European Champions crowned in Finland

The final round of the 2016 European Championships presented the competitors with a challenge well beyond keeping their heads cool and their discs hot under pressure. Not only were the continental titles at stake, the wrath of Freyr, Nordic God of weather, was also on display, with periods of rain and winds gusting up to 18 meters/second or 40 miles per hour. Many of the contenders watched their dreams of a medal fade on the gauntlet of exposed holes 3 through 8 next to the Gulf of Bothnia, where pars were at a premium and 10 foot putts required one’s complete concentration. In this context Matias Söderström’s score, a 1070 rated bogey free 7 under 54, which vaulted him from 26th to a share of 8th in MPO and reflected his relatively early tee time before the furies fully wreaked their havoc, reads like pure genius. To comprehend mother nature’s full impact today, when Europe’s finest disc golfers threw an average of 6 more shots than in Round 3, check out the event’s hole by hole scoring system provided by Skoorin , developed by PDGA Europe Volunteer of the Year, Estonia’s Marko Saviauk.

When the final putts in 3 divisional playoff hit chains, 6 competitors from the Scandinavian powerhouse teams – 4 Finns and 2 Swedes – together with 1 continental Euro disc golfer were crowned the Champions. Here’s how the drama and excitement unfolded:

In Open division 2016 Finnish national champion Leo Piironen delivered one of the greatest comebacks in disc golf history. Leo birdied the final 4 holes in regulation to storm from 5 throws behind and tie home course favorite Juho Parviainen. He then nailed a 6 meter birdie on playoff opening hole 17 to win the biggest title of his career. Fellow Finn Teemu Nissinen completed the host country’s sweep of the medal positions. All told Finland absolutely dominated MPO, taking a remarkable 9 of the top 11 positions, with only Denmark’s KJ Nybo in 4th and Germany’s Marvin Tetzel, breaking their monopoly.

Among the ladies, 16 year old Eveliina Salonen survived a mid-round meltdown, clinging to a lead that at one point had dwindled from 6 down to a single throw 1. She becomes the youngest ever Pro division winner at the European Championships. Ms Salonen finished 3 ahead of Slovakia’s Katka Bodová, who recently tied 5th at Worlds, and whose par 3 on the closing hole was the difference over bronze medalist,  Jenni Eskelinen.

The young guns in Juniors proved to another nail biting all Finnish affair. Jasper Heino barely missed out on sudden death when his birdie putt on 18 hit high center in the chains, before falling back down off the rim and onto the ground. After Väinö Mäkelä and Riku Vink both had chances to secure the victory, it was Mäkelä who finally took the title on the 3rd hole of extra time. Having witnessed these teenage sensations in action throw equally long and crisp forehands and backhands, we can only warn the world’s elite shooters to watch out for this Suomi threesome on the horizon.

In the other divisions Sweden’s Anders Swärd overcame a quadruple bogey snowman on hole 8, playing the last 10 in minus 2, to win Masters by a single throw over his countryman Kristian Bengtsson. Grandmasters was settled on the initial hole of extra time with another Finn, Kari Vesala, edging out his Swedish rival, Peter Bygde. Switzerland’s Karin Rubin took home the Women’s Masters’ title by a single throw in regulation over Norway’s Lydie Hellgren, handing in a scorecard with no hole scores higher than a 7. And Swedish Senior Grandmaster Olle Samuelsson dominated the old boys from start to finish, cruising to victory by 19 shots.

It was a privilege to represent the PDGA at Meri-Toppila DiscGolfPark in Oulu this week, and to witness firsthand the talents of the 200 competitors from 21 countries, the sheer professionalism of the event organizers and the dedication of their deep team of volunteers. Today’s final round even included 2+ hours of spectacular live coverage on national TV of the top Junior, Women, and Open cards. Those who were not here can also find tons of visual evidence on how Finland continues to raise the bar for our sport at the tournament website including Eino Ansio’s spectacular photography. To the City of Oulu, the Finnish National Association Suomen Frisbeegolfliitto the Tournament Director Erno Väyrynen, the Event Producer Jukka Teräs,  Media Manager and Disc Golf World Tour Founder Jussi Meresmaa, the “Hat Guy” Antti Vuento, Spin18, and all the other event partners and sponsors, we extend our heartfelt thanks and congratulations.

The medals were sponsored by Halti and presented to the winner by Paul Francz, president of the European Disc Golf Federation.

The European Championships will be held again in 2018, with the bidding process soon to be announced. Until then the victors can relish their titles and the runners-up their medals, while those who came oh so close will have to wait 2 long years before their chance to seize the day returns at this, the most Olympic style event in disc golf.

Story by: Brian Hoeniger, PDGA International Director