The First PSCA Event of 2015 went into the history book with the new Championship bracket format being rolled out for the first time where the scores actually counted and real money was on the line. Amateurs from all over the country flocked to Northbrook Sports Club in Hainesville, IL to join the PSCA Challenge and compete alongside the pros for a chance at the top prize money and to compete in the Amateur US Open[link].
The first stop started on Thursday June 25th with a 120 target traditional Sporting Clays tournament. After the first round, Gebben Miles was the top seed and looking familiar atop the leader board for the Men and Challenger Janet McDougall, no stranger to the winner’s circle herself, lead all the Women competitors both Pros and Challengers.
For the Men, the Top 12 Pros after the qualification round automatically earned a slot in the Championship Bracket with the remaining four “wildcard” spots up for grabs among the remaining top 26 shooters as “Last Chance Qualifiers” [See the breakdown here]. After the Qualification round Pro Mike Wilgus found himself just outside of the automatic advancement into the bracket. Mike had to earn his wild card position along with the three challengers Matt Fisher, Trevor Jensen and Rick Hemingway.
For the Women, the Top 4 Pros advanced to the Championship playoff, while the next four highest scores (all coincidentally Challengers) claimed the wildcard spots.
When the Championship Bracket shoot offs began, seven wild card challengers had made their way into the Professional playoffs to vie for top dollar. No other professional sport allows amateur challengers to compete alongside and against the top ranked Pros for a chance to become champions; an interesting, dramatic and unique twist to our sport.
For the Women, Desirae Edmunds, 2014 Women’s PSCA Tour Champion, was the top seeded Pro and favorite to advance to the Championship round. After defeating Pro Candice Fowler and top seeded challenger Janet McDougall in the playoff, Desirae earned her way into the Final round. Women’s challenger Alex Wampler, the sixth seeded women’s shooter, did just enough to advance each round against her Pro Opponents Tina Jewell and Jenni Clark and faced Desi Edmunds in the Final round. Alex picked the right moment to have her best round topping her previous best round by 16 points and defeating perennial favorite Desi Edmunds by just two points in the Final to take the PSCA Women’s Tour trophy. Desirae, despite finishing as runner up had the best per round average of 59.67 points per round. While champion Alex Wampler, averaged 5 points fewer points per round, her masterful execution when everything was on the line helped her claim the first PSCA Women’s title of the year.
With the Men’s bracket set and the primetime lights and cameras on the Men’s playoff began. At the start you would have been hard pressed to find anyone to pick against top seeded Gebben Miles making it to the Final round, but as we learned the new format seems to fit Brandon Powell and Mike Wilgus’ shooting style very well. The two would meet head to head in the final round with Powell finishing 7 points better than Wilgus to take the PSCA title. Wilgus averaged a stout 85.25 points per round while Powell averaged 82.50 points. David Radulovich had a solid performance as well averaging 79.00 points per round and should be a serious contender as the season progresses.
The combination of Pros and Challengers adds a unique twist to the events. Allowing challengers to compete with Pros is much like having only two NSCA classes, Pro and everyone else, the Pro class earns their card and has special advancement benefits but amateurs can still sneak into the bracket to take Pro money. There will never be more than four challengers in any Pro tour bracket so competition will be fierce for those trying to prove their salt against the nation’s Top Shots.