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Emphatic Endings in Jonesboro

By Baker Helton
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Champions Calvin Heimburg and Kristin Tattar close out the Jonesboro Open. Photo: Kevin Huver/DGPT

Yesterday, it was at times difficult to discern between the roar of the gallery across the property and the howling of a sudden gust of wind in the trees at the DGPT – Play It Again Sports Jonesboro Open powered by Prodigy.

Today, the noticeable-but-calmer winds were not the issue. The rain in the forecast was.

The same storm system that produced flooding rains and tornado warnings in Oklahoma on Saturday night would be making its way into Arkansas on Sunday. But, would it arrive in time to impact the players and fans at the Disc Side of Heaven, and would it be packing the same punch?

Time would tell. In the meantime, the FPO lead card took the tee just after 9:30 a.m. local time, in a light windswept drizzle that would quickly subside.

FPO: Rain Holds Back, Tattar Doesn’t

Kristin Tattar had never been to the Disc Side of Heaven before this week, and at least one practice day was cut by inclement weather.

It’s not exactly the script one would expect to end with a victory.

Tattar took the stage regardless, started day three with a seven stroke lead, and issued a standing-ovation performance, leading to a 10-stroke victory.

“I enjoyed myself here,” remarked Tattar after the round.  “I had a really solid game plan and I feel comfortable on this course.”

Tattar attacked the Disc Side of Heaven layout again, going bogey free, and continuing to lengthen her lead through the back nine. She finished with her card’s only birdie on hole 18 – an exclamation point on a dominating performance.

Tattar was certainly the biggest, but not the only story to be told in Jonesboro.

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Missy Gannon and caddie Tom Szevin examine the fairway during the final round in Jonesboro. Photo: Kevin Huver/DGPT

Behind Missy Gannon (-14) in second, came a pair of golfers on the rise in the FPO division.

Ella Hansen (-12) has finished on the podium before, most notably at the 2021 U.S. Women’s Disc Golf Championships, and is gaining the consistency that comes with experience.

For Kat Mertsch, the tie for third in Jonesboro marks her first podium as a professional at an Elite Series event for the 20 year old.

“It’s up from here,” said Mertsch. “I think progress is still needed but it’s been good so far.”

Other noteworthy finishes include Holyn Handley (T5, -11), Catrina Allen (T5, -11), Paige Pierce (T7, -9), and Valerie Mandujano (T7, -9).

MPO: An Epic with Heimburg as Leading Man

If the FPO tournament served dominance, the MPO side brought the drama.

Although a few competitors made runs at the leaders from lower cards, it became apparent that the title would probably be decided among the final card mates of the day.

Punches were delivered – and received – throughout the round.

Paul McBeth began a stroke behind the leader Calvin Heimburg, and started with three birdies in a row. Then he saw that momentum slip away during the stretch from holes five through seven. On hole five, McBeth’s 495-foot tee shot hit the signage beneath the basket and rolled out-of-bounds. On hole six, he missed the island green. And, on hole seven, McBeth experienced a nasty chain-out on his birdie attempt.

Next, Heimburg heated up after his slow start, with six birdies in seven holes, from holes seven through 13.

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Kevin Jones’ performance helped drive the dramatic and electric final round. Photo: Kevin Huver/DGPT

Meanwhile, Kevin Jones, seeking his first professional win at A-tier or Elite Series event in his home state of Arkansas, was working on a bogey-free round highlighted by a 174-foot throw-in for eagle at the 12th hole.

But, eagles by both McBeth and Heimburg at hole 16, and another McBeth birdie on 17 set the stage for a three-way tie at the top to begin the par-4 18th.

McBeth and Heimburg each threw impeccable tee shots, while Jones’ fell short and out of range to card a birdie. Jones (-25) would finish third.

The Arkansas crowd groaned, then began to buzz again.

McBeth placed a low hyzer within the 3-meter bullseye.

A poodle from a nearby home barked, loudly.

Heimburg, undeterred, placed his approach 20-feet from the basket.

The dog hushed, as did the gallery.

Heimburg’s putt settled into the basket, and he and McBeth would move on to a sudden death playoff.

The honors fell to McBeth, who slipped a bit on the tee and was unable to power his disc the 470 feet to the basket, missing the fairway to the left.

Then, Heimburg, through a gusting crosswind, launched a high-speed backhand which traveled 475 feet – give or take – landing in the shadow of the hole 1 basket, and unleashing one of the loudest roars in Disc Side of Heaven history.

“It’s the best drive I’ve thrown all week. I’m glad I saved it for now,” said Heimburg. “It’s been a while and it feels really good to be back on top.”

Champions Cup winner Chris Dickerson (-23) finished fourth and Las Vegas Challenge runner-up Gannon Buhr (-22) rounded out the top 5.

The Disc Golf Pro Tour moves on to the Dynamic Discs Open in Emporia, Kansas. The tournament will be played on a new Jones Park layout – Jones Supreme – and will act as a preview of the 2022 PDGA Pro Worlds venue. Dynamic Discs Open coverage begins on Thursday, April 28 on the Disc Golf Network.

Article written by Grant Zellner #61914