MISSOULA — Garrett Gurthie’s motto might have been “Go big or go home” on Sunday at Linda Vista Golf Course
And since he’s only on week 17 of his 30-week disc golf tour, it’s going to be a while before he goes home.
The Florida native rebounded from losing his lead early in the final round of the Zoo Town Open, converting a gutsy gamble that proved to be the turning point in his first victory of the road trip. His win made it a Sunshine State sweep under the overcast skies as Madison Walker won the women’s title earlier in the day.
Trailing by one stroke heading to the ninth hole, Gurthie passed on the safe shot of placing a tee shot in front of the pond, approximately 375 feet away. As the other competitors laid up short, the disc golfer known for his long tee shots gunned his Innova Star Destroyer disc about 600 feet over the water.
His bet on himself paid off as he carded a birdie, while leader Nate Doss — ranked third in the world — threw a disc into the water and tallied a double bogey. Gurthie went up by two strokes and held the lead or was tied with Doss the rest of the way.
“I felt like I needed to apply a little bit of pressure if I want a chance to win because Nate’s a great competitor and is very experienced,” Gurthie said. “Right then and there, I knew it was going to either make me or break me. I went out of bounds the hole before, so I just decided to go for it. It was probably not the greatest idea, but I knew if I flew it long, I could still have a putt for par.”
Gurthie had held a one-stroke lead coming into the day after two rounds in the rain at Blue Mountain Disc Golf Course on Saturday. He started with five birdies through seven holes, but he was outdone by Doss.
Doss opened with seven consecutive birdies, overtaking Gurthie for first place on the third hole and holding a one-stroke lead after eight holes.
Two holes on the back nine were skipped because of water issues, but Gurthie had built a two-stroke lead with two holes to play. He finished with a three-day total of 146, ending one stroke ahead of Doss.
“My putting is coming along a lot better,” said Gurthie, who has already qualified for the US Disc Golf Championships and the World Championships. “I’m just finally getting to where I need to be practice-wise and hitting it well.”
On the women’s side, Walker continued her torrid comeback from a poor first round to win her first Zoo Town Open title in three tries and her third first-place finish this year.
She posted a 10-stroke swing in the final round as she erased a four-stroke deficit to win by six with a 176. She did that while playing through a hip injury she suffered last weekend when she slipped in the rain at a tournament in Oregon.
“Yesterday I found something that was working, and that was just trying not to react to my shots,” Walker said after getting her hip worked on. “Once you kind of turn off the emotions and the opinions about your shots, it’s a lot easier to just move to your next shot without any sort of emotional baggage.”
Walker finished six strokes ahead of Jessica Weese in second place. Val Jenkins entered the day with a four-stroke lead and finished seven strokes back in third place.
“This tournament just went really smoothly,” Walker said. “I don’t think I threw any out of bounds. That was the big thing.”