Let's Temper Our Expectations of Young Pro Disc Golfers

Let's Temper Our Expectations of Young Pro Disc Golfers

“He’s the next Paul McBeth / Ken Climo.”
“She’s the next Paige Pierce / Juliana Korver / Elaine King.”
“They’re like a young (insert established pro who has won plenty of events here).”

We’re all guilty of saying one of these sentences about some young players (I know I am). At each of these big events there can only be a single winner for MPO and FPO. And it’s not like Paul/Paige are going anywhere anytime soon. They both finished second in the world to huge shots on the last hole.
The Discraft 5XP Team (What no one but me is referring to Paul and Paige as) is not alone in winning this season either, many pros have turned in a couple weeks of unforgettable performances this year. Like Ricky at Belton and Texas states, remember how dominant he was? Or Kristin Tattar winning DGLO and then The Preserve by 10 strokes! She didn’t seem like she could lose.

There are at least two dozen players in the MPO field who I wouldn’t be shocked to see win an event. Especially with Smuggs being in the woods this weekend (where distance is often negated and accurate drives and hot putters win).

Eagle, Ricky, Paul, Calvin, Hammes, Klein, Orum, Dickerson, Jones, Marwede, Conrad, Leiviska, Freeman, Gibson, Lizzotte, Locastro, Barsby, Koling, Clemens, Queen, Gilbert, Williams, Fish, Uli… I’m not trying to slight anyone by forgetting their name but there’s a lot of top talent MPO pros.

Paige, Catrina, Hailey, Missy, Kona, Hokom, Heather Young, Lisa Fajkus… There’s fewer players in FPO at the moment but still I wouldn’t be shocked to see a W from any of them.

Now I’ll say that what’s super noticeable is that after the first 4 MPO players there I switched from first names to last. Those are players who you expect to win. How many wins do they have in the season?
Paul (3) -2NT’s
Ricky (6) -4NT’s
Eagle (5) -4NT’s
Calvin (2) -NT

They have 11/20 by themselves, leaving 9 available for the other 20 players who stand a good chance at a win.

So why do we keep expecting players, especially young players to step up and dominate?

When players like Eagle, Hailey, AB, Kyle Klein, KJUSA, and others win an event suddenly they’re expected to win again right away or they’re “struggling.”

I listed 24 players in MPO who are going to be playing next year, in fact they’ll probably be touring 3 years from now. As the sport continues to see extreme growth there’s going to be more players who tour full time.

Players like Robert Burridge, Gillis MacDougall, Luke Taylor, Harry Chace, Kyle Lees, and Sheldon Shinn who all finished Top 5 at the 2021 US Amateur Disc Golf Championships. Then there’s going to be whoever wins the 2022, and the 2023 championships as well. And players whose game develops as they hit the age of 18-25.

We’re reaching an interesting time in disc golf. Where we’ve got a massive crop of talent at the top. Plenty of other touring pros cash frequently enough without scratching the top 25 in talent and can tour with their winnings and sponsorships.

While winning is ultimately the goal, it’s not the end all be all. Joel Freeman doesn’t have a win this year. He’s already won $21,458 dollars in disc golf winnings this year. He’s played 24 tournaments this year and done very well in the A or B tiers, and played pretty solid golf in the NT events. I wouldn’t consider his year a failure by any stretch, even if he doesn’t have a win. He’s been a solid player, cashing in every event. He’s a tour veteran now, does not winning invalidate his outstanding season?

Hailey King has won 2 events this year, but both are National Tour victories. She’s earned a very respectable $26,668 from winnings this year. She could go and play a bunch of A/B tiers and take your lunch money, but she focuses almost completely on NT/M events. The same way that Paige and Catrina are touring. They could take those break weeks and play a B tier for an extra 500 bucks but they aren’t doing that.

I’m a big believer in Anthony Barela’s potential. In 21 events this year he doesn’t have a win yet. His $13,980 in winnings is a little bit less than folks who have won but he’s putting it all together at a young age. He finished second at OTB, third at Memorial, and seventh at The Preserve.
And his season isn’t a failure either. He’s missed cash a few times this season, but that should happen. The sport is difficult.

There are a limited number of events to win each year that are on the DGPT. These events bring out the best of the best at almost every turn. Older very good players who may not do the full tour come out and play when it’s in their neck of the woods. There were 13 stops on the DGPT and another 7 silver series stops. So there could be a maximum of 20 possible different winners in MPO and FPO each year for these big YouTube tour stops.

Andrew, what’s this blog about?

Many folks (myself included) love the pro scene. We enjoy watching the live coverage, post coverage, skins matches, it doesn’t matter. But I often hear from people about a player “struggling” because they haven’t won in a while. Folks aren’t taking into account good performances.

We think we’re comparing players to their peers since Paul McBeth is still playing, but when Paul entered the game and dominated the scene, it was a different world in the early 2010’s. It’s unlikely we’ll see seasons like Paul McBeth’s 2012 when he only had 2 finishes outside of the Top 10, in 37 tournaments. He’s a once in a generation player for MPO.

Paige’s 2015 season had 21 of her 31 events as wins. And she only finished off the podium twice. It’s unlikely we’ll ever see those numbers again.

As we see fields each week growing, and the number of competitors increasing, wins are at a premium. Eagle proved last weekend at Maple Hill that two incredible rounds and one mediocre (by his standards) round won’t win. Ricky shot his rating or above every round and still took a tie for second place. Not only do you have to shoot incredibly well for 3-4 days, but no one else can go off like you do.

So let’s take a step back from calling anything other than a win a failure. Improvements from year to year on a course could be a win for some of these players. Finishing top 10 should be considered good for young players. The days of players dominating and winning every single weekend are basically over. Competition is tight at the top, and it’s only getting better.

Did I hit the bullseye with this blog, or am I pin high but outside circle 2? I’ve heard people in the pro shop suggesting older players were “washed up” or young players “aren’t very good if they can’t win two weeks in a row.” I just wanted to evaluate where we are, and hopefully folks celebrate and realize how precious a win on the big circuit can be.

May your discs miss all the trees,
Andrew Streeter #70397