2016 was a record year for participation with 120 players in six divisions. Having 26 Open players and 20 Pro Masters was a good indication that the TIML is more than a local event. Several US players and Canadians from 7 different provinces added a certain flavor to the players from across Ontario and western New York. 32 Intermediate and 26 Advanced players suggests that there is a place for trophy-only amateur divisions, but more about that in a minute. It was also encouraging to draw 5 Open Women and 11 Advanced Women to the TIML, an area of participation that continues to grow.
8 of the 11 Advanced Women division players were competing for the first time at the Maple Leaf, with Cara Hull, Steph Clavel and Lana Kelly returning for another chance to win on the Island. First timers Colleen McInnes and Danielle Duplisea (from New Brunswick) edged out Sarah Hosick and Jacynthe Goulard for top-four finishes but it was another first timer, Kitchener, Ontario native Jessica Cassidy who edged out Toronto local, Lana Kelly for first place in Advanced Women. Congrats to Jessica on her fourth sanctioned tournament win this year, adding to the growing strength of womenís disc golf in Ontario.
The largest division by numbers was the Intermediate Menís division, where budding golfers get to cut their teeth in a Canadian A tier event. With so many players, it was easy to expect several tight contests for the various final positions and it was one of the more recent PDGA members, Dave Hartmann from Liverpool, NY who prevailed with a 950 rated final round of 57 to take First Place. Only two strokes back, a close second was Kyle Smuck from Paris, Ontario. Seemingly conspiring to finish together and maximize the 2017 PDGA membership prizes for top four finishes, we had a foursome of Kyle Pitman, Brian Baxtrom, Blake Orchard and Jeff Grove officially tie for third. All of the top four finishers (including ties) will be receiving 2017 PDGA memberships, compliments of the Toronto Island Maple Leaf. This prize is applicable to Advanced Men and Women as well.
A field of 26 contested for the Menís Advanced division crown and the competition did not disappoint. As many as 12 players were within striking distance of the top card after two rounds, but the final round from the long tees proved to be a difference maker. Jeremy Martin shot a third round division best 61 (984 rated!) and Kevin Griffiths a respectable 65 to tie for third place. Pete Chapman lead by 3 strokes going into the final round but Brian Farquhar fired an even par 63 to overcome the deficit to take the MA1 crown by 2 strokes. Congrats to all of the top card finishers for playing well and finishing up strong.
The Open Womenís division was 5 players strong with Scottsville, NY native Chelsea Carl playing her first full year in the Open ranks after coming third in the Advanced Womens division at the 2015 TIML. Coming all the way from the left coast of Canada, Brianna Ainsley from Vancouver was making her Toronto Island debut. Sandi Hendel from St. Thomas, Ontario was looking to continue her string of impressive tournament results in 2016 at this years Toronto Island Maple Leaf. Those 3 players would be up against 2 of the most dominant women in disc golf over the past decade, Des Reading from Texas and Ragna Bygde-Lewis from Sweden by way of Michigan.
Playing the first two rounds from the short tees, Brianna and Chelsea were tied for fourth with Sandi comfortably ahead, alone in third. Des held onto a three stroke lead after two rounds but the final round from the long tees loomed ahead. In that final round Ragna stormed back with a third round 64 (+1) to take first place over Des by 3 strokes. Sandi held onto third and Brianna edged Chelsea for fourth place. Congrats to all of the Pro Women and especially to Ragna Bygde-Lewis, our first division champion who won while seven and a half months pregnant!
The Pro Masters was 20 players strong and featured several of the best experienced players in Canada. Playing all three rounds from the long tees was quite the challenge and the payout to ninth place was the reward for shooting well all three days. Taking last cash was Paul Michel and ahead of him, tightly bunched from fifth to eighth place were; Michael Sullivan, Nao Nasu, Jason Jalonen and Simon Newman. The top foursome were a step ahead of the rest of the field for most of the event and 3 of the 4 players, Kirk Haggadone from Battle Creek, Michigan; Adam Hazel from Toronto and Dave Northrup from St. Thomas finished with identical totals to tie for second place. The only exception to the tie was the man they call Yeti. Jay Reading, from Wimberley, Texas won the Pro Masters going away, dominating the field with a 12 stroke advantage over the second place finishers. He never trailed and repeatedly showed why he is regarded as one of the most feared putters, making save after save with his big bead Aviar.
