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Roaring Finishes in Arkansas – Jonesboro Open Final Round Recap

By Nick Quargnenti
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Roaring Finishes in Arkansas

2023 DGPT – Jonesboro Open Final Recap

Monday, May 1, 2023 – 10:02

Kat Mertsch lets out a roar at the 2023 Jonesboro Open. Photo: Kevin Huver / DGPT

The leaderboards were tight going into the final round of the 2023 Play It Again Sports Jonesboro Open presented by Prodigy.

After a rainy Moving Day for the FPO field, 20-25 mph winds challenged both fields during their final round at Disc Side of Heaven in Jonesboro, Arkansas.

The battle for first place in both fields came down to Hole 18 and the Jonesboro Open saw a playoff finish for the second year in a row.

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Kat Mertsch and Hailey King went to the wire in Jonesboro. Photo: Kevin Huver / DGPT

Home State Love

“That was the most stressful round of golf I’ve ever played in my life,” said Arkansas native Kat Mertsch after tapping in the final putt of the 2023 Jonesboro Open.

Mertsch had a one-stroke lead going into the final round and defending her lead became even more difficult in Sunday’s windy conditions. While Mertsch’s round started out slow with four straight pars, she made a huge circle 2 putt on hole 5 to get her first birdie and jumpstart the round.

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Mertsch smiles as she tees off in her home state of Arkansas. Photo: Kevin Huver / DGPT

Mertsch went on to make four more birdies and avoid taking a single bogey, the only FPO player to do so in Round 3.

“I kept telling myself that there was no room in my head for doubt or fear,” Mertsch said of her mentality on Championship Sunday, “I just tried to go full blast.”

As Mertsch kept her scorecard clean, Hailey King was in hot pursuit, shooting eight-under to tie Mertsch at 22 strokes under par going into Hole 18.

When asked about making a charge to catch up with the lead, King said, “I was feeling good, I was just fully sending everything. I had nothing to lose.”

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Hailey King surged on Championship Sunday to force a playoff. Photo: Kevin Huver / DGPT

Rather than making the risky play to attack the green for a birdie, both players decided to lay up on 18 and go to a playoff. They returned to the tee of Hole 10, the 3rd most difficult hole with only one birdie on the day. Neither of their drives gave them a birdie look, so they each had to attempt to lay up for a par. Mertsch was up first and gave herself an easy tap in. King, however, was pinched off and forced to pick a narrow gap through the trees to get into the green. King’s approach was unable to fight through, leaving her stuck under a tree outside the circle for one last shot to force another playoff hole. After King’s putt sailed over the basket, Mertsch walked up and tapped in her putt to win her first Elite Series event.

After becoming the 2023 Jonesboro Open champion, Mertsch shared an emotional moment in her post-victory interview. Mertsch has been open about the challenges she’s overcome, saying that disc golf saved her life.

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It was an emotional win for Mertsch, her first on the DGPT. Photo: Kevin Huver / DGPT

“There’s really a blessing to wake up every day and take a deep breath and realize that you get another chance to make it your day.”

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2022 PDGA Rookie of the Year Aria Castruita finished on the podium in Jonesboro. Photo: Kevin Huver / DGPT

Seventeen-year-old Aria Castruita finished third, the highest finish on the Disc Golf Pro Tour in her career.

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Calvin Heimburg lines up a putt on Championship Sunday in Jonesboro. Photo: Kevin Huver / DGPT

Vinny … Again

Sixteen MPO players scored 10-under or better in Round 2 of the 2023 Jonesboro Open, the hot round on Championship Sunday was 9-under. The low scores of the first two rounds led to speculation that Disc Side of Heaven might be too easy for the pros, but the windy conditions on day three forced players to improvise and brought the course average four strokes higher than the day before.

Defending Jonesboro Open champ Calvin Heimburg started Round 3 in a tie for the lead with Eagle McMahon after back-to-back 13-under rounds. Knowing that many of his competitors would play tentatively in the wind, Heimburg felt confident and chose to get aggressive off the tee. This playstyle got him in position to score, but also led to his first bogeys of the tournament on holes four and five.

“My gameplan coming into the day was be aggressive and kind of pedal to the metal,” Heimburg said after the final round.

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It was a battle all the way between Heimburg and Eagle McMahon. Photo: Kevin Huver / DGPT

Heimburg’s confidence paid off as he made a death putt from circle 2 for the eagle on Hole 16, catching up to McMahon at 31 strokes under par. After they each took a par on Hole 17, they walked up to the tee pad of the 18th hole tied for the lead while second place was a full three strokes behind. McMahon and Heimburg had been tied two rounds in a row, now it all came down to the last hole of the tournament.

When asked if he had any nerves stepping up to the last tee shot, Heimburg said, “Not really any nerves, I was in that same position last year and there were three people tied going into the last hole.”

Heimburg’s drive drifted to the right but stayed in the fairway. McMahon had birdied Hole 18 two days in a row by taking the high hyzer route over the OB, but his final drive on day three came out low and didn’t cross back in bounds. With no clear shot to the basket to save the par, McMahon pitched back to the fairway. Attempting one last shot for a potential throw-in, McMahon went OB once again and would end up taking a triple bogey.

Now with the pressure off, Heimburg was left with a couple of simple upshots to take down his second Elite Series win of the 2023 season. In stark contrast to multiple 13-under rounds and a record-breaking 17-under round on Moving Day, Heimburg won the event with a five-under final round.

“I definitely didn’t think five-under would do it,” Heimburg said in his post-round interview, “It seemed like some of my aggressive play early and late might have bit me, but in the end it didn’t.”

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Calvin Heimburg continued his dominant 2023 season. Photo: Kevin Huver / DGPT

Having won the Jonesboro Open in 2020 and 2022, Heimburg has now won this event three out of the last four years. According to StatMando, Heimburg is now the second MPO player to win the same DGPT Elite Series event three times.

McMahon dropped back three strokes, tying for 2nd place with Ben Callaway and Isaac Robinson at 28 strokes under par. Callaway was one of two players to shoot the hot round at nine-under and has now taken his first podium finish at an Elite Series event.

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Isaac Robinson and Ben Callaway finished in a tie for second in Jonesboro. Photo: Kevin Huver / DGPT

The Disc Golf Pro Tour will take a week off as the pros head to Stockton, California for the OTB Open Presented by MVP Disc Sports.

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