Disc Golf Tournament Profiles: Great Lakes Open

Jacob Arvidson avatar
Jacob ArvidsonContributor
Jul 26, 2021 • 8 min read
View from a disc golf teeing area high up on a hill overlooking a steep drop at sunrise
View from hole 1 at the famed Toboggan disc golf course. Photo: Disc Golf Pro Tour

The national disc golf spotlight shifted its focus to the Mitten State in late July of 2021, and it illuminated a stage that produced highlight performances and close battles: the much-lauded Toboggan course.

From Friday, July 23 to Sunday, July 25, a majority of the world's best disc golfers competed at the 41st iteration of the Great Lakes Open in Michigan, a Disc Golf Pro Tour (DGPT) event.

The much-loved course had some fresh tweaks (including brand new tee pads) and the tournament was under new leadership, meaning there were surprises in store even for fans very familiar with the event and venue.

Learn more about the 2021 GLO below, where we fill you in on what happened at the 2021 tournament, tournament history, the course, past highlights, how to watch (or re-watch), and more.

What Happened at the 2021 Great Lakes Open?

You can find individual scores on every hole, in-depth stats, and more at the UDisc Live results page for the 2021 Great Lakes Open.

Who won the 2021 Great Lakes Open?

Eagle McMahon with a score of 28-under par

Who shared the podium at the 2021 Great Lakes Open?

2nd  Kyle Klein with a score of 27-under par

3rd  Corey Ellis with a score of 24-under par

What happened at the 2021 Great Lakes Open?

Eagle McMahon won the 2021 Great Lakes Open, defending his 2020 GLO title by winning a tight and tense final-round battle with 19-year old Michigan native Kyle Klein.

After the end of two rounds at the three-round 2021 GLO, McMahon, Klein, and Kevin Jones were all tied for the lead at 17-under par. But with four players no more than two strokes behind the co-leaders, who would take the win was very much up in the air.

Though the competition seemed wide open, two of the players who started the day at the very top of the leaderboard ended up staying there.

In the first half of the final round, McMahon was firmly in control. He stunningly birdied nine of the first 10 holes, making two putts from Circle 2 to do it. That blistering pace left Jones eating dust, but Klein stayed within reach by getting seven birdies of his own through the same stretch.

Notably, it could have easily been eight birdies for Klein, but he had his only Circle 1 miss of the round on hole 10 – a putt that hit chains but was too high and left to stay in. That miss came right after McMahon had made an uphill birdie putt while kneeling under a tree from the edge of C1.

Though there were just two strokes between Klein and McMahon after hole 10, all the momentum appeared to be in McMahon's favor. However, the reigning GLO champion suddenly cooled off and carded two pars and a bogey over the next three holes. Seizing the moment, Klein drove well and put in three putts from the edges of C1 to snag two birdies and a par. In three holes, there had been a three-stroke swing and suddenly Klein was in the lead by a stroke.

Klein's edge disappeared on the very next hole, however. On the par 4 hole 14 that played 700 feet/213 meters up what in the winter is a tobogganing slope, Klein put his drive in a position where he had to take his second shot in high grass with extremely awkward footing and no chance at a run-up. He launched that shot deep into the woods very far from the basket. McMahon, who had blasted a hyzer drive way down the fairway, threw an excellent second shot that gave him an extremely short putt for birdie.

Klein managed to par the hole, but McMahon did birdie, tying the two up with four holes left to play.

On the next two holes, both players carded pars. The most notable shot here was McMahon drilling a putt for par from C2 on the par 4 hole 15 knowing that Klein's own par putt would be from well within C1.

This meant Klein and McMahon were still tied entering hole 17, and what transpired there was almost a replay of hole 10. Both McMahon and Klein had looks at birdie on the par 4, but McMahon was farther out and had an obstructed putt. McMahon went first and canned it, and Klein didn't follow suit. The Michigander's birdie attempt grazed left-side chains but never had a real chance at going in.

With a one-stroke lead, McMahon essentially couldn't be tied if he birdied the very uphill par 3 hole 18, and he had birdied the hole the last five times he'd played it in formal competition. True to form, McMahon put his drive just outside of C1 and sealed the win by making his fifth putt from C2 of the round.

Standout stat:

McMahon made 71% of his putts from C2 in the final round (five of seven). That's higher than the final round C1X putting percentages of three players who finished in the top 20.

Who won the 2021 Great Lakes Open in Open Women?

Kristin Tattar with a score of 20-under par

Who shared the podium at the 2021 Great Lakes Open in Open Women?

