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Disc Golf Tournament Profiles: The Ledgestone Insurance Open
Jacob ArvidsonContributor
Aug 9 • 7 min read
A disc golfer in the middle of throwing a tee shot on an old metal and concrete bridge
Ricky Wysocki throws on the iconic bridge hole at the temporary Lake Eureka course used in the Ledgestone Open. This photo is from when Peoria hosted the World Championships in 2019. Photo: PDGA

The biggest disc golf tournament in the world, a giant pro purse, a record donation to charity, the most difficult course on tour, and, sadly, a cancelled final round.

That’s what came out of Peoria, Illinois, when the Disc Golf Pro Tour made its ninth stop of 2021 at the Ledgestone Insurance Open from Thursday, August 5 to Sunday, August 8. This year was massive spectator turnout and a stacked field, but the electricity in the air turned out to be all-too-real on Saturday as dangerous storms forced an early end to the tournament for the Open field.

Learn more about the 2021 Ledgestone Insurance Open below, where we fill you in on tournament history (including 2021 recaps), the courses, past highlights, how to watch it, and more.

What Happened at the 2021 Ledgestone Insurance Open?

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

OPEN
Who won the 2021 Ledgestone Insurance Open?

Ricky Wysocki and Calvin Heimburg were co-champions with scores of 17-under par

Who shared the podium at the 2021 Ledgestone Insurance Open?

3rd  Eagle McMahon with a score of 16-under par

What happened at the 2021 Ledgestone Insurance Open?

Ricky Wysocki and Calvin Heimburg won the 2021 Ledgestone Open based on their standings after the third round because the fourth round was cut short due to severe weather.

It's not something any player or fan really wants to see: a tournament cut short. But it had to happen as storms with dangerous lightning hit Peoria hard after the event's leaders had played just a few holes and the PDGA rules regarding mid-event cancellation due to weather came into effect. By those rules, not every group had completed enough holes for the round to be counted, so no player's fourth round could be used as part of their final result. For Heimburg and Wysocki, that meant they reverted to being where they were at the end of round three: tied at the top of the leaderboard at 17-under par.

Since the weather didn't allow for Wysocki and Heimburg to safely compete in a sudden-death playoff within the scheduled duration of the tournament, PDGA rules required that they be declared co-champions.

This likely came as a big blow to young Kyle Klein on the chase card, who was 5-under par through five holes and had overtaken both Wysocki and Heimburg, who were on hole 4 when the round was called off.

What's more, though players were passionately playing and jockeying for position in round three, there was little inkling that the round would be their last, and it's likely they may have played a bit differently were that thought in their minds.

What turned out to be the final round found the lead card grinding its way through the grueling fairways of Northwood Black, which is widely believed to be the hardest course ever used at an elite disc golf event.

Heimburg did not have the day on the course he'd had in the second round when he shot a field-leading 7-under par. He had a solid, bogey-free front nine but then played holes 10-15 at 3-over par to put his score back at even. From there, he managed to squeeze one birdie out of the course along with three pars to finish at 1-under for the round.

Wysocki didn't have the roller coaster round Heimburg did. Northwood Black is the extremely rare course pro disc golfers currently play where getting pars is a true accomplishment, and through hole 17, Wysocki was bogey-free and 4-under par. On the very last hole ( a par 4), he had an errant tee shot that led to an errant attempt to scramble back to good position which gave him little more than a pitch-out to the fairway for an attempt to save par from well outside Circle 2.

Wysocki didn't drain the long look and had to take his first bogey of the day while Heimburg put in a putt from near the edge of Circle 1 to par the hole. The one-stroke difference in the players' results on that hole tied them up and led them to be co-champions when the event was called off the next day.

Standout stat:

Over the two rounds at Northwood Black, the Open field's average score was +6.01. And the PDGA rating shooting around that average 6-over par would get you? Just over 1000.

OPEN WOMEN
Who won the 2021 Ledgestone Insurance Open in Open Women?

Paige Pierce with a score of 19-under par

Who shared the podium at the 2021 Ledgestone Insurance Open in Open Women?

2nd Missy Gannon with a score of 8-under par

3rd Sarah Hokom with a score of 5-under par

What happened at the 2021 Ledgestone Insurance Open in Open Women?

Paige Pierce dominated the division and delivered a highlight eagle en route to an 11-stroke victory.

Unlike at most DGPT tournaments in 2021, the women were not playing the same course as the Open competitors on the final day and so were able to finish their fourth and final rounds. But the final round didn't do anything to change who was at the top.

