By P.J. Harmer — Rattling Chains staff
As disc golf continues to grow and evolve, different formats of tournaments, leagues and other aspects of the game will likely be tried to see what works.
Traditionally, tournaments are usually played in a normal setting — stroke play and in divisions. Occasionally, you’ll get a doubles tournament or some sort of non-traditional format, such as best-throw or alternate shot.
On a higher level, though, it pretty much remains the same across the board — stroke play over a certain number of rounds.
Insert the Players Cup, a three-day match-play format tournament featuring 64 of the top disc golfers in the world.
“I have always wanted to create a true disc golf spectacle,” said Steve Dodge, Vibram Disc Golf’s product manager. “Something that is compelling to watch and will get the average disc golfer excited to be a part of. A bracketed match-play tournament, like the NCAA March Madness, was exactly what I was looking for.”
Enter October Madness.
Originally founded in 2005 by Mike Barnett of Sun King Discs, the Players Cup served as an end-of-season celebration with players who had won events during the year. When the event took a hiatus in 2008, Dodge took that opportunity to discuss with Barnett the idea of making it into a match-play championship.
This tournament marks the third year of the setup.
“In the first two years, we have created an online bracket that people fill out and win prizes,” Dodge said. “The goal of the Players Cup is to celebrate the growth of our sport, create a spectacle and generate interest in watching the best disc golfers in the world.”
How it works
This year, there are two divisions — MPO and FPO. The men’s bracket will still be 64 players, but an eight-woman bracket has also been added.
“We’ve got most of the top ladies competing and it should be quite a thing to watch,” Dodge said.
For those who don’t realize what match play is, it’s a head-to-head match. Each hole counts as a win, loss or draw. That means each hole is a battle inside the match. After a hole ends, it no longer matters.
That means if Player A wins the first 10 holes of the match against Player B, the match is over.
“No one matters but you and the one guy you are competing against,” Dodge said. “You know exactly how you are doing and if you need to be aggressive.”
The event charges no entry fees and with a prizes topping $20,000, it is obviously a tournament players would want to compete in.
The top 32 men’s finishers from last year’s event were invited back. The remaining spots were filled via an application process where players were picked based on PDGA points and ratings. On the women’s side, the field was decided via the application process.
In all, Dodge said there were more than 200 applications for the final 32 spots.
As for the payouts, the men’s side will play for $20,700 and the women for $2,000. In the men’s tournament, each victory gets you money. And being it’s a three-loss elimination tournament, there is more than one attempt to be able to cash.
The breakdown for the men’s payout is as follows:
- First win: $100
- Second win $150
- Third win: $250
- Fourth win: $500
- Fifth win: $500
- Sixth win: $500
The fifth and sixth rounds will only feature the Final Four. The player who wins all six matches gets $2,000. The runner-up walks away with $1,500.
The women will battle for $2,000. The women don’t have to win a match, however, as they are guaranteed a check for just playing. The bracket for the women is set up to guarantee each player two matches.
Dodge said the event is able to maintain the no-entry fee setup because of sponsors of the tournament. Vibram is the presenting sponsor, DGA sponsors the Pick ’em Bracket, Disc Nation is the primary store sponsor and Sun King Discs remains active in the event as well.
“Without the great course, the best players, an amazing staff and supportive sponsors that believe in the direction we are going, we could never pull it off,” Dodge said.
Looking at this year’s tournament
How deep is this year’s men’s tournament? Look no further than some of the seeds, which are based on a player’s PDGA rating.
Last year’s champion, Nate Doss, is a second seed in his bracket. Avery Jenkins is seeded fourth in the same bracket.
Ricky Wysocki, who is one of the hottest players on tour over the past few months, is a second seed.
The four top seeds are Dave Feldberg (Ascent Quadrant), Cale Leiviska (Ridge Quadrant), Paul McBeth (Ibex Quadrant) and Will Schusterick (Sole Quadrant).
“When I look at the bracket and see Avery Jenkins as a No. 4 seed in his quadrant, that tells me that we have got some crazy talent again this year,” Dodge said. “The players have always been very supportive of what we are building with the Players Cup and are gracious to the fans that come out and watch.”
Feldberg is the overall top seed based on his PDGA rating (currently 1043). His quadrant isn’t a cake walk, however, as 2010 Players Cup champion Nikko Locastro is seeded second. The bracket also features third-seeded Paul Ulibarri and fourth-seeded Matt Hall.
An interesting battle could happen in the second round as Ulibarri would match up against his brother and 11th-seeded Pete Ulibarri if both earn first-round victories.
Leiviska has the top seed in his quadrant, but fellow Discraft member Doss is seeded second in the bracket. Leiviska won’t have it easy as it is, with a potential quarterfinal matchup with Jenkins.
And that’s barring no upsets before the quarterfinals.
To make this quadrant even more interesting, Eric McCabe is the third seed, setting up a possible quarterfinal matchup featuring he and Doss.
On the opposite side of the bracket is current World Champion McBeth as the top seed in the Ibex Quadrant. Bradley Williams is seeded second. This quadrant could be really interesting with the next three seeds as Jeremy Koling (third), Nolan Grider (fourth) and Dana Vicich (fifth) are all capable of getting through this solid bracket.
The Sole Quadrant might be the most interesting of the four, however. Schusterick is the top seed in a bracket filled with quality players. Wysocki is second and Devan Owens is third. Cameron Colglazier, who has been an exciting player this year on tour, is the fourth seed. Mitch Sonderfan is a solid fifth seed and could be a sleeper of sorts.
“We had two No. 12 seeds advance to the Sweet 16 last year, so the upset specials are out there,” Dodge said.
On the women’s side, Val Jenkins is the top-seed in the eight-women tournament. She’ll meet No. 8 Laura Coffey in the first round. Catrina Allen (second seed) meets Danielle Vargas (No. 7) and third-seeded Paige Pierce matches up with No. 6 Brittany Blair. Fourth-seeded Des Reading and No. 5 Liz Lopez fill out the women’s bracket.
How to follow
There are several ways to keep track of the tournament this weekend. PlayersCup.org will have live scoring. Terry Miller, The DiscGolfGuy, will also be conducting interviews and posting them to his YouTube site throughout the weekend.
Live scoring can be followed at: http://www.wdgmpc.com/live-coverage.html.
With 64 of the top men’s players and eight of the top women’s players in the world competing, the Players Cup seems like it will be quite the event to end the “season” for some touring pros.
“I would like to grow it into a phenomenal finishing event to the season,” Dodge said. “It really should be a celebration of the year of disc golf we have enjoyed and allow the players to enjoy a year-end party.
“I want it to be the most fun the players have all year, while thrilling and engaging their fans and all discers across the world,” he continued. “I want to hear the stories about the matches from the players and the people watching.”
P.J. Harmer is the founder and executive editor for Rattling Chains. E-mail him at: email@example.com.