While families all across America joined together to light sparklers and shoot off Roman candles to celebrate Independence Day, the real fireworks display this past weekend was taking place in Clearwater, Minnesota. Even as a last minute substitute for the Portland Open, The Preserve Championship provided an instant classic for disc golf fans everywhere. I want to dive in to why I think the Preserve Championship is a testament to what the Disc Golf Pro Tour is capable of becoming and why the action from Minnesota is one of the best events I have watched.
The course. The Airborn Preserve is simply a stunning piece of property. Acres and acres of sprawling disc golf paradise. Besides the property's sheer beauty, the course design was perfect. Cale Leiviska's vision when putting together the Black Bear layout used for all three rounds was nothing short of genius. Every hole demanded focus and execution from tee to green. Not to mention the par fours and fives that seemed to beg for huge drives that electrified the gallery on hand. Disc golf is primed to explode in terms of viewership, and nothing turns heads quite like the game's top arms unleashing booming distance drives. Leiviska and Airborn delivered the best course layout fans could ask for, and I can only hope that The Preserve will become a yearly venue for Disc Golf Pro Tour action.
The coverage. I was openly skeptical about the Disc Golf Network as soon as it was announced. I personally didn't view past live disc golf coverage as worth paying to see. However, the Disc Golf Network's display from The Preserve Championship completely changed my mind. From commentary to camerawork, it looked and felt like a live broadcast one could catch on ESPN. Jamie Thomas and Nate Doss sounded like they had been sharing the booth for years. Jamie seemed to know exactly where to take the conversation to keep viewers engaged or even on the edge of their seats. Meanwhile Doss opened a door into the minds on the course as he talked through situations and shot selection. I also loved the switching of cameras to catch actions from cards all over the course; especially coming down the stretch during the final round. Could live coverage improve? Yes, and it will! But, as the Disc Golf Network's 10,000 subscribers can attest, The Preserve Championship coverage was excellent and certainly worth the monthly subscription.
The conclusion. When I said instant classic earlier, I meant it! Think back through the hours of Jomez or Central Coast footage you have watched and count how many times you've felt like you're watching game seven of the World Series. Every drive, approach, and putt during the final round seemed do or die. I remember saying as the lead card holed out on 17 that it would take an eagle on 18 to seal the deal or at least force a playoff. When Nikko Locastro stepped up to his 20-footer for the win, I can only imagine the pressure and what was running through his head. Despite being former world number one, Locastro has struggled to put together a complete tournament at the elite level of play he often displays. His post round interview said it all: he lives to compete and win at the highest level. With his win, Nikko Locastro told the whole disc golf world that he is still here and is more than capable of being in the hunt week-in and week-out.
If The Preserve Championship is any indicator of the future of the Disc Golf Pro Tour, it is a bright one! In my opinion, last weekend was the greatest three days of golf the Disc Golf Pro Tour has seen. A beautiful course, top-tier coverage, and electrifying action from start to finish!