Vibram Open to settle National Tour races

By P.J. Harmer & Steve Hill — Rattling Chains staff

Updated 4:36 p.m. EST

One final showdown will settle the PDGA’s National Tour this weekend at Maple Hill in Leicester, Mass.

The Vibram Open, the closing tournament of the National Tour Elite Series, will be where points-leader Paul McBeth looks to hold off Ricky Wysocki. The tournament runs Thursday through Sunday.

vibram_open

Tee times start at 7:45 a.m. local time Thursday, and 7:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Players begin playing at 8 a.m. on the final day.

The Vibram will also pay out more than $50,000 in prize money. The men will split $45,000, with the winner earning $3,000. Second place is $2,400 and third place gets $2,000. The women, with a field of 15, will split $7,000. The winner earns $1,500, second is $1,200 and third will get $1,000.

That strong payout is something tournament director Steve Dodge said players have come to look forward to each year, and has contributed to the tournament’s growing stature.

“Consistently having a $50,000-plus payout – I think this is our third year that we’ve gone over $50,000 – and setting up everybody for success – here’s exactly what our payout is, here’s exactly how everything’s going to work, and having that all laid out well in advance – gives the touring players and all the locals something significant that they know is going to happen,” Dodge said.

“It’s like Christmas,” he continued. “It’s a given. You know it’s happening, you know it’s going to be really fun, and you want to be there.”

Plus, the tournament is competitive, as the women and men have tight races for the NT series championship on the line.

On the men’s side, four players are within 24 points of the lead. But, the reality is unless something drastic happens with McBeth and Wysocki, one of them will be claiming the men’s tour title Sunday in Leicester.

The standings are decided by taking the top five points from the first seven events, as well as the Vibram Open.

Maple Hill isn’t an easy battle ground, either.

With picturesque holes that utilize woods, water and length, the gold championship tees at Maple Hill aren’t for average players. The par-60 course covers 8,215 feet over varied terrain.

And while Dodge said McBeth, Wysocki, and Will Schusterick are the obvious favorites, Maple Hill is the wild card that leaves the tournament open to surprises.

“This course allows for a technical player, like a Cale Leiviska; a northeastern player like a Steve Brinster; a northern player who’s used to playing in the woods, Geoff Bennett – it allows for those guys to have an opportunity to compete on kind of an equal footing,” Dodge said. “It really is anybody’s game, and it’s very exciting.”

McBeth, who has 475 points, holds a two-point edge over Wysocki. Nikko Locastro (453) and Schusterick (451.5) are third and fourth, respectively. Dave Feldberg (423.5) rounds out the top-five.

Women’s tournament

The women’s side also is close, with Paige Pierce (476) holding a two-point lead over Catrina Allen. Sarah Hokom is third with 464 points, followed by Des Reading (442.5) and Val Jenkins (370.5).

Allen is the reigning Vibram Open champion, which could prove to help her in her quest for the National Tour title.

Weekend at a glance

The weather should be pretty solid for the weekend.

According the the National Weather Service, there’s a 30 percent chance of thunderstorms, mainly after 1 p.m., Thursday. Other than that, it should be partly sunny with a high near 82. Friday calls for a slight chance of thunderstorms before 9 a.m., then a slight chance of showers until about 11 a.m. It’ll be mostly sunny with the high hovering around 78.

However, as a seasoned veteran of following New England weather, Dodge said he could see the weather turn.

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“I will say in New England, if you watch weather consistently, it tends to move up,” Dodge said. “I know that last week, when I checked the weather, next Wednesday we were supposed to have rain. Then that moved up to Tuesday, and yesterday it moved up to Monday.

“I’ve just got a little hunch that Sunday is going to be some rainy, slogging golf that the champions are going to have to earn their keep in.”

Watch it

The Vibram Open will be broadcast on DiscGolfPlanet.TV.

On the web:

P.J. Harmer is the founder and executive editor for Rattling Chains, and Steve Hill is the associate editor. E-mail them at pj@rattlingchains.com and steve@rattlingchains.com.

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook!

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