A Walker in the Park

The FPO division hit the ground running in the opening round of the 2023 LWS Open at Idlewild. The hot score on day one of the 2022 Open at Idlewild was one-over but this year, the top nine players finished under par. Overall, the course still played difficult, averaging almost four strokes over par with holes 3 and 10 seeing no birdies on the day.

After dealing with long delays and carving her way through the tight fairways of the Idlewild course, Madison Walker came out on top with a six-under opening round. Walker started her round with a circle 2 putt for birdie on hole 1, then proceeded to take seven more birdies on the day. Her scorecard’s only blemish would come on hole 8 where she took a double bogey.

“I would say my pride got the best of me and I tried to forehand roller chop my way down the right side instead of pitching out,” Walker said of her decision on hole 8, then jokingly added, “Double bogeys happen. If I bogey, that’s usually the way it goes down is a double.”

Other than her one slip-up, Walker avoided further mistakes and led the field in birdie percentage to finish out a round that is tentatively rated 1003. Walker’s last top five finish was in 2019 and according to StatMando, this is Walker’s first career post-round lead on tour and her first lead card since the 2021 US Women’s Disc Golf Championships.

“Being on tour for a long time, playing these courses a lot, having a lot of injuries, getting older, you kind of start to doubt yourself,” Walker said after bouncing back from a disappointing finish at the Discraft Ledgestone Open last weekend, “It’s nice to remind myself that I can do something cool out there, that I do have all the shots, and that I can string them together.”

Walker will be joined on the round 2 lead card by both Valerie Mandujano and Alexis Mandujano, who finished at five-under and four-under, respectively. After missing much of the early season due to injury, Valerie is back on tour and is now on track to take her first podium of the year. Alexis scored the only bogey-free round in the field to join her sister on the lead card. Even though the pair is used to playing together, they might run into trouble playing on the same card.


2022 PDGA Amateur World Champion, Cadence Burge joins the lead card for round two. Photo: PDGA Media/Danny Voss

“Lately, every time me and Alexis play together, one of us plays bad and that one has been me for the last two times,” Valerie Mandujano said when asked about joining her sister on the lead card, “Hopefully I can just keep my head down and keep playing well.”

The wooded fairways of Idlewild are tough and unforgiving, so Walker and the Mandujanos will have to keep up the pace to make another lead card appearance at the 2023 LWS Open at Idlewild.

Scramble through the Bramble

Idlewild is known for being incredibly difficult but the MPO division’s opening round could challenge that reputation. The top seven players scored double digits with clusters of players tied behind them. In fact, after finishing in solo fourth place at 11-under, Gannon Buhr is the only player in the top 50 who is not currently in a tie.

Aaron Gossage, Gavin Babcock, and Evan Scott are currently tied for the lead at 12 strokes under par. Gossage and Babcock were able to avoid taking any bogeys in round 1 while Scott took his only bogey of the day after a missed putt on hole 4.

“You have to give yourself opportunities off the tee,” Gossage said after sharing the hot round on day one, “If you’re putting from circle 2, you’re not taking any bogeys. I definitely accomplished that, gave myself a lot of circle 1 looks as well.”

All three players consistently gave themselves opportunities as they racked up birdies and each took an eagle on hole 8, with Babcock also taking an eagle on hole 16. As well as capitalizing on well-executed shots, all three players were able to recover from their mistakes and maintain a 100% scramble rate for the day.


Gavin Babcock has a share of the lead going into round two. Photo: DGPT

On each hole, every player is just one missed gap or bad kick away from finding themselves scrambling out of the woods to save the par. The scorecards on the UDisc rankings show a sea of birdies with most players taking an occasional bogey. The top three players’ scrambling abilities kept them from giving back hard-earned strokes in a field where losing a single stroke can drop a player back as many as 10 places.

“Tomorrow is really going to be some tough conditions and my goal is going to be to play a very clean round, get a lot of pars,” Gossage said of his plan for round 2, “If I can shoot the same round again that would be amazing, but from my standpoint, I’m just trying to get through the round tomorrow bogey-free.”

All three players are currently seeking their first Elite Series win. Scott won a Silver Series earlier this season when he took down the Zoo Town Open and Gossage came close to winning the Portland Open but lost in a playoff against Adam Hammes. Babcock had the best finish of his career earlier this year when he took a podium finish at the 2023 Des Moines Challenge.

With so many players within just a few strokes, the top three will have to keep scoring and keep scrambling to stay on top in the 2023 LWS Open at Idlewild.

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