2nd Paige Pierce with a score of 19-under par

3rd Catrina Allen with a score of 11-under par

What happened at the 2021 Great Lakes Open in Open Women?

Estonian Kristin Tattar won by one stroke over five-time women's disc golf world champion Paige Pierce, nabbing the first Elite Series win at a DGPT event for a player from outside North America since the COVID-19 pandemic caused a pause in competition in the spring of 2020.

Pierce entered the final round leading the tournament at 13-under par, just ahead of Tattar's second place 11-under total.

It took just one hole for those dynamics to change drastically. Off the tee of the par 3 hole 1, Pierce cut her anhyzer shot too much to the right and ended up deep in the Toboggan's thickly wooded rough. She didn't manage to find her way into C1 until her fourth shot and then missed her putt, leading to Pierce beginning with a triple bogey six to start her round.

These miscues allowed Tattar to go from being behind Pierce by two to one ahead of her just by taking a par on the very first hole.

Pierce tied the game up again by taking a birdie on the par 4 hole 4 when Tattar parred, but she would never have the outright lead again. The two times where it looked like Pierce might overtake Tattar, Tattar banged home putts from C2 to close the door on that opportunity. The first time was on the par 4 hole 6, where Tattar made good on a birdie chance from long range with Pierce parked for birdie.

The second occasion was on hole 17 and was the shot that secured the tournament for Tattar.

Tattar and Pierce were tied when they arrived at the penultimate hole of the tournament. And for both of them, the 755-foot/230-meter par 5 hole 17 presented a chance for eagle. Both players drives' landed in spots that allowed them to attack the green. Tattar threw her second shot first and landed about 50 feet/15 meters short of the basket while Pierce put her own shot well within C1.

Given those results, it seemed extremely likely that Tattar would birdie at best while Pierce would eagle and take a one stroke lead into 18. However, the exact opposite happened.

Tattar stared up at the basket from down one of the Tobbagan's steep slopes and managed to get her eagle bid to find the chains and settle. Pierce putted quickly and missed her eagle attempt left, having to settle for a birdie.

Hole 18 hadn't been birdied in any round by any Open Women competitor, so if Tattar could just par out, the odds were in her favor. She played a forehand to a safe landing zone while Pierce's attempt to reach the green on the very uphill hole came up very short. Pierce's attempt at a throw-in missed, allowing Tattar to lay up and make a short par putt to get her first-ever DGPT Elite Series win.

Standout stat:

Tattar's eagle on hole 17 was the only one in the Open Women division during the 2021 GLO. That fact, the huge putt Tattar made to secure it, and the pressure on her to make the shot in the moment she did made this feat one of the standout moments of the 2021 season in Open Women.

Who Was Most Likely to Win the 2021 Great Lakes Open?

Using the formulas and stats that power the Disc Golf World Rankings, we could calculate what players' recent performance at big events suggested about their chances of beating other top players at the 2021 Great Lakes Open.

Though it's not feasible for us to produce an accurate win probability looking at one player versus every other registered player, we can pit a certain number of top players against each other and see what their chances of emerging victorious within that group are. To produce the stats you'll see in this section, we pitted the top 25 players based on World Ranking in the Open and Open Women's divisions against each other to see what their chances of winning within that group would be.

All of the stats below other than the "2021 Finish" were calculated before any of these players threw a single shot at the 2021 GLO.

Below you'll find the 10 players in each division who the data suggested had the highest probability of winning and what that probability was. You'll also see how those players actually finished and can assess how well our stat-based predictions held up.

Note that these probabilities didn't take into account the type of course being played and how players' specific skill sets matched it.

If you're on mobile, swipe left to see the full table.

Player: Open World Rank Before Event Ended
Winning Probability Before Event Started
2021 Finish
  Player: Open Women World Rank Before Event Ended Winning Probability Before Event Started 2021 Finish
Paul McBeth 1 27% T9th Paige Pierce 2 47% 2nd
Eagle McMahon 2 23% 1st Catrina Allen 3 24% 3rd
Ricky Wysocki 3 21% 8th Kristin Tattar 4 11% 1st
Calvin Heimburg 4 11% T13th Hailey King 6 5.6% T4th
Chris Dickerson 5 6% T13th Missy Gannon 7 3.3% T11th
James Conrad 6 4% T4th Lisa Fajkus 8 2.7% T20th
Kevin Jones 7 3% 7th Sarah Hokom 9 2.3% 6th
Adam Hammes 8 2% T4th Jessica Weese 10 1.8% T14th
Kyle Klein 11 0.9% 2nd Heather Young 11 1.5% T4th
Simon Lizotte 12 0.5% T9th Juliana Korver 15 0.2% T11th

Tournament Background

Purple shirt with rudimentary sketch of a cartoon man playing disc golf in white. Shirt says "Weenie Memorial" as weel as other text.
T-Shirt from the first-ever Weenie Memorial, which turned into the Great Lakes Open.

