Rico drives, putts for Tahoe dough | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Rico drives, putts for Tahoe dough

Steve Rico began playing disc golf with his dad and older brother when he was 8 years old. Now he’s 20, and he’s really good.

In fact, he was the best last weekend at the Tahoe Daily Tribune 1999 Disc Golf Tournament, shooting a ridiculously low 27-under par at the 90-basket event at Bijou Community Park. He won $720 for taking the 40-man open class.

Rico’s win was a testament to the Lissaman brothers, who have been working with him for 10 years. Known as two of the top disc golfers in the world, Geoff and Johnny of Grass Valley, obviously are good instructors, too.

Geoff Lissaman held a one-stroke lead after Saturday’s two rounds, but Rico’s long drives and accurate putting brought him the lead in the third round. He then held off a red-hot Harold Hampton of Orangevalle during the final round of nine to post a two-stroke win in his first Tahoe appearance.

“Stevie was on fire,” Lissaman said. “I played pretty good, and I usually win when I play pretty good.”

Bijou has 68 basket placements – five installed a couple of days before the tourney. Each round the course became progressively longer, which gave Rico an edge.

Rico’s first-round score of of 6-under didn’t even put him in the lead group for the second round. Seven of the top eight points winners in 1998 from California competed, easily making it the toughest field in the tourney’s five-year history. The only one from the top eight absent was Rico’s big brother, Bamba.

Rico was frustrated early in the second round. A bogey put him at 1-over after five holes. Then he went on the greatest streak the course has seen, posting 14 birdies on the next 22 holes.

“The kid has such a quick arm,” said tournament director Craig Getty. “He’s a true athlete. He has all the talent to be the world champion.”

Lissaman’s one-stroke lead disappeared in the third round.

“I was lucky,” Rico said. “I was getting good breaks out of the trees, and my putting has gotten so good.”

Rico nearly faltered late in the third round. He missed a putt on Basket 24 for his only bogey of the round. Then on No. 26 his first two shots hit wood, leaving him with a 110-foot putt around some trees.

A trailing foursome cognizant of the lead group waited for Rico’s shot, as did about a dozen nearby volleyball players. Several were also gathered at tournament central in a gazebo that had a view of the basket. Even the squirrels and birds quieted down. With all watching, Rico’s attempt arched around a couple of trees. The group of volleyball players and many of the players broke into cheers when the shot softly landed in the chains. Others observed in silent awe.

Rico led Lissaman by three strokes and Hampton by five entering the final round, which were a combination of the best holes on the backside of the course.

Hampton’s four birdies kept it close, but Rico held him off with strong drives and accurate putts. Rico beat Hampton by two strokes, and Lissaman by seven.

“They pressured my the whole way and they forced me to make some putts,” said Rico, who now has 13 wins as a pro.

For placing second, Hampton made $450.

Lissaman, winner of 70 tourneys, including two at Tahoe, earned $300.

“Stevie’s superior distance helped,” Lissaman said. “On those 500-foot holes, he was putting on his second shot.”

The tournament, which included an amateur event two weeks earlier, was a tremendous success, Getty said. The pro field was 72, up from 44 last year. The amateur tourney was filled with 136.

The total purse, prize list and players’ packages totaled $12,435. The pros received $5,328 in cash awards.

Those figures are on a par with the national circuit Super Tour events.

“Next year we will be a Super Tour event,” Getty said.

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