Springtime in Scotland

The second installment of this season’s EuroTour takes us to the East Lothian region of Scotland for the Bluebell Woods Open for some lovely springtime disc golf, with PDGA Europe’s vice-president Seamus Scanlon as tournament director.

For the name of this event to truly do justice, the event would need to be held in the middle of May, when the woods are lilterally covered in little bluebells, making for an exeptional view all across the forest floor.
But maybe it’s for the better the event is not held at that time, since no one would want to disturb that scenery with odd-coloured discs.

Anyway, for this weekend, the weather forecasts kept getting better. From cold and rainy a week prior to the event, as each day progressed, the rain moved away from the course location.
In the end, the tournament was played during an overcast but dry Saturday, and a pleasantly sunny Sunday with mild temperatures.

The players field was divided up about half-way with British players and the other half of foreigners hailing from 12 countries. And what seems to have become a tradition, Iceland had a large number of players competing at the event.

The par 61 course has a beautiful mix of open holes where you need to execute to score, and tight, wooded tunnel shots that can grant either ooh’s and aah’s when trees seem to not exist as discs move past them, or disgruntled noises when the first tree in sight stops that same disc. Elevation comes into play at about half of the holes, and one very long and open hole had water in play (and the occasional swan and/or wakeboarder).

Round 1 feature card; Junior-aged players only – photo: Seamus Scanlon

As you will know by now, the MPO and FPO divisions are officially no longer part of the EuroTour, but they still attract a strong playersfield both locally as internationally. The top 5 best-rated male players played in MPO, and for FPO, a similar comarison applied.
Beforehand, people talked about Tony Ferro (CH), and the two 15 year-olds Blær Örn Ásgeirsson (IS) and Chris O’Brien (GB) – both of whom played the final round on the lead card at last year’s event, with Blær winning – to possibly walk away with the vistory.
Apart from possibly himself, none would have thought of Sweden’s Max Regitnig as a likely candidate to win. Tony had been in the lead from the start, but had to allow Max to tie with him. Tony’s solid third round -5 just wasn’t enough to secure the win; Max had answered Tony’s score with a scorching 1016-rated -9. Max came out victoriously, when he beat Tony in a playoff that was over after just one hole.
In FPO, favourite Sini Lindholm (FI) seemed to have a good chance to win at the end of day 1 with a -2. Maris Perendi (EE) at +1 was the only one who could somewhat follow her pace. In the 3rd round, the cards got all shuffled, when Maris carded a +2, and everyone else scored 7 shots (or more) worse. Sue Underwood (GB) snatched the 3rd place spot 1 stroke ahead of Iben Blaabjerg (DK), and 2 ahead of tied Trine Haugen (NO), and Lauren Kirsch (US).

In MP40, it promised to be a tight battle between Jeremy Yager (CH) and Árni Sigurjónsson (IS) for the win, and an even tighter battle for 3rd place between Freddy Haugen (NO), and PDGA Europe’s Laura Nagtegaal (NL). And so it woud be.
During the first and second round, Jeremy and Árni were already playing their own battle, staying within 1 shot of each other all the time. It wasn’t until the start of the 3rd round, what things turned around a bit, when Jeremy was at -3 for 3, as was his game plan; to take a quick lead, and then consolidate. And in the mean time Árni had trouble finding pars. During the second half of the round things took a wild turn, when Jeremy started finding early trees on his path several times, and Árni keeping his cool. But in fact, by that time, the damage had already been done. Jeremy took the victory with a -3 for the tournament, and leaving Árni in second at +2. The big difference was made in round three with Jeremy managing to keep his head together more; 5 birdies, 4 bogeys and one triple bogey, where Árni strung together 12 pars and 6 bogeys.
Freddy and Laura being only 3 ratings points apart at large distance from all other players, had a fairly well-defined battle; see who remains cool enough on the many wooded holes to bring home the third place. In the first round, Laura, struggling with her slow push-putts being easy victims to the baskets, had no answer whatsoever to Freddy’s game, who had even managed to score 3 excellent so-called field aces. But the 5 stroke difference was turned around completely in round 2 leaving Freddy trailing by 1 stroke. During round 3, both were constantly one or two shots apart, but Laura held on to her advantage and ultimately beat Freddy to take home 3rd place. Freddy made more birdies (7 against 5), but also had 6 double+ bogeys for the tournament, where Laura only carded one.

Unfortunately FP40 wasn’t contended, due to Sue Underwood being the only one signing up, and her changing to FPO a few days prior to the event.

MP50 players waiting to tee – Hole #17 – photo: Seamus Scanlon

In MP50, veteran, EuroTour winner, and ambassador Derek Robins (GB) was expected to take home the win, but it wasn’t all as easy as it was made out to be. Especially Monke Hägglund (SE) made sure Derek had to continue pushing the limits of his game. Despite these two players having a 25 point ratings gap between the two of them, Derek had his hands full on dealing with Monke. In the end, it was two strokes only that kept them apart; both of them actually playing under par for the tournament; Derek at -5, and Monke at -3.
The fight for 3rd place saw a lot more contenders; from equally many countries: and Tjoppe Söderblom (SE), Ivan Bromage (GB), Jürgen Hengstler (DE), and Haukur Arnar Árnason (IS). They all stayed within earshot of each other, although a few players made big moves during the tournament. Tjoppe started with a -1, but added a +9 and a +1 to his tally. Ivan played his first two rounds exactly on par, but then carded a +5 in the third round. Jürgen bounced up and down with +6, -3, and +5, and Haukur kept it to a +5, -1, +2. In the end, Ivan took home third place, only one stroke ahead of Haukur. After two rounds, Ivan looked like he was going to walk away with it, but his third round’s +5 almost cost him the second place.