Everything began on August 29, 1982, in remembrance of a deceased hamster.

Yes, you read that correctly.

The Great Lakes Open – which has existed for 40 years and has become a staple on the national disc golf stage – was initially run in honor of a hamster nicknamed "Weenie" who died from cancer.

The 1st Annual Weenie Memorial was hosted at Starr Park in Royal Oak, Michigan. One year later, a fledgling disc manufacturer named Discraft stepped in to sponsor the event, changed the name, and inspired players from across the Midwest to attend.

In 1986 the tournament moved 15 minutes north to Firefighters Park in Troy, Michigan. Open Women star Elaine King began attending the event once it reached Firefighters Park and notched four of her nine career Great Lakes Open victories there.

In 1992, the Great Lakes Open reached A-tier status for the first time as its popularity continued to rise. To meet the growing demand and to challenge the top professionals who regularly attended, the event moved to Hudson Mills in Dexter, Michigan, in 1995 under the leadership of Mark Ellis.

Only eight years later in 2003, the tournament would make another leap as it was welcomed onto the new PDGA National Tour. Barry Schultz took home that year's title (the same year he'd win the first of his two disc golf world championships). After five years as an NT, the Great Lakes Open spent the same number of years as a regular A-tier again.

After nearly two decades at Hudson Mills, the professional side of the tournament moved 30 minutes northeast to its current home at Kensington Metropark: The Toboggan. The United States Amateur Disc Golf Championship had been run on The Toboggan since 2002, but it wasn't until 2013 when John Minicuci took command of the tournament that the Great Lakes Open also became synonymous with the course.

Two photos. One of grass cut into the shape of a star and the year 2013. Another of a shaggy-haired young man with disc golf equipment.
Photos from the 2013 Great Lakes Open. On the right is a younger Paul McBeth completely unaware he's on the course where he'll make history in five years with an 18-under par. Photos: PDGA

Minicuci brought the event back to NT status in 2013 and then onto the DGPT in 2018. The tournament entered the Pro Tour with a bang as Paul McBeth wowed the disc golf world – and many others – by shooting a perfect 18-under par during the second round en route to his 2018 victory (more on that in the 'Past Highlights' section).

For 2021, Discraft hired Nate Heinold to be the tournament director. Heinold's success at the Ledgestone Insurance Open made Discraft confident that he could bring the Great Lakes Open even higher prestige amongst players and fans alike.

Heinold's first move was to implement new concrete tee pads on the course to replace the uneven rubber ones. The course is only open from just before the USADGC in June to the Great Lakes Open in July, so getting permanent tees in the ground was a tough sell, said both Heinold and Minicuci.

Ultimately, Heinold's pitch was successful. In early spring of 2021, with the cold rain keeping visitors away from any visible progress being made, Minicuci oversaw the pouring of the new pads as Heinold's vision came to fruition and the Great Lakes Open took a big step forward for the 41st edition of the event.

Read more about Heinold's adjustments to the course below. 

The Course

Photo of a rubber disc golf tee and another photo of a concrete tee in the same location
Out with the old and in with the new at the Toboggan. Photos uploaded to UDisc Courses by akoerten (left) and keller1630 (right)

Below you'll find information about where the 2021 Discraft Great Lakes Open was played.

Number of Holes: 18
Length: 10,159 feet/3,096 meters (Open), 8,755 feet/2,669 meters (Open Women)
Par: 63 (Open), 66 (Open Women)
Description: The Toboggan is only open for disc golf two months out of the year. The course's name comes from how the property's primary use is as a toboggan run during the winter months. The course is known for its huge elevation changes and open-air shots that allow players to rip big downhill drives as well as long uphill climbs that make holes play much, much farther than their actual distances.

In years past the GLO was said to favor the power players who could unleash on drives and gain strokes on the field with pure distance, but a few tweaks were made to the layout after Heinold took command. Hole 5 from the 2020 layout was removed, and previous holes 14 and 15 were combined to create (for Open) a mega par 4 coming in at 960 feet/292 meters. To make up for the two lost holes, a pair of brand-new ones were cut in the woods, including a new par 4 and a long tunnel shot of a par 3.

