By Steve Hill – Rattling Chains staff
It’s been a bit of a roller coaster season for Will Schusterick.
After a dubious, dramatic playoff victory at the Memorial that found him in it only because of a scorecard error, he then posted an eighth place finish at the Texas State Championships, followed by 13th and 10th place National Tour showings.
A couple of top-five finishes later, though, and as the season rolls toward the World Championships it seems Schusterick is peaking again at the right time.
The fourth-ranked player in the world took a share of the lead early at last weekend’s Beaver State Fling in Estacada, Oregon and never looked back, holding on for a two shot victory with a 35-under-par 209 to earn $3,600 in prize money.
Nate Doss shot a 33-under 211 to take second place and earn $2,300, while Ricky Wysocki and Dave Feldberg tied for the third place purse of $1,685 with 32-under 212s. Adam Hunt threw a 31-under 213 to round out the top five and take home $1,400.
Heading into Sunday’s final round with a two-stroke lead over Feldberg, Schusterick said his consistently long drives saved him on a day where he lost his putting stroke for the first part of the round.
“I actually missed seven putts inside the circle the last round, but they were all for birdie,” Schusterick said. “I was putting horribly the last round. Like, terrible.”
Schusterick said he wasn’t sure what was causing him to have an off day – it could have been the unseasonably hot and humid temperatures, or just a lack of concentration, he said – but it affected him mentally.
“Whatever it was, it was awful,” he said. “I was really down on myself for the first part of the round.”
He was finally able to snap himself out of it after some close upshots left him with easy putts to start things rolling.
“I was just telling myself, all you do is practice putting,” Schusterick said. “You just need to take your time, do what you normally do and just focus on making the putt. Nothing else matters.”
The win marked a return to the top for the defending U.S. Champion, who has struggled in recent weeks while battling an injury to the pinky finger on his throwing hand.
“I definitely hurt my pinky somehow, and it had to have happened at the Memorial,” Schusterick said. “I’m never going to blame anything on whatever it is, but the more that I throw drives, it swells up a little bit. My knuckle gets bigger and I can’t bend it as fast or open it as fast as I can my other fingers. It’s probably just jammed or something, but I can’t bend it all the way. It hurts every now and then when I throw.”
Schusterick’s victory moved him into fourth place in the National Tour Series points standings with 451.5 points. He trails Paul McBeth (whose 15th-place finish is a throw-away score for the standings), Wysocki (who trails McBeth by a mere half point) and Nikko Locastro.
With the National Tour not resuming until the end of August, and the World Championships on the horizon, though, Schusterick said he is not focused on the chase for the NT crown.
“I know that we get money for it (the National Tour) and points standings and stuff like that, but really the world title is what matters the most,” Schusterick said. “World title and U.S. title mean the most.”
The PDGA National Tour concludes August 22-25 at the Vibram Open in Leicester, Massachusetts.
Cunningham goes wire-to-wire to win women’s title
She doesn’t always play National Tour events. But when she does, she often wins.
Sarah Cunningham, who, like her male counterpart, also shared the lead at the end of day one, emerged victorious with a 1-over-par 245 to win the women’s division and earn $2,000 in prize money.
The win marked the second of the National Tour season for Cunningham, despite only participating in three NT events overall.
Paige Pierce finished in second place with a 5-over 249 to win $1,500, while Val Jenkins and Des Reading threw 8-over 252s to share third place and take home $875 each. Sarah Hokom earned $650 on her way to an 11-over 255 fifth place finish.
Pierce’s finish vaulted her into the top spot of the National Tour Series standings with 476 points. Catrina Ulibarri, who finished in sixth place at the Beaver State Fling, is now second in the NT standings with 474 points, while Hokom’s 472 points round out the top three.
Steve Hill is the associate editor for Rattling Chains. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @OneMileMore.