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Disc Golf Tournament Profiles: U.S. Women's Disc Golf Championship
Alex WilliamsonWriter, Editor
May 24 • 9 min read
A collage of four women, each a professional disc golfer in the middle of a round
Paige Pierce (top left), Hailey King (top right), Ella Hansen (bottom left), and Missy Gannon (bottom right) topped the field at the 2021 USWDGC. Gannon photo: Disc Golf Pro Tour. All other photos: PDGA

From Friday, May 21 to Sunday, May 23, 2021, over 200 women took to three courses near Sacramento, California, to vie for the U.S. Women's Disc Golf Championship (USWDGC) in various divisions. Over 60 players competed in the top division, Open Women, including stars like Paige Pierce, Catrina Allen, Sarah Hokom, and Hailey King.

Like the PDGA World Championships, the USWDGC is a PDGA Major that moves to a new location each year.

Learn more about the USWDGC below, where we fill you in on what happened in Open Women in 2021, tournament history, past highlights, the 2021 courses, and how to watch footage of the competition.

What Happened at the 2021 USWDGC?

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

Who won the 2021 USWDGC?

Paige Pierce with a score of 22-under par

Who came in second and third at the 2021 USWDGC?

2nd Hailey King with a score of 9-under par

3rd Ella Hansen with a score of 8-under par

What happened at the 2021 USWDGC?

Paige Pierce won the 2021 USWDGC, galloping away from a previously tight race with Hailey King to take the event by 13 strokes.

After round two of the event, Pierce and King were just two strokes apart at 14-under par and 12-under par, respectively. That day, both had driven proficiently and had perfect 100% C1X putting percentages to put the birdies on their scorecards at the par 3-rich Shady Oaks course. No one else in the field had fared as well, and it was a foregone conclusion that one of the two leaders would take home the Major victory. 

The stage was set for an exciting duel between the perennial favorite, Pierce, and the rising star, King, in the third and final round.

But anyone looking for drama as to who the winner would be in round three was sorely disappointed. Off the first tee, Pierce parked a drive on a hole that was 408 feet/124 meters while King shanked her initial shot and limped her way to a bogie on the hole. The two-stroke gap turned quickly to four, and it just kept getting bigger as Pierce shot the hot round in the division at 8-under par and King struggled her way to a 3-over performance.

King's final round showing almost lost her second place. Ella Hansen, an ultimate star (on two World Championship teams) who began competing in the Open Women division in 2020 and touring in 2021, turned in the second-best third round in the division to be within just one stroke of King. Had King not birdied her final hole of the event, she would have shared second place with Hansen, who started the day nine strokes behind King.

Standout stat:

On the birdie-or-die courses where the 2021 USWDGC was played, capitalizing off great drives with solid putting was always going to be a crucial. Bouncing back from an overall negative C1X strokes gained stat at the OTB Open the weekend before (which she still won), Pierce led the field in C1X strokes gained at the USWDGC: 10.41 total for the event. That 3.47 average per round is close to the all-time high in Open Women of 3.66 set by Ohn Scoggins at the 2020 Challenge at Goat Hill.

Tournament History

A crowd under evergreens seen from behind, one person holding a disc golf scoreboard
A view of the lead card during the 2013 USWDGC in Portland, Oregon. Photo: PDGA

The first-ever event called the USWDGC took place in Rock Hill, South Carolina, in 2001 though in 2000 a tournament under the name the "Women's National Event" happened there, too. These competitions went on at the same time as the USDGC.

But after 2001, the USWDGC didn't have a home in Rock Hill anymore, and the PDGA was looking for someone else to take over the competition. It found that person in Peoria, Illinois' Bill "Oldman" Wallis (who passed away in 2019), according to his son Wilbur.

"The PDGA contacted my father and said, 'Hey, do you guys want to run it?'," said the younger Wallis, who helped his father run disc golf events along with his mother Mary Ann (referred to by most in the disc golf world simply as "Mom"). "We jumped at the chance."

The Wallises were likely high on the PDGA's list of possible organizers because they'd done a lot to grow the tournament scene in Peoria and Illinois generally. For example, in 1998 they'd brought the first PDGA A-tier to Illinois. Hosting the USWDGC gave them the chance to host the first Major in the state.

From 2002-2007, the USWDGC had a home in Peoria and was always run by the Wallises, who wanted participants to feel welcomed and at-ease.

"We tried to make it where it was more of a get-together," Wallis said. "We'd have a party in my dad's backyard. Very informal, low-key, a couple of baskets in the yard to putt at. Mainly just having a good time."

After 2007, Bill Wallis retired and planned to travel extensively, which wouldn't allow him to make all the arrangements needed to run the event. Since then, the USWDGC has rotated to a new venue each year based on bids sent to the PDGA. The elder Wallis did end up running the tournament again in 2014 when it was at the International Disc Golf Center in Georgia. Wilbur Wallis has been to almost every USWDGC since it left Peoria and plans to help with the event when it's scheduled to be in Wisconsin in 2022.

An older woman, older man, and young woman stand together posing for a photo at an awards ceremony
From left to right, Mary Ann and Bill Wallis and Paige Pierce at the awards ceremony for the 2014 USWDGC in Appling, Gerogia. Pierce placed second that year. Photo: PDGA

The 2021 USWDGC was in the experienced hands of spouses Jenny and Bruce Knisley. The couple opened the disc golf shop Final 9 Sports in Orangevale, California near Sacramento in 1997 and began running events the same year. They organize multiple tournaments annually, including the St. Patrick's Day Classic, an early-season A-tier that often attracts at least a few well-known pros.