The Open division was a record 26 players in 2016 and featured a quartet of 1000 rated pros from near (St. Thomas, Ontario) and far (Show Low, Arizona) and in-between (Ohio and New York). Much like the results from the Pro Masters, the grind of three rounds from the long tees (over 8300 feet per round) sorted the players out over time. With a total par of 189, only one player, Rick Steehler shot under par (188) and did not cash. Paying down to 11th place, our top players included Sam Castiglione (5th), newcomer Lucas Warden (6th), Jamie Pay (7th), Greg Grootenboer (8th), Brody MacDonald (9th), Luke Butch (10th) and Jamie Brow (11th) . Amazingly, all this players finished exactly one stroke ahead of the next finisher (181 through to 187) with Rick one stroke behind Jamie!!
The top card of Martin Hendel (St. Thomas), Brad Schick (Columbus, OH), Paul Ulibarri (Show Low, AZ) and Dan Hastings (Buffalo, NY) created separation between themselves and the rest of the field on day one and solidified their position on day two. Not a lot of separation but just enough to make their card the one to produce a champion and it would go down to the final round before the dust was settled.
All four were 1000 rated players and all four had been here before. Finishing in third place last year, Dan Hastings was in fourth going into the final round and despite shooting a 1001-rated 59, he could not move up from fourth. He still managed to best his western New York buddy, Sam Castiglione by a healthy 7 strokes to maintain his top card standing. Top ten ranked player in the world, Paul Ulibarri had been here in 2013 when he rebounded from a slow start to capture fourth.This time he was knocking on the door from the beginning, never falling below third place but the ultra competitive nature of the course and the Open field, meant Paul would have to pull off something spectacular to move up and despite shooting a fabulous 59, he could not climb up to second or first.
That left last years TIML runner-up Martin Hendel and the only two-time champ Brad Schick, to battle it out for first place. Tied after two rounds, the final round was a back and forth affair with several lead changes, but no lead more than a stroke or two and never for very long. Still tied after completing 11 holes, the tide slowly turned in Martins favour, especially with a birdie to Brads bogey on the fourth to last hole. A final round 54, (nine under par) rated 1041 was one of the best scores ever on the championship layout of Toronto Island and granted Martin Hendel the 2016 Toronto Island Maple Leaf. Congrats Marty! Now, to thank those who help make all this happen, beginning with Simon Newman. Simon has been there since year one, lending his graphic expertise to stamp and poster design. Also lending a hand producing more than your usual scorecards was Brad Reimer. Both these gentlemen were helpful in making the Maple Leaf a professional event from start to finish. Putting together a promotional video (Mission Impossible TIML 2016) this year was the work of Peterboroughís Jeffrey Jaynes. We had a lot of fun with this and hopefully we will do it again next year. Thanks, gents.
With his experience and knowledge on all things PDGA, I was very fortunate to have Brain Hoeniger, PDGA International Director and Island resident to help guide the organizational side of the production.
One of the benefits of going to a tee-time format has been the implementation of individual player introductions accompanied by walk up music. Collated by Ken Little and played by DJ Coney Mills, this additional feature of the Maple Leaf reminds us that life, and disc golf in particular, should be fun. If that wasnt enough of a reminder, then the musings of one, Mr. Paul Belyea, aka Vinyl Factory, aka Mr. B, should help. Paul researched information and wrote intros for each of the 120 players and mixed it up so that there were fresh intros for each of the three rounds. Hats off for his amazing efforts!
Financial support came in various forms and I would like to take this opportunity to mention a handful of the most important. Prodigy Discs was very generous with their support and our former Island resident, Michael Sullivan was a big part in that help. PDGA Canada also contributed to the only annual A tier in Canada, hopefully there will be more A tiers in the future.
Not enough attention has been given to the following sponsors, while their contributions are not large,
they have been there for several years and their continued support has been instrumental in our success.
Florin Draghici of SQRC Home Renovations
Armand Gilks of Bosley Real Estate
Mary Brown of Fossil Watches
Larry Lynchowyd Legal Services
They are represented in the tournament website sponsor bar and hyper-linked to their websites. If you get a chance, let them know that you appreciated their support, I know that I do.
Finally, none of this would be possible without the incredible backing from my wife, Jo-Anne. She prefers to keep a low profile but without her continued support I would not be able to devote the time and energy need to make this event happen. Her advice and assistance before and during the tournament help to make the Maple Leaf what it has become.
Many thanks to all those who came and played and watched and I look forward to seeing you all again next year in 2017 at the 10th Toronto Island Maple Leaf!
TIML Tournament Director