Pierce entered the round ahead of her closest competitor by nine strokes and ended the round with an even larger advantage. She was the only player in the division to be under par every round.

The eventual victor's 1010-rated opening round set the tone for what was to come. The women started on Northwood Black (notably, playing shorter holes than Open). Though Pierce started a little shaky and went 3-over par through the first five holes, she got out of the rut in spectacular fashion: a nearly 240-foot/73-meter eagle throw-in on the par 5 hole 6. After that, she went 5-under par through the rest of holes – despite a double bogey – to finish the round at 4-under and have a six-stroke cushion from the get-go.

Pierce stayed consistent and continued to build on her lead as the tournament went on, and she cruised to the win.

Standout stat:

Pierce dominated the field in tee-to-green strokes gained, averaging 7.3 in this stat per round over four rounds. Sarah Hokom was number two in this stat for the event, but she averaged just 4.5 strokes per round over the field's norm.

Who Were the Favorites to Win the 2021 Ledgestone Insurance Open?

Using the formulas and stats that power the Disc Golf World Rankings, we calculated what players' recent performances at big events suggested about their chances of beating other top players at the 2021 Ledgestone Insurance 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 10 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 were.

Notes on the Stats

All of the stats below other than "Actual 2021 Finish" were calculated before any player threw a single shot at the 2021 Ledgestone Insurance Open and were not changed to reflect how winning chances altered as the tournament played out.

The probabilities were based on player performance at recent events and didn't take into account the type of course being played and how players' specific skill sets match it.

Finally, there were some excellent players competing at the Ledgestone Open who simply hadn't toured enough in 2021 to meet our threshold for making the World Rankings and so don't appear below.

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

Player: Open World Rank Before Event
Winning Probability Before Event
Actual 2021 Finish
  Player: Open Women World Rank Before Event
Winning Probability Before Event
Actual 2021 Finish
Eagle McMahon 1 28% 3rd Paige Pierce 2 51% 1st
Ricky Wysocki 2 26% T1st Catrina Allen 4 23% T7th
Paul McBeth 3 22% T18th Hailey King 6 12% T5th
Calvin Heimburg 4 7% T1st Heather Young 7 4% T7th
Chris Dickerson 5 5% T7th Jessica Weese 8 3.5% 15th
James Conrad 6 4% T31st Sarah Hokom 9 3% 3rd
Kevin Jones 7 3% T12th Missy Gannon 11 2% 2nd
Kyle Klein 8 2% T54th Ella Hansen 12 1% 27th
Adam Hammes 9 1.9% 6th Alexis Mandujano 17 .02% 4th
Nate Sexton 11 1% 11th Juliana Korver 18 .02% T10th

Tournament Background

A group of people at a disc golf event wait in a group in the woods
Nate Heinold is the driving force behind the Ledgestone Open and can be seen here holding a "Quiet" sign. Image from the 2019 World Championships in Peoria. Photo: PDGA

In June of 2011, Nate Heinold had an idea.

He wanted to run a disc golf tournament to help get more eyes on his insurance business. Just two months later, the Ledgestone Insurance Open was born.

It started as an unsanctioned event in its first year but by 2012 had grown into a massive A-tier, serving as the finale for the Ledgestone Insurance disc golf tournament series in the greater Peoria area.

From 2012 to 2014, Heinold ran three successful Ledgestone Insurance Opens with A-tier status, watching names like Catrina Allen, Sarah Hokom, and Nikko Locastro take home victories. By that point the tournament had become a popular stop for many touring pros but wasn’t yet known across the country.

That all changed in 2015.

The PDGA National Tour came knocking, wanting the Ledgestone Insurance Open to be a part of their elite series. This alone rocketed the tournament to the top of many players’ must-play lists. But Heinold was able to pull off an even greater feat to make the 2015 Ledgestone Insurance Open a moment that went down in disc golf history.

“It was a turning point in the history of the sport,” he said.

The pro purse totaled $117,453, which was the largest payout in disc golf history to that point not considering inflation (more on this in the Past Highlights section later on). The huge purse enticed nearly every big name to the event, which helped promote and hype the tournament even more.

The Ledgestone Insurance Open made history again the next year by being one of just six events on the inaugural Disc Golf Pro Tour in 2016.

A player tees off, throwing a disc over a large lake with feather banners waving in the wind
Scene from the 2016 Ledgestone Insurance Open, one of the six events on the first-ever Disc Golf Pro Tour. Photo: DGPT

As the event grew and gained more attention, it had also had to adapt. The biggest change was that event staff decided to let go of one of the tournament's controversial hallmarks: stroke-and-distance out-of-bounds rules. These rules made it so that when a player went OB, they were forced to both take a stroke penalty and re-throw from their previous lie. Typically, a player who goes OB is penalized a stroke but gets to advance up the fairway to the place their disc was last in bounds.