Bruce Knisley said running the USWDGC allowed them to bring a large event to their part of California again after over a quarter century without one.

"We wanted to run a bigger event to showcase our courses out here," he said. "There hasn't been a bigger event out in this area since 1994 when the Am Worlds was held in Sacramento."

Like many prior USWDGCs, the 2021 competition took place on courses in public parks and the competitors faced one new course each day. Pro players like Paige Pierce and Kona Panis were very vocal with their belief that this status quo needs to change in order for players to compete at their best in the future. They argued that they couldn't sufficiently practice each course before the event, especially considering that the very popular tracks weren't closed to leisure traffic before the actual start of the tournament.

It remains to be seen if such criticisms will alter which bids receive this PDGA Major in the coming years.

The Courses

Two disc golf fairways, both with oaks, but one with grass and the other brown, dry hardpan
The similar trees but very different ground of Auburn (left) and Rocklin (right), two courses featured in the 2021 USWDGC. Photos uploaded to UDisc Courses by jd1978 (Auburn) and coreyjyoung84 (Rocklin).

The Open Women competed on three different courses during the 2021 USWDGC. All of them hearken back to earlier days of disc golf when a wealth of birdie-or-die par 3s was the norm even at top tier events. The golf competitors faced there was very different from the par 4-rich, 10,022-foot/3,055-meter course the women took on during the previous weekend's OTB Open.

Here's a closer look at each course:

Day 1

Length: 6,055 feet/1,846 meters
Par: 56
Description: This course is partly on grassy fairways rather than the hardpan California is known for. There are plenty of trees, and technical lines of all shapes are needed for players to shoot well. The course also has many par 3s near the 400-foot/122-meter mark, meaning the longer throwers could have an advantage if they keep their drives accurate.

Day 2

Length: 5,815 feet/1,772 meters
Par: 55
Description: Some pro disc golf fans may have seen Shady Oaks on coverage of the St. Patrick's Day Classic from outlets like Central Coast Disc Golf. Though trees will almost always force players to shape shots, the course is a mixture of tightly wooded and more open holes. A creek winds through the course and is sometimes played as casual water and sometimes OB. Park paths on the fringes of some fairways create OB lines, as well.

Again, the course calls for a variety of lines, and all shots require a healthy amount of accuracy.

Day 3

Course: Rocklin (Johnson Springview Park)
Length: 5,900 feet/1,798 meters
Par: 55
Description: Playing for the skip is key to scoring well at Rocklin. With California's ongoing drought, many of the fairways at the course are hard-packed dirt. Bruce Knisley said it's common at Rocklin for a disc to land 100 feet/30.5 meters from a pin and skip to underneath the basket. Though it has mature oaks scattered on its fairways, Rocklin is the most open course competitors will face. However, an abundance of OBs and hazards keeps players honest.

Past Highlights

Here are some of the standout moments of past USWDGCs.

2021: Pierce Clinches Most USWDGC Titles of Any Player in History

A young woman in a baseball cap holds a disc out, gauging a line to throw it on
Paige Pierce at the 2021 USWDGC. Photo: PDGA

Paige Pierce seized the chance to win her fourth Open Women USWDGC title in 2021, making her the player with the most Open Women USWDGC titles. Previously, Pierce shared the record with Des Reading, who three-peated as champ from 2002-2004.

2019: Kristin Tattar Becomes First European to Win USWDGC

Three women stand on a winners podium holding large discs over their heads
Tattar stands atop the podium at the 2019 USWDGC.

Given how little U.S. audiences get to see Europeans compete, it's easy for the country where the majority of disc golfers and pro disc golf fans live to forget that some of the best women currently playing the sport are Europeans. Estonian Kristin Tattar, along with Finland's Eveliina Salonen and Henna Blomroos, is in that group, and she showed it when she competed in a series of North American events with elite fields in 2019, racking up two wins, three second-place finishes, and a top 10 showing at Worlds through six events where she competed in Open Women.

Her win at the USWDGC was Tattar's first Major victory and what she herself considers the first big victory of her career. It also marked the first time the USWDGC title had ever been won by a European.

2012: The Only Playoff in USWDGC History

The USWDGC title in the Open Women division has only been decided by playoff once, and that battle was between two players modern fans know well: Paige Pierce and Catrina Allen.

The event that year in Huntsville, Alabama, was a grueling, five-round plus Final 9 affair. Allen went into the last nine with a two-stroke advantage, but Pierce took the lead over after five holes. Here's how a PDGA article described the action from there:

When Paige blinked on Hole 11 [the penultimate hole of the Final 9], they were then tied which really excited the crowd and ultimately pushed the two into a Sudden Victory playoff back onto Hole B, a 255 footer with lots of trees to negotiate in the fairway. Catrina had deuced the hole on her first pass during the Final 9 and she was equal to the task again by parking her drive to win the hole and be crowned the 2012 National Champion.

How to Watch the 2021 USWDGC

When was the 2021 USWDGC?

Friday, May 21 to Sunday, May 23

Scores & Stats

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

How to Watch the 2021 USWDGC

Live

You can watch archived live coverage of the 2021 USWDGC on the Disc Golf Network. Paid subscription necessary. The final round is free on the Disc Golf Pro Tour's YouTube channel.

Post

You can watch condensed, shot-by-shot coverage of a round one feature card and all lead cards at the 2021 USWDGC for free on Central Coast Disc Golf's YouTube channel.

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