A few other pin placements and tee pads were shifted slightly, but most holes remained the same visually for the fans at home. With the changes, a more equal balance of placement, power, and technical ability were needed to win the event.
Other Notables: Since the Toboggan's rough is infamously unforgiving, Heinold wanted to eliminate as much artificial OB as possible and let the course's natural teeth be the main obstacle taking bites out of players' hopes at a win. Only holes 1, 3, 17, and 18 featured flagged OB lines this year, and those only existed to discourage shots from entering the neighboring fairways.

In addition, the biggest downside to playing the Toboggan in past years was its tee pads. That changed. The lumpy rubber tees that could change shots in the past were removed and replaced by freshly poured concrete pads which allowed players to more fully commit to each drive.

Past Highlights & Notable Achievements

Here are some of the standout moments from recent Great Lakes Opens.

Paul McBeth's Perfect Round

Paul McBeth was tied for the lead following round one in 2018 after shooting the shared hot round of 11-under par. It was a solid score and nothing to scoff at, but his second round would blow it out of the water.

On Saturday, July 7, McBeth made history with what most call the greatest round in disc golf history as he posted a perfect 18-under par, highlighted by an eagle on hole 2 and this clutch 50-foot/15-meter putt to seal the deal on hole 18:

That putt also made it into our post "11 Important Disc Golf Shots You Should See" where you can learn about the media sensation McBeth's momentous round became. We also look into the (extremely slim) chances of McBeth pulling off that 18-under score in a piece comparing it to McBeth's later 18-under at the Waco Annual Charity Open in 2019.

Tattar Eagles Hole 17 En Route to 2021 Win

Most people watching the Open Women's penultimate hole at the 2021 GLO had to believe that after Pierce and Tattar's second shots on the par 4, Pierce was the favorite to win the tournament. The two had entered the hole tied, and Pierce's second shot had landed well within C1 with a chance at eagle while Tattar's had settled deep in C2, leaving her a very uphill look at the basket.

Likely believing she had to eagle to keep pace with Pierce, Tattar managed to find the range and drain her putt with a big tournament on the line:

McMahon Straddles Guard Rail, Saves Birdie From Distance

In 2021, Eagle McMahon nailed a shot that would be impressive under any circumstances, but the fact that he won the event by just one stroke that year makes the accomplishment even more poignant in retrospect.

On hole 17 in round two, McMahon found that the only stance he could take to try to reach the green for birdie had him straddling a guard rail next to a road. The clip below from JomezPro shows the awkwardness of the shot and the amazing execution McMahon managed despite it:

The commentators – Jeremy Koling and Paul Ulibarri – are dumbfounded, and rightly so. It's a shot very few in the world could execute under any circumstances, let alone at a high stakes tournament. The fact that McMahon made the putt and birdied the hole made it all even more impressive.

Podium Pierce

Paige Pierce has played the Great Lakes Open four times in her career: 2013, 2019, 2020, and 2021. She has never finished outside the top two.

In 2013, she lost by just one stroke to Sarah Hokom. Six years later in 2019 she made her return to the Michigan event in style, winning by 12 strokes over the next closest competitor. In 2020 she again rose to the occasion, putting together a wire-to-wire victory. In 2021 she fell by just one stroke to Estonian Kristin Tattar.

Kevin Jones' Hole 9 Roller

Hole 9 on the 2020 layout (hole 10 during the 2021 tournament) features a 438-foot/131-meter uphill shot that bends to the right. It has guardian trees and shrubbery blocking the right side and more guardian trees guarding the front of the green as well. The front trees force a low ceiling finish to get a look for birdie, but with the significant incline involved, players have begun getting creative.

Kevin Jones was not the first to attempt an uphill roller to attack the green, but he was surely the most successful. While other players did birdie the hole throughout the tournament, the way Jones was able to navigate the hole with pinpoint accuracy sets his already-difficult roller apart from the rest.

Watch the clip from Jomez Pro as Jones wows the commentators with his shot:

How to Watch the 2021 Great Lakes Open

When was the 2021 Great Lakes Disc Golf Open?

Friday, July 23 to Sunday, July 25

Live Scoring

The scores and results of the 2021 Great Lakes Open are on UDisc Live. See shot-by-shot scores and a smorgasbord of stats.


Live coverage for this event was broadcast exclusively on the Disc Golf Network. Next-day coverage of condensed, shot-by-shot rounds of the leading players was produced by various disc golf media companies and made available on their YouTube channels. Find all the information you need below.

If you're on mobile, swipe left to see the full table.


Open Open Women Subscription needed?
Live Disc Golf Network Same Yes (except last round, which is free on the Disc Golf Pro Tour's YouTube channel)
Lead Cards + Round 1 Feature Card JomezPro GK Pro No
Chase Cards + Round 1 Feature Card Gatekeeper Media None No

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