Based on player feedback, the desire of the DGPT to move away from stroke-and-distance rules, and other factors, traditional OB rules have been used at Ledgestone since 2017.

The tournament has continued to provide huge payouts for professional players while the amateur side of the tournament has kept growing. The 2021 event will be the largest tournament in disc golf history with 1,975 players participating across all divisions. It has become much more than just an event to promote Ledgestone Insurance.

“It has changed from promoting my insurance business to being a business on its own,” Heinold said. “It’s its own little village of people. This year we’ll have 74 people on staff and around 200 volunteers. It has evolved into an army.”

The ever-growing number of competitors, staff, and volunteers has allowed the philanthropic side of the event to shine through. In 2014, the Ledgestone Insurance Open began a partnership with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, donating $182,000 through 2020. In 2021, the tournament was expected to donate an additional $150,000 to St. Jude and other charities, make the event's total charitable donations total $332,000 over the past eight years.

The Courses

Below you’ll find information about the various courses where this year’s Ledgestone Insurance Open was played.

Open: Round 1  (Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021)

Course: Lake Eureka Temporary Course
Number of Holes: 18
Length: 9,665 feet/2,946 meters
Par: 63
Description: This is an expansive park-style course playing over and around Lake Eureka. It incorporates extensive artificial OB and plenty of water hazards. Big arms will have advantages on several holes, but placement over power reigns supreme on this course. The layout opens with a par 4 that features a large water carry that gets longer the more aggressively players attack for birdie position. The course then moves into an open park area with large mature trees before emerging into a wide-open (except for all the OB lines, of course) field for several holes. The back nine, especially four of the last six holes, is long and grueling with artificial OB and water defining relatively narrow fairways.
Other Notables: The course layout has seen several tweaks since its establishment in 2015. Most notably, since 2017 the implementation of stroke-and-distance penalties on OB shots has been removed.

Keep an eye out for the signature Hole 9 tee shot from the bridge. Players will navigate a 100-foot/30-meter tunnel shot down the bridge before their disc hits open air and seeks an island green. Missing the island means a trip to the drop zone and another shot from a little farther up the bridge.

Open: Rounds 2 & 3 (Friday, Aug. 6 and Saturday, Aug. 7, 2021)

Open Women: Rounds 1 & 4 (Thursday, Aug. 5 and Sunday, Aug. 8, 2021)

Number of Holes: 18
Length: 10,529 feet/3,209 meters (Open), 8,818 feet/2,688 (Open Women)
Par: 68
Description: This course plays entirely through the dense woods of Northwood Park. There are more par 4s (8) than par 3s (7) on this track. Add in three par 5s and it becomes clear why this course is just as draining mentally as it is physically. To call the rough "thick" would be an understatement. It provides natural punishment for errant shots that is all but guaranteed to force players to concede strokes by foregoing any attempt at advancing and just pitching back to the fairway. There is some artificial OB as well that will make precision even more needed on several holes. Players looking to unleash on a drive must have pinpoint accuracy as they navigate the varying shapes and distances of the course's heavily wooded fairways.
Other Notables: The 2020 Ledgestone Insurance Open featured the Northwood Gold layout, but Heinold and his team worked hard to bring a brand-new layout to the 2021 event. The Northwood Black course was full of new holes since it incorporated just six of the previous Gold holes.

Open Women: Rounds 2 & 3 (Friday, Aug. 6 and Saturday, Aug. 7, 2021)

Course: Sunset Hills
Number of Holes: 18
Length: 7,539 feet/2,298 meters
Par: 61
Description: The course plays through and around the Sunset Hills Golf Course. It features open, manicured fairways over rolling hills. The track makes use of many cart paths to establish OB lines but also employs some artificial OB to keep players out of neighboring yards or thick rough. Being on a ball golf course, there are numerous sand traps on the disc golf fairways that will play as a hazard while the greens and tee boxes will play as regular OB. Seven of the holes also feature water hazards and sloped greens to add to the difficulty. The first 11 holes meander through the golf course while the back seven have their own separate plot of land alongside the golf course and bring more natural barriers into play using long grass, mature trees, and guarded greens.
Other Notables: A few greens have slopes that lead directly to water hazards. Missed putts and errant approach shots could result in penalty strokes in these areas. This is particularly true on the signature hole 6, where a par 5 leads players to a 160-foot/49-meter water carry on their approach with the basket perched just over a brick wall within 25 feet/8 meters of the pond. 

