Locastro Hits The Big Time
By Todd Harrell
Disc golf fans around the world, thanks to this year’s Internet TV production, witnessed a changing of the guard as the young gun Nikko Locastro overtook veteran Dave Feldberg and claimed the United States Disc Golf Championship with (-34).
Locastro, 21 years old, produced a bogey free round and ended with a 57 (-11), while the 5-time major champion Feldberg logged in a 62 (-6) and lost by two strokes.
During the awards ceremony following the round, Feldberg, who won the 2005 Open, commended Locastro on his first major tournament win.
“Nikko Locastro now proved he is one of the top players of the world,” Feldberg said.
Until Saturday, Locastro’s biggest win was at The Memorial, a national tour event held earlier in March.
“I’ve been looking for a big win to satisfy my hunger,” a delighted Locastro said after the round.
When asked if winning the Open was as sweet as he’d dreamed for so many years he said, “Yeah, It feels even better.”
Although the Missouri resident had respectable rounds on day one and two with a 62 and 61 respectively, it wasn’t until round three, when he shot a 58, that Locastro positioned himself within reach of Feldberg. And, when Locastro got his shot at the lead card he made the most of it.
He said in order to get into striking position he had to remain focused, play smart and “get aggressive when it was time to be aggressive.”
After leading the entire week, Feldberg could not stop the surging Locastro. He tied Feldberg after hole 7 when Feldberg failed to convert his birdie attempt. Then on the next hole, Feldberg’s drive hit a tree and went out of bounds, and later led to a bogey. Locastro, however, birdied the par four hole and took a two stroke lead.
Feldberg rallied and gained a stroke back on Locastro on hole 9 and then tied it after he eagled hole 10. Also on hole 10, Locastro’s initial drive went into the bunker, resulting in no penalty. On his second drive, he delivered a beauty that allowed him to eventually collect a birdie. Locastro then took the lead again after making a birdie on hole 11 and charged on, while Feldberg failed to make another rally.
Spectators were eating up the drama. Their numbers had swelled to at least 300 by the time the lead group arrived at hole 16. When Locastro, who placed 27th last year, nearly parked his drive the fans erupted in applause. Then as he walked down the fairway, an enthusiastic supporter yelled “Nikko!” to rally the player forward.
Crowd numbers were surely boosted by the fair weather. Yesterday forecasts had called for storms.
Spectator, Kim Theesen, of Lincoln, Neb., was in Atlanta for the week and wanted to stop by and the see the Open for the first time.
“These guys are really good,” Theesen said.
Droves of spectators world-wide also watched in anticipation. The tournament’s Internet TV production collected 7,700 viewers Saturday.
Although Feldberg was struggling to rally late, he did sink a big putt on hole 18 to claim sole ownership of 2nd place above Josh Anthon, who had a scorching round of 53 (-15). Anthon’s phenomenal round brought him to 3rd place and the course record.
“Good luck trying to beat that new course record,” Anthon said during the award ceremony.
After the round Feldberg gave credit to Locastro for his solid play.
“The kid earned it,” Feldberg said, adding that he commended Locastro for relentless practice in order to get to this point.
He said that after his disappointing performance he’s going to rededicate himself to tournament play.
As for Locastro, after the round he was soaking it all in. As he began signing the first of what would surely be dozens of autographs, he seemed on top of the world.
“I’m honored and very satisfied,” said the 2009 Open champion, who also collects a $15,000 check.