James Conrad lands biggest shot in disc golf history
I haven’t thought about record sports since I graduated from college. I have played disc golf twice and each time I have lost several discs from my partner. It’s just not sport for me. But, by George, that clip of James Conrad birdieing to force the playoffs makes me want to come back and try again.
Very quickly, a little feedback on this incredible feat: Conrad was play professionally as a member of the Pro Disc Golf Association since 2006. His first tournament victory came in 2008 at the Sontag Open, a C-level pro-am in Rocky Mount, Virginia. Before the world disco golf championships on Saturday, Conrad had not won a single major in disc golf. He had finished in the top 3 once and in the top 10 only two other times. This time, Conrad was on course to miss out on first place once again.
Conrad’s opponent, five-time world champion Paul McBeth, is looking to win his sixth. McBeth had a one-stroke lead before the last hole of the tournament, and Conrad’s back was against the wall. McBeth’s first pitch crossed the water hazard, through the trees on the other side, and barely stayed within bounds. It was a huge relief for McBeth, who began to pump his fist in excitement. Conrad’s first shot was not so good. Conrad hit a tree and the disc bounced back to the starting point, lying on the grass without a clear shot towards the hole. It was such a difficult move that even world championship announcers said Conrad’s chances of winning were now “in the impossible range”.
“It would be the coup of the century.”
“It’s going to take a Herculean blow.”
“It’s going to take a miracle.
These are all statements made by the broadcast pair ahead of Conrad’s final blow. Keep this in mind. Conrad used his next stroke to get into place, just a quick drop onto the grass in front of him, to give himself a better angle at the hole. McBeth – foolishly thinking he was in the clear – was playing very cautiously. He wasn’t forcing anything and used his second shot to set up a 4-spot potential and at worst tie Conrad on that hole, and since McBeth had a one-stroke lead before the last hole, McBeth would win first prize.
But then Conrad prepared his third move. He pulled out his putter disc (yes that’s one thing, it gives you more control, but doesn’t fly that far), found his line, and took a deep breath. 247 feet from the hole, he had only one shot and one dream left.
Unbelievable. Immediately after this hit, Conrad was able to live a real life Happy Gilmore moment when everyone who was looking at him would freeze in awe, jump with him in excitement or follow him to the hole to make sure what they had just seen was real.
After all the excitement died down, McBeth and Conrad were tied at -39. They had to settle this in the playoffs. Luckily for Conrad, the opening hole of the playoffs was one he knew all too well – the 16th on the official course in Ogden, Utah. In fact, Conrad landed a hole-in-one on that exact hole earlier in the tournament.
Although this time it wasn’t a hole-in-one, Conrad’s shot set him up well. McBeth was unlucky as his record bounced out of bounds. McBeth also missed his next shot and had to settle for a 4. Conrad sank his second shot, and the tournament was his.
I’m telling you what, disc golf could be the sport of the future. The purse for this tournament was over $ 173,000. Conrad walked away with $ 16,500. In total, out of 15 tournaments in 2021, Conrad won $ 28,778. While this may not seem like much compared to other professional sports, disc golf is growing rapidly. You saw how many fans were watching that last hole. You saw how crazy the crowd got. People are excited about this stuff, and Conrad’s shooting will only increase interest in the sport. I wouldn’t be surprised if in 5-10 years we start to see PDGA Majors showing on the big networks. If the prize pool is big enough and the sport generates great moments, people will watch. That being said, will we see another moment like Conrad’s soon, unlikely.