You can read about the origins of the Sunset Hills course in our post "Join The Clubs: Bringing Disc Golf To Ball Golf Courses."

Past Highlights

Here are some of the standout moments of past Ledgestone Insurance Opens.

Pierce's 2021 Blind Eagle at Northwood Black

Paige Pierce wasn't off to the start she'd likely hoped for during her first Ledgestone round in 2021.Through five holes, she was 3-over par with no birdies on her scorecard.

Ever the fighter, Pierce got out of her funk by doing something spectacular on the par 5 hole 6: She put a blind shot into the basket from 240 feet/73 meters away to get an extremely unlikely eagle.

You can see the shot in coverage from GK Pro below:



Pierce would go on to completely dominate the 2021 tournament, and this could've been the spark that ignited her fire.

"Baseball Field Hole" Magic in 201

If you want to get near the basket on hole 5 at the temporary course at Lake Eureka, it'll take a 476-foot/145-meter pump over a fenced-in baseball field that plays entirely as OB. That distance is a big ask for the majority of players, but it's well within top pros' wheelhouses.

At the 2017 Ledgestone Insurance Open, Gregg Barsby and Paul McBeth proved that.

In round one, Barsby aced the hole. Though the shot wasn't videoed, Barsby was just behind a card being filmed by Prodigy, and in their video, you can hear the basket rattle, a cheer erupt, and Barsby victoriously retrieving his disc from the basket. The players on the card even stop to take in the moment before they continue play, with one amusingly remarking, "Got me by four strokes."



McBeth almost repeated Barsby's feat on film in the final round. He arrived at the hole behind first place by seven strokes but only three strokes out of second. If he was going to push his way up the podium, he needed to start making a move.

He stepped up looking to put his drive inside of Circle 1, but he ended up getting a bit closer than that.

Watch this clip from JomezPro:



2019 Pierce and Allen Battle

Paige Pierce and Catrina Allen have been battling for almost a decade, so the 2019 Ledgestone Insurance Open was just another entry in their long saga. But this one was no less exciting.

Allen out-dueled Pierce by one stroke in each of the first two rounds, entering the final day with a two-stroke lead. The two would trade blows throughout the front nine.

Allen had a one-stroke lead heading into hole 9 with a chance to take her lead back to two strokes with a birdie. Her drive got her to about 36 feet/11 meters, but she was directly behind a fluffy bush with no way to run the basket apart from a floated putt over the top.

GK Pro caught the action on her birdie putt:



Now down by two strokes entering hole 10, Pierce needed to make something happen. She stepped up to the tee and delivered a dime:

By hole 18, Pierce had given herself a one-stroke advantage. Allen’s putt to potentially force a playoff went wide and Pierce had the opportunity to pitch up for the win…but she had other thoughts:

2015's Record-Setting Payout

The fifth edition of the Ledgestone Insurance Open was groundbreaking in the disc golf community. The event was now a part of the PDGA National Tour, which gave a bigger stage to the unveiling of what was then the largest payout in disc golf history.

The event gave away a pro purse valued at $117,453, smashing the previous record and completely obliterating the 2014 Ledgestone purse of $18,965.

The 2015 tournament set a new standard for disc golf events across the country and around the world, giving touring pros hope that they could indeed earn a living playing disc golf. Since then, the disc golf world has seen more high-paying events break onto the scene. In 2020, the DGPT Championship took over the record for largest disc golf payout in history with a $130,400 purse.

Interestingly, if you adjust totals for inflation, the largest purse ever at a disc golf tournament was actually paid out at the 1979 WHAM-O $50K Frisbee Disc Golf Invitational. Today the buying power of that tournament's purse would be about $150,000. However, unlike Ledgestone's landmark 2015 payout, the 1979 tournament's didn't come at a time when the disc golf community was expanding at a rate that could make such high payouts sustainable.

How to Watch the 2021 Ledgestone Insurance Open

When was the 2021 Ledgestone Insurance Open?

Thursday, August 5 to Sunday, August 8, 2021

Live Scoring

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

Watch

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 will be produced by various disc golf media companies and made available on their YouTube channels. Find all the information you need below.

Remember that round four was not complete for Open, so there's no full coverage of that round available.

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


HOW TO WATCH THE 2021 LEDGESTONE INSURANCE OPEN

Open Open Women Subscription needed?
Live Disc Golf Network Same Yes
Lead Cards + Round 1 Feature Card JomezPro GK Pro No
Chase Cards + Round 1 Feature Card Gatekeeper Media None No
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