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Disc golfer uses length to win pro title

Michael Traum

Man can that guy throw it a long way.

Shawn Sinclair, combining drives that at times sailed more than 500 feet with accurate approaches and consistent putts, won the Mulligan’s Tahoe Challenge professional disc golf tournament open division on Sunday at Bijou Community Park. The 28-year-old resident of San Rafael, Calif., edged Geoff Lissaman, 37, of Grass Valley, Calif., by three strokes, 249-252, to take home the first-place money of $450.

“Distance helps a lot on a course like this,” said Sinclair after winning his second PDGA event in three weeks. “I’ve played sports all of my life and was a pitcher in college (Sonoma State). I think I just understand the timing of a throw and movement, keeping your hips back and letting your arm come through and across you body.



“But that’s definitely the most pressure I’ve felt in any tournament.”

On easily the nicest day at Lake Tahoe so far this season, the heat was applied by Lissaman, who has finished second twice in the world championships and is considered one of the sport’s most precise players.



The pair, playing a mix-match group of holes, began the final nine just two strokes apart, with pro Matt Wachowiak three back. The three each racked up pars on the first three holes until Wachowiak bogeyed No. 16, making it a two-man race to the finish between Sinclair and Lissaman.

After a pair of birdies on the short hyzer (by pro standards) No. 17, Lissaman drew first blood. Sinclair clinked a tree off the No. 18 tee while Lissaman’s drive split the middle. Sinclair recovered but missed an 18-footer to bogey while Lissaman’s par cut the advantage to one stroke with three to play.

“Rather than thinking about playing well, I try not to make mistakes. If you’re a good player and play smart, the other players have to play great to beat you,” Lissaman said.

But Lissaman, who has made just 25 bogeys in 11 competitive tournaments this year and has earned four firsts, five seconds, one third and one fourth, quickly gave the advantage back to Sinclair. His drive on No. 24 was short and his second and third shots hit trees. He then missed a putt inside 25 feet to card a double bogey. Sinclair, who also missed a short par putt, bogeyed to regain a two-shot lead.

“(Lissaman) is probably the best putter in the world. Normally he never misses a putt inside 30 feet,” Sinclair said.

Added Lissaman, “I threw a bad drive and my approach was terrible. That’s my first double bogey all year. It is uncharacteristic for me.”

After a pair of pars on No. 25, Sinclair sealed the win as his drive flirted with the dozens of trees lining No. 26 before landing perfectly and really long, about 50 feet from the pin. It was Sinclair’s first-ever win over Lissaman, who bogeyed the final hole.

“It’s great to see young guys like Shawn in the sport. His length really helps. But he plays smart, too. He’s an all-around great player and getting better,” Lissaman said.

Sinclair said he tried to focus on the consistent part of his game to earn his second PDGA victory after just two years as a pro.

“I just kept telling myself to play smart and avoid bogeys. If you go for goofy shots or run at all the pins, you’ll be in trouble,” Sinclair said. “But there’s nowhere on this course you can’t go for a putt. Every single pin placement is perfect. It’s definitely a championship course and is talked about everywhere.”

The course as a whole was well-received, according to tournament organizer and pro Craig Getty, who also cashed for the first time in a pro event, finishing sixth to earn $80.

“The turnout was great. We had top players from the West Coast and things went very smooth,” Getty said. “Even the best players had a tough time, which is how we wanted it.”

Lissaman agreed.

“I’ve played about 150 courses and Tahoe is definitely in my top 10. The Tahoe organization, especially in the last two years, has done phenomenal work to make this a championship-level course. This is why disc golfers play, to be in an environment like this. I just know this place is going to be huge.”

In other tournament action, Jim Oates edged Johnny Lissaman (Geoff’s twin brother), 239-247, to win the men’s masters division. Oates took home $460. Dave Pollack of Reno was third and Tim Parsons of South Lake Tahoe, playing in his first pro tournament but still retaining his amateur status, finished an impressive 10th. More than 20 players competed in each age division.

In the women’s open division, world-caliber Anni Kremel won by 16 stokes to earn $200.

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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