First Flight presented by Prodiscus Recap - BDGA Stop 1 of 14
, by Adam Mackrory, 9 min reading time
, by Adam Mackrory, 9 min reading time
The English disc golf tour has started. We found ourselves in Reading, Berkshire for the 1st stop of the 2023 BDGA Tour.
First Flight presented by Prodiscus marked the opening tournament being played at the wonderful Fairways Family Golf Centre.
The venue itself hosts a 9-hole footgolf course, a 9-hole golf course and an 18-hole disc golf course. Today, players are playing a modified championship layout designed by Matt Parslow, Pepe Espinosa and Connor McHale (some of the UK's top MPO players).
These course modifications added some alternate teepad positions, punishing OB and a couple of island holes to make you think about your game plan. These are some welcome tournament layout changes to a course that would be otherwise quite forgiving.
You can see a fly through filmed by Ace Disc Golf at here.
The tournament took place over the weekend of February 25th and 26th. Two rounds to be played on the Saturday and one final round to be played on the Sunday. The weather was cloudy with a chance of showers and wind gusting at 20mph over the weekend.
This recap will dive into the MPO and FPO divisions in a little detail and we will end the recap summarising all other divisions.
Two players that have been battling for the top spot in FPO for the last two years came up against each other again for the first tournament of the season.
Bella Tait and Rachel Turton are the only two women in the UK over 900 rated and often find themselves in some great competition with each other. This weekend was no exception. At the end of day 1, Bella led the way accumulating a lead of 6 stroke, leaving Turton with a lot to do in the final round.
On the final day, both players saw their best form of the weekend. Bella shot a 3 under and Rachel found it in her to shoot the hot round of the day, 9 under (1,007 rated), to force the playoff between the two ladies.
The playoff only needed one hole to be decided and that hole was going to be the opening hole. Bella didn't throw her best drive, leaving her with a touchy upshot towards a treacherous downhill basket position on this gettable par 4.
Rachel threw it further and straighter landing in the middle of the fairway and earnt herself the opportunity to see what Bell can do on her upshot before needing to think about her 2nd shot.
Bella put her upshot inside circle 2, which made Turton opt for a layup under the basket putting the pressure on Bella to make the C2 putt.
Bella missed the putt to extend the Playoff and Turton tapped in for the win, crowning Rachel Turton the 2023 First Flight Champion.
A well contested MPO division turned up to the opening BDGA Tour event. With a total of 14 players taking to the course it was Olli Simonsen of London Disc Golf Community who shot the hot round on round 1, a 1,018 rated -10 to take the initial lead, and that hot round wasn't to be beaten for the rest of the weekend.
Noah Smithson, James Luton and Daniel Shelton were tied in second place four shots behind the round 1 leader. With a lot of golf to play and the windy conditions, it was still anybody's game.
Round 2 saw some hot rounds from Team Ace Players Noah Smithson and Josh Birmingham putting them into 1st place and 5th place respectfully.
At the end of Day 1, Noah was Tied 1st place with the hot round shooter, Olli Simonsen. They had a 3-shot lead over the chasing Ben Holding & Daniel Shelton.
The final round was a hotly contested affair. Josh Birmingham starting strong and swiftly got himself into the mix, though, like Olli Simonsen, was unable to maintain a championship-winning pace as they both made too many consecutive pars in the middle of their round to apply adequate pressure on the lead.
The final round ended up being a game of cat and mouse with the two new Team Ace players, Ben Holding and Noah Smithson.
After 10 holes, Noah sat at -16 whilst Ben Holding found himself five strokes back on -11. Ben then flourished with a 7-hole birdie streak, one of which was an ace run that couldn't quite hold onto the chains, followed by a putt through the bushes on hole 17 to get his 7th straight birdie. It is safe to say, Ben wasn't giving up the chase.
Going into the final hole. Noah had a two-shot lead and knew par would secure the win. Ben had to go for the birdie, and an aggressive but necessary line taken by his drive on the hole resulted in him going OB. Noah composed himself well and piped a drive down the middle ready for a layup under the basket for the win.
With that exciting finish, the 2023 First Flight Champion is Noah Smithson.
The standard of MA1 really does keep getting better.
There were a lot of players in this division that would have placed very well in MPO and are driving the competition in MA1 to make sure players don't get complacent and continue to get better and better.
Sharkey really is becoming the English MA1 player to beat. He led from start to finish with heavy competition from Florian Koralambe and last round pressure from Samuel Persaud.
A huge congratulations to Team Ace's Michael Sharkey for taking home the MA1 First Flight crown.
The MA2 division saw the dominance from London Disc Golf Communities James Hanley. He took an early lead and the only threat came from a late surge from Andrew Hurden scoring an impressive final round 8-under to come within 1 shot.
A huge congratulations to James Hanley for taking away his first win, I'm sure this won't be his last.
The most subscribed to division in the whole tournament, with twice as many players as any other division, was MA3. There are a couple of stories from this division I'd love to highlight.
First, we come to the sole female player competing in MA3. Catherine Leigh Williams, a player who wanted more than to compete in the smaller female divisions and has decided this season to compete within her rating in the MA divisions. I LOOOOVE to see this, Leigh did insanely well and tied for 4th place (out of a 29 player division) shooting a tournament average of 24 points above her rating!! Keep an eye on Leigh this season, I'm rooting for her to take home a win.
The final story before we celebrate the winner of MA3 is a story of keeping your head during a tournament. It's so easy to get on a downer from a bad performance, kick your bag, and throw a tantrum. However, it is vitally important to remember you are on a card made up of many players and that you play this sport with others to enjoy your spare time on the weekend! One man who still managed to bring the vibes is Ciaran Buckley and it couldn't have brought a bigger smile to my face when he told me about it!!! Keep bringing those amazing vibes no matter the performance Ciaran (Just putting it out there, Ciaran tied for 4th, which for me is a great performance, you've got it at the next tournament pal).
And now we come to the winner of MA3. Winning his first ever tournament, representing the Southampton University Disc Golf Club, it's Tim Smith. He was only one shot behind after Round 1, and from early in the 2nd, he held the lead throughout. He just had to par out for the win, he knew what he had to do and he executed.
Huge congratulations Tim.
A very well decorated player that dominates both MA1 and MA40 took home a very well deserved MA40 win this weekend. It wasn't without competition, and on the final day, friend of Ace, James Bond, shot a 6 under to compete for the win. Adam Keen replied with his own 6 under to keep the tournament very much in his hands.
Congratulations on another win Adam.
Last but not least, the MA50 division. Local legend and Chairman of the Berkshire Disc Golf Club, Erkko Autio, lead the division from start to finish. With a close push from James Smith that made for a particularly tight final stretch, Erkko managed to finish 1 stroke ahead of the chasing pack to take home the MA50 win.
This brings us to a close for the first BDGA Tour Stop of 2023.
Thank you to the TD's (Matt Parslow, Pepe Espinosa and Connor McHale) for putting on an amazing tournament and a special thank you to Helen from Fairways Family Golf Centre for hosting all 90 players and providing us with hot food and beverages.
With 13 more stops on the calendar, this season will no doubt provide all of the excitement right up until The BDGA Championships in September.
The next stop is The Croydon Mistral on 1st and 2nd of April.
:+: Bubba & Stan