Note: This was originally published before the 2021 DGPT Championship. We have made additions to reflect the results of the event now that it's finished.
The 2021 Disc Golf Pro Tour Championship was in Charlotte, North Carolina, from Thursday, October 14 to Sunday, October 17. The event featured the largest purse in disc golf history: $250,000. None of the 32 MPO players who qualified for and played the event left without a minimum $2,000 payday, and for the 16 FPO competitors, the minimum was $2,500.
The winners each walked away with $30,000, helping the FPO winner to set the single-season earnings record for the division.
But for fans, the competition is what mattered most, and, as in previous years, the Tour Championship featured a unique format that produced tension and drama throughout every round. Below we take a look at how that format worked. We also show you who played in 2021 and what their chances were of reaching each of the tournament's stages and winning. Additionally, you can learn a little bit more about the place that hosted the tournament and the event's reigning and past champions.
Where Was the 2021 DGPT Championship Played?
Like we mentioned before, the 2021 DGPT Championship was in Charlotte, North Carolina, one of the best disc golf cities in the United States. Specifically, the tournament took place at Hornets Nest, which is the highest-rated course in a city jam-packed with great places to play.
The course was originally designed by local legend Stan McDaniel, a multi-time Pro Masters (40+) world champion who helped create a number of the city's most-loved courses, but many holes have been modified since the course first opened in 1996. The name is a reference to a piece of Revolutionary War lore. Supposedly, a British general fought a battle in Charlotte and afterward called the city "a hornets' nest of rebellion." Today, disc golfers think of the many, many trees on and surrounding the courses very wooded fairways as the dangerous swarm you want to avoid if you can.
How Did Players Qualify for the DGPT Championship?
The 32 MPO players and 16 FPO players with the most DGPT points in 2021 qualified to compete in the Tour Championship. Players earned tour points based on their finishes at DGPT events throughout the season. To fully understand the points system, give our post "How Disc Golf Pro Tour Points Work & Why They Matter" a read.
DGPT point totals also determined players' seeds for the event – the more points players earned, the better their seed. You'll see in the next section why a player's seed can be extremely important.
When qualified players decline to compete in the Tour Championship, the players with the next-highest tour point totals who did not originally qualify can take their spots.
In 2021, two qualified players did not compete. The injured Gavin Rathbun turned down his invitation well before the tournament, and Eagle McMahon pulled out due to an injury the day before the event. Their spots were filled by Anthony Barela and Aaron Gossage, who were 33rd and 34th in MPO tour points in 2021, respectively.
How Does the DGPT Championship Work?
What makes the DGPT Championship most interesting is its unusual structure. Instead of a typical tournament where players' scores accumulate over multiple rounds, at the Tour Championship all players start at par each new round, and every round means elimination for most and advancement for just a few.
In the first round of MPO competition, seeds 17-32 (16 players) play a single 18-hole round (on cards of four players each). Out of those players, only the four with the best scores during that round will move on to the second round. The other 12 players are eliminated from the tournament.
On the next day, what those four remaining players scored during round one doesn't matter. They start over again at par, now competing with seeds 9-16, who received byes to the second round. Again, only the four players with the best scores during this single round move on to compete in the third round with seeds 1-8, who received byes through the tournament's first two rounds. The four players with the best scores in the third round play for the title in the fourth and final MPO round of the Tour Championship.
The same system governs how FPO works, but there are fewer players in the division and one less round.
Importantly, during every round but the Finals, ties for moving on are broken by who has the better seed. So having more tour points is like having an extra birdie to throw on your scorecard if things are tight at the top.
Below are easy guides to how the DGPT Championship works for MPO and FPO:
Who Was Likeliest to Advance and Win at the DGPT Championship?
Using the stats that power the Disc Golf World Rankings, we were able to calculate how likely it was that players would advance to each round of the Tour Championship as well their chances of winning the event. Note that these stats were based on how players had performed at all their most recent top-tier events and didn't reflect how players' specific skill sets matched up to the Tour Championship course.
You'll notice that some players with worse seeds had a higher chance of advancing and winning than those with better seeds. This is because seeds were determined solely by DGPT tour points, and the Disc Golf World Rankings are based on a wider range of data.
Who Won the 2021 DGPT Championship?
Nathan Queen (28 seed) and Missy Gannon (3 seed) won the 2021 DGPT Championship in MPO and FPO respectively.
You can learn more about these historic wins and what they meant for the players and sport in the next section.
All DGPT Champions
Here are all DGPT Championship winners, their prizes, what seeds they were, and where they won:
These are some interesting takeaways from this chart served up with some tasty extras:
- Why are prizes so much higher the last two years?
What immediately jumps out about these stats is the huge difference in prizes in recent years. In fact, in 2020 and 2021 the DGPT Championship set records for the largest overall purse in disc golf history at the time it was held. These purses became possible because the DGPT gained many more partners in recent years.
- Queen's coffers are fuller than ever
Nathan Queen is the lowest seed to ever win the DGPT Championship. If you looked at the earlier stats showing winning probability, you'll notice that all the data we had from recent events suggested that Queen's odds to win in 2021 were less than 0.01%. That means we would not have expected Queen to win this tournament even once if it were played out 10,000 times among the same competitors.
Given those odds, it's not surprising that the $30,000 prize he took home was a significant highlight of his career. His previous highest payout was $1,600 for coming in ninth at the 2019 U.S. Disc Golf Championship, 19 times smaller than his Tour Championship prize. Additionally, his 2021 tournament earnings were just $18,739 (which alone would have been his highest-earning season ever) before the championship, so he almost doubled his tournament income by taking down this one event.
One more fun fact: in 2019 and 2020 combined, Queen only made $32,322 from PDGA-sanctioned tournaments. He almost made that just at the 2021 DGPT Championship.
- Gannon's win helped set the single-season FPO earnings record
No woman has ever won more from sanctioned tournament play in a single season than Missy Gannon. She'd already had an excellent season by FPO standards, earning over $37,000 from 2021 events. But with the Tour Championship adding $30,000 to that total, she blew all earnings records out of the water.
- Dickerson's wins were amazing, but not as unexpected as Queen's
Dickerson's wins as a low seed actually weren't particularly surprising. Dickerson didn't tour nationally much during those seasons and so hadn't accumulated many points. Honing his skills by playing (and dominating) huge numbers of southeastern U.S. tournaments, Dickerson was one of the best in the world, and his Tour Championship wins weren't out of the blue.
More About the 2021 DGPT Championship
You can see all the shot-by-shot scores and stats from the 2021 DGPT Championship on UDisc Live.