Local disc golfers regularly refer to the course at Brazos Park East as “The Beast.” This weekend, dozens of the best players in the world will be looking to tame this beast and line their pockets with prize money.
The Waco Annual Charity Open returns this weekend, Friday through Sunday at Brazos Park East. Although the tournament dates back almost 20 years, this is the sixth year in a row that it has stopped on the Disc Golf Pro Tour (DGPT).
The tour opened its 2022 season last weekend in Las Vegas, and Waco marks the second leg. After a long winter, it’s safe to say that the pros are eager to get back and try to make some money with chain-tickling putts.
“That’s pretty cool. We start the season in Vegas and then we come to Waco,” said Seth Fendley, director of operations for DGPT. “It’s a bit harsh, you know? So what we’re seeing is some players just choosing to start in Waco. So we see that kind of excitement is just as big in Waco as it is in Vegas, where we start. To a certain extent, it’s like a second start.
People also read…
The Brazos Park East course was created in 2003 by local designer Joey Harrell and is usually ranked on any list of the top 10 courses in Texas. That’s part of the appeal of coming to Waco, Fendley said.
“One of the things we’ve seen is that the sport has progressed. Just as golf courses have gotten longer and more complex, so has disc golf,” Fendley said. “Even through all of these complexities and additions, Waco’s journey still holds up. … In this year’s planning process, we had a unique instance where no changes were made to the course. … We say, ‘You know what? The course is going exactly as we want it to. So that’s one of the big draws.
Of course, it’s always possible that some of these pros will make the Beast look like a kitten. These guys are the best players in the world for a reason. In 2019, five-time world champion Paul McBeth staged one of the most impressive rounds in sports history when he shot under-18s in the second round in Waco. He had 18 birdies, a par and an eagle with no out-of-bounds shots on a course known for its many tree-lined tunnels. Unsurprisingly, McBeth won the Waco Annual Charity Open (WACO) that year.
Yet despite McBeth’s dominance in 2019, WACO earned a reputation for open competition and final-round flourishes.
“(McBeth) is a mainstay on the tour, one of the best pros in the world, so the fact that he’s able to go out and win maybe isn’t that overwhelming,” Fendley said. “Then you turn around in 2020, you’ve got the Colten Montgomery win and that’s his first win on the circuit, then last year you had the Nikko Locastro win and that was his second win on the circuit. circuit…. Same on the women’s side. We’ve seen a whole host of different winners on the women’s side, and it’s creating a lot of excitement to have that kind of parity with the course.
A full field of top pros signed up for this year’s tournament, including former champions like McBeth, Montgomery and Locastro and two-time champion Jeremy Koling, plus other successful pros like Eagle McMahon and Ricky Wysocki . On the women’s side, Texan and five-time world champion Paige Pierce will be aiming for her third WACO title against a formidable field that includes former champions Catrina Allen, Evelina Salonen and Kona Panis. The latter is the defending tournament champion and signed the biggest sponsorship deal for a player in sports history in January when she signed a four-year, $500,000 contract with Dynamic Discs.
Panis, who has more than 58,000 Instagram followers, is expected to generate big galleries in Waco, along with Pierce, McBeth and pros like Brodie Smith and Simon Lizotte, who have big followings on YouTube. Lizotte is from Germany and a former world record holder for the longest throw in disc golf, while Smith is a former U.S. Ultimate Disc League player who joined the professional disc golf tour in 2020, with Waco as the first event. He is well known for his special effects videos and for his appearance on the CBS show “The Amazing Race”.
Fendley said tickets for Saturday’s second round and Sunday’s final round are sold out, but tickets are still available for Friday’s first round.
“It’s like going out and attending any other professional event,” he said. “The excitement is there, the community is really supporting it, both players and non-players alike. I think the most important thing is if you’re interested, be prepared to arrive early to spectate on Friday, or just watch online.”