Oct 8, 2011

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Key Locks Up the 2011 USDGC

Key Locks Up the 2011 USDGC

John Key’s nine and a half hour ride back home to Florida will be a lot more enjoyable after becoming the 2011 USDGC Performance Edition Champion on Saturday.

Trailing to 918-rated Bill Charron of Pennsylvania by four strokes at the start of the final round, the 880-rated Key caught up to Charron with his hole 7 park job. Then, he steadily increased his lead throughout the rest of the round.
With a no-nonsense strategy that digested the course in bite-sized pieces, Key played his game – leaving the others to make the mistakes.

Along with winning the tournament, Key was the Daily Performance Winner for the second time this week with his 79 that was 10 strokes below his projected. A check will be donated to Educational Disc Golf Experience in his name.

Though Key said he wished he could have beat his 76 from Thursday, he was still quite pleased with how the tournament ended.

“The whole week has been fun. It’s been a great experience,” said Key, who lives in Ft. Walton Beach.

Charron, however, just couldn’t find the stroke he had from the prior two rounds when he beat his projected by a total of 12. He reduced Key’s late round lead to 3 after hole 11, but that was as close as he could come. Saturday he shot nine over his projected and barely hung onto second place after 19-year-old Spencer Wilken of Illinois came from the third card to tie him.

During the awards ceremony the 965-rated Wilken said he felt good about his consistency and for steering clear of the yellow rope.

“Just played my game and everything came out in the end,” said Wilken.

Key, Charron, and Wilken were the only disc golfers out of 123 to beat their projected for the entire Championship.

Others finishing well included: 967-rated Lavone Wolfe of Alabama (E), 1046-rated Dave Feldberg of Oregon (E), 984-rated Mike Robinson of Iowa (+1), 993-rated John Ollis of Oregon (+1), and 1003-rated Juho Rantalaiho of Finland (+1).

(Performance Edition uses highest rating.)

An OB on hole 3 sunk Key to five behind Charron early on, but then he started pulling his way back and by hole 6 he’d decreased the lead to three. He then took the lead by one after hole 8.

Midway through the round, with fellow lead card members 1002-rated Dana Vicich of Illinois and 955-rated Patrick May of Georgia losing their projection battle – and with no one from the earlier cards making a huge move – it seemed that it would be a two-man race between Key and Charron.

Charron, however, slipped up during holes 8 through 10, losing 4 strokes to his projection and then he lost four more on hole 12 after shooting a 9.

Though he got plenty of practice rounds before the Championship, there was one thing he didn’t plan for.
“I didn’t anticipate how much pressure there would be for the final round,” said Charron, adding that he should’ve handled his OB’s better.

Meanwhile, Key was even with his projection through those same holes, and that included shooting a two on the 554-foot hole 10.

By hole 11, Key had increased his lead to five. Then it rose to 9 after hole 13. And, when it was time for the final hole, Key was comfortably leading by 10. The last six holes were all Key as he beat his projected by a total of six strokes.

“John did a great job playing a clean round and that really kept the pressure on me,” said Charron.

Despite his round four struggles, Charron was still smiling afterwards.

“This tournament was a once and a lifetime experience,” said Charron, adding that Winthrop Gold was one of the most “immaculate” courses he’s ever seen.

Following his last putt, the reserved Key was a little overwhelmed from all of the attention he was receiving, especially from the disc golf media. When asked how he felt he replied:

“I’m just glad it’s all over and I don’t have to deal with yellow rope at all,” he said chuckling.

After beating his projected by 13 on Thursday, some questioned Key’s rating and the two tournaments in two years he’s played to establish it. He said the reason he doesn’t play more is simply because there aren’t many PDGA tourneys offered where he lives. Over there, the Southern National tournament series fill in the gaps, however PDGA ratings are not associated with those tournaments.

Though spectators were obviously down from previous years, galleries still formed. Paul Nordman of Indian Trail, N.C. brought his grandsons to see the action on Saturday.

“Once I learned there was a disc golf tournament I wanted to come,” said 11-year-old Tyler Nordman, who is looking forward to his first disc golf tournament.

3-time winner Barry Schultz shot 14 over his projected for the Championship and ended up tied for 23rd. Taking in the closing ceremonies, Schultz felt the Performance Edition was a big success.

“The energy level from these players was like none I’ve seen,” said Schultz, adding they kept their smiles even after bad shots.

The only real negative he could think of were the often marathon-like rounds, “and that’s being really nit-picky,” he said.

Both Charron and Key said it was awesome to play with the pros. Feldberg, who played with both of them on Friday, met his projected score fore the entire tournament – something quite special considering he was tasked to shoot a 62 every round.
He said he values the tournament, but he’d also like to see the ratings tweaked for the higher rated players.

Watching these pros play, many players including Key commented how much they respected the amount of work that goes into their game.

Playing on the second card with Feldberg on Saturday, 900-rated Kevin Tritten of North Carolina was clearly having the time of his life. Though nerves nearly made him lose his lunch on hole 1, he wanted more USDGC.

“This is just absolutely amazing. It just sucks that it has to end,” said Tritten.

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