In MP60, two players who are also family members, signed up, but Guy Luard (GB) volunteered his place to Jamie Chauvet (GB), a junior member of the same family, so the competition in this division was over before it started. Looking at round three though; where Guy did play by permission of the Tournament Director after a DNF in the MPO division, he actually played pretty much the same round as Trant Luard (CH), it would have probably been a very exciting battle all through the tournament.

Jamie Chauvet, 14, one of the two players in MJ18, played against Cole Hamilton (GB), 12. Originally, this division was going to be a threesome, but Noah Luard (CH), 15, yet another family member, moved to MA1. For both remaining players, this course may have been a bit too challenging, looking that their individual hole scores. Jamie, who scored 2 pars and lots of single bogeys in the two rounds they played together. Cole reached par significantly more times; 13, but he also scored may double bogeys, before he DNF’ed in round 3.

MA1 had a really exciting and strong players field, with its top three rated players starting the event within 4 ratings points; Jorn Bakker (NL, 934), Rene Treier (EE, 933), and Dean Schaub (NL, 930).
Rene started off on fire, with a -4 in the first round; only 3 players in the tournament, all in MPO, had an even better start. Yours truly actually played the first round with Rene; so many forehand and sidearm drives in one round; and every time with such precision and effortlessness. Best example was maybe his first shot in the tournament; on hole 16, a long straight uphill tunnel shot; he unleashed a forehand roller that landed in the circle.

Hole #16 – photo: Olafur Haraldsson

A whole card’s worth of players managed to card a par for round 1, and after that, the scores quickly tapered off from +1 to +15.
In round two, Rene had a good round at -1, but Charlie O’Brien (GB) walked off with the round’s hot score of 56, and bumped into second place, only one stroke off Rene. Newcomer Noah Luard, with a -2, found himself back in third position at 4 strokes off second place. Hlynur Fridriksson (IS) and Jonathan Spenceley (CA) completed the lead card breathing down Noah’s neck. In the third round, a lot happened, but probably the strongest display was Rene’s; and that was despite a quad bogey on the trying hole #3, a really long hourglass shaped narrow tunnel with OB all along the right hand side outside the tree wall, and a sloped and tree-infested left hand side of the narrow fairway. All other holes he played either par or better; 6 birdies plus that one quad bogey still found him carding a -2 for the round, and that sealed his win. This was highlighted by both Noah and Charlie not being able to maintain an under par score for the round. Hlynur’s hot score for the round made him edge out Charlie for second spot, and Charlie fell back to third place.

In FA1, the division was largely made up of brand new players; three of which only joined the PDGA in 2018. This division could be anyone’s to win. Would it be one of the established players? Taija Laakso (FI) with ther 724 rating was the best-rated of the players with a rating. To give these players a more enjoyable experience, they played from the red tees (par 58) – as opposed to all other players, who played from blue tees (par 61).
After round one, Taija had a comfortable 4 stroke lead over the rest of the field, and it looked like only Marie-Louise Eriksson (DE) and UK-based Ala Bagnucka (PL) were going to battle it out who would take the other podium spots. In round two though, Ala, who reportedly doesn’t have her own discs yet, playing with borrowed discs, caused a massive shakeup by being the only player to remain close to par; her +6 against +12’s and worse for the others.

Putting – Hole #7 – photo: Seamus Scanlon

This all promised for a very exciting third and final round, with Ala and Taija being only three strokes apart, and Marie-Louise being on Taija’s tail. Marie-Louise had trouble following the pace of the other two, which had her comfortably cruising towards a third place finish. Between Taija and Ala however, the battle was fierce. Very slowly, Taija was chipping away at Ala’s 3 stroke lead, and from the 10th hole onward, the gap was either one stroke in Ala’s advantage, or a tie. They finished tied after three rounds, and after a 1-hole sudden death, where Ala’s drive landed where she had planned, and Taija’s kicking off a tree; it was all but done. Ala maintained her cool made the putt and with Taija failing to, it was Ala who, as a great way to celebrate her birthday, picked up her first career win. A EuroTour win.

This event offered another non-EuroTour division, MA2. Apart from two non-locals, this division was exclusively made up of British players; who felt more at ease in MA2 than in MA1. In the end, it was Canadian Jesse Tomalty who took an early lead, and didn’t let go. At the end of it all, he had gathered an 8 stroke advantage over Myles Jackson (GB), who stayed just ahead of tied Shaun Hilton (GB) and Chris Smith (GB).

Next stop for yours truly is this weekend’s RE/MAX Open, this season’s EuroProTour opener in Vierumäki, Finland.