I haven’t thought about disc sports since I graduated college. I’ve played disc golf twice, and both times I lost several of my partner’s discs. It just isn’t the sport for me. But, by George, this clip of James Conrad sinking a birdie to force a playoff gets me hyped to get back out there and try again.
Real quick, a little background on this incredible feat: Conrad has been playing professionally as a member of the Pro Disc Golf Association since 2006. His first tournament win came in 2008 at the Sontag Open, a C-tier pro-am in Rocky Mount, Virginia. Prior to the Disco Golf World Championships on Saturday, Conrad hadn’t won a single disc golf major. He’d finished top-3 just once, and top-10 only two other times. This time, Conrad was on pace to once again miss out on the top spot.
Conrad’s adversary, Paul McBeth — a 5-time world champion, looking to win his sixth. McBeth had a one-stroke lead heading into the tournament’s final hole, and Conrad’s back was against the wall. McBeth’s first throw made it over the water hazard, through the trees on the other side, and just barely stayed in bounds. It was a huge relief for McBeth, who proceeded to pump his fist in excitement. Conrad’s first shot was not quite as nice. Conrad hit a tree and the disc bounced back toward the starting point, lying on the grass without a clear shot at the hole. It was such a tough shot that even the announcers for the World Championship said that Conrad’s chances of winning were now “in the impossible range.”
“This would be the shot of the century.”
“It’s going to take a Herculean shot.”
“It’s going to take a miracle.”
Those were all statements made by the broadcasting pair ahead of Conrad’s final shot. Just keep that in mind. Conrad used his next shot to set himself up, 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 safe. He wasn’t forcing anything, and used his second shot to set up a potential 4-spot and at worst tie Conrad on that hole, and since McBeth had a one-stroke lead heading into the final hole, McBeth would win first prize.
But then Conrad set up his third shot. He pulled out his putter disc (yes, that’s a thing; it gives you more control, but doesn’t fly as far), found his line, and took a deep breath. At 247 feet from the hole, all he had left was one shot and a dream.
Incredible. In the immediate aftermath of that shot, Conrad got to live out a real-life Happy Gilmore moment where everybody watching either stood frozen in awe, jumped with him in excitement, or followed him to the hole to make sure what they just witnessed was real.
After all the excitement settled down, McBeth and Conrad were tied at -39. They had to settle this in a playoff. Luckily for Conrad, the first playoff hole was one he was all too familiar with — the 16th of the official Ogden, Utah, course. In fact, Conrad notched a hole-in-one on that exact hole earlier in the tournament.
While this time it wasn’t a hole-in-one, Conrad’s shot set him up nicely. McBeth got unlucky, as his disc bounced out of bounds. McBeth missed his next shot as well, and had to settle for a 4. Conrad sank his second shot, and the tournament was his.
I tell you what, disc golf might be the sport of the future. The prize purse for that tournament was over $173,000. Conrad walked away with $16,500. In total, across 15 tournaments in 2021, Conrad has earned $28,778. While that may not sound like much compared to other professional sports, disc golf is rapidly growing. You saw how many fans were watching that final hole. You saw how crazy the crowd went. People get excited for that stuff, and Conrad’s shot is only going to grow interest in the sport. I wouldn’t be surprised if 5-10 years from now, we start seeing Majors for the PDGA broadcast on 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 anytime soon, unlikely.