Poised For a Fourth Junior World Title
After last year's third place finish in the Under 13 boys division at the Marion, Ohio Am Worlds, Nicholas Duran is looking to get back on top in Rochester, N.Y. - and, have some fun doing it. From 2007 to 2009, Duran owned the Under 10 boys division and this week he gets a shot at a fourth World Championship.
The feeling he got from those wins, especially the first in Milwaukee, was incredible.
“I was on top of the world,” said Duran, 12, who lives in Pinetop, AZ.
Though Duran has never played the Rochester courses, he won't let that stop him from playing his game – one that relies just as much on fun as it does smart play and muscle memory.
Along with meeting new people, Duran said the World Championships are all about fun. But coming home with another trophy wouldn't hurt either.
“I love the Wraith. It's my main driver,” said Duran, who can out drive most adults with his bombs.
The future seventh-grader has already set five different world distance records. The latest came at age 11 with a 500-foot drive.
In the past, his family and him have hit the highways for the Worlds – even 1,600 miles away to Milwaukee in 2007. But this year the family is trying something new. His father, Manny, will take Nicholas on his first plane ride ever. All the way to his fifth World Championships. Pretty cool, huh?
Charlotte Standout Ready for N.Y.
Paul Priest's first Am Worlds will likely be his last. The Charlotte resident has made quick work of the advanced division and now plans to turn pro after this year's Worlds and the U.S. Doubles Championship in Charlotte/Rock Hill. A good showing in Rochester this week would certainly propel him onto The Carolina's professional stage, where some of disc golf's brightest talents play.
Despite having never played Rochester's courses, Priest, 27, likes what he sees – at least, what he's seen on the web. Before traveling to New York, he's done his best to study from what he could regarding course pictures and descriptions. He's also pumped about playing with the best amateurs in the country, which total nearly 200 in the advanced division alone.
Priest, who has been playing for six years, credits moving to Charlotte two years ago as key to stepping up his game. The Par 4's and 5's that are included in many of the Queen City's courses have taught him the necessity of control shots as a part of his course management.
“You really have to be able to play within yourself and really know what you're capable of,” said Priest.
After getting used to his local parks in Illinois that mainly featured open holes friendly to big hyzers, Priest said he was a little startled to see the tight lines required in Charlotte.
“It just boggled my mind when I first moved down there. It was just so hard to hit gaps,” said Priest, remembering several shots missing their gap at Charlotte's Reedy Creek Park course.
It didn't take long for Priest to find his way. This season, Priest has come on as one of the top advanced players in the Charlotte area. He won the Carolina Clash, which he called the biggest win of his career and he's had several close finishes elsewhere. Plus, he's had good showings at some of the PDGA's biggest Am events like the Charlotte Amateur Championship where he finished second, and he had a 22nd place finish at the mammoth Amateur Championships at Bowling Green.
Attending those big, multi-day tournaments similar in format to the Am Worlds has been another learning experience for managing Priest's game.
“It's a little different mindset you have to take. Honestly, I generally play a little more conservative at the beginning knowing that there are a lot more rounds,” said Priest.
During the Amateur Championships at Bowling Green, Priest strayed from his plan and tried to push too hard too early and ended up having to make up too much ground, he said.
Taking the 'wait and see' approach, however, has yielded better results. Slow and steady, in many cases wins the race as Priest has found.
Watch for Priest to lean heavily on his Wraith and Disc Mania PD driver. He says both aren’t the fastest discs, but what they lack in speed they make up for in glide and predictability.
Excited To Be In Rochester
You may not meet two girls more excited about disc golf than Breanna Vogel and Lacey Brugler of Upper Sandusky, Ohio. In recent years, the sisters have been wearing out the courses in northern Ohio, and now they are bringing that enthusiasm this week to Rochester for the Am Worlds.
Whether it's practicing at home or traveling for a tournament, the two can't get enough of disc golf.
“Lacey and I are die hard disc golfers,” said Vogel in an email.
Vogel, 16, returns to the Worlds to compete in the Under 19 girls division after a 2nd place finish in the Under 16 girls division last year at the Marion, Ohio Am Worlds. Her sister Lacey, 10, will be competing in the Under 10 girls division. Besides playing well, Brugler has made a name for herself raising money for charities at northern Ohio disc golf events.
Despite only having four months of playing experience before attending the Worlds last year, Vogel was satisfied with her performance. A year later, Vogel has much more tournament experience including big wins in the novice division at the Brent Hambrick Memorial Open and in the women's recreational division at the Amateur Championship at Bowling Green.
Vogel, who will be a high school senior next year, said that consistency, focus, and good advice from her dad will help her go the distance in Rochester. The two girls will get a lot of use out of their favorite Innova discs. Breanna is a big fan of the Vulcan and Leopard drivers while Lacey, a fifth grader in the fall, likes the feel of the Shark, Stingray, Wolf, and Polecat.
Those discs already get a lot of play at their favorite courses like Turtlecreek in Lebanon, Ohio, and others near Upper Sandusky. Vogel said they love the challenges each course brings especially those in tournament play.
It seems, the only time the two feel down is when they see low female and junior turnouts at tournaments. Vogel said she hopes to see more attention aimed at those groups so more will be encouraged to play.
In the meantime, both Breanna and Lacey will continue to play like crazy and probably influence many more girls and juniors to play disc golf in the process.
Good luck to everyone competing in Am Worlds. Remember to have fun too!
story by Todd Harrell