YORKTON - It was the biggest weekend of the year for disc golf in this country as the 2022 Canadian National Championships were held in P.E.I. Sept. 8-11.
More than 468 players representing Canada and five other countries participated in the event, and when the final disc had rattled into the chains and settled into the basket Thomas Gilbert and Ella Hansen had topped the pro divisions.
Gilbert, a pro from Toronto, shot a three-day total of 179 (-14) to beat out American runner-up Matt Bell.
“Definitely it feels pretty amazing,” said Gilbert when interviewed just a few days after the big win.
Gilbert, who has been playing disc golf professionally since 2018, said the win was certainly a career highlight to-date.
“It’s right at the top of the list of wins,” he said.
Gilbert said the victory “sort of solidifies and proves I’m the top player from Canada,” something he added he had been in terms of pro rating.
So what was the key for Gilbert over three rounds in P.E.I.?
“I kind of just relied on past experience, on lessons that I’ve learned,” he said.
Gilbert said going into the event he knew he was the top-ranked player in the field, which gave him some added confidence.
“I knew I had a very good chance of winning,” he said, adding that meant he just had to play his game.
“I just had to rely on the skills and knowledge that I have.”
Of course being the favourite also meant anything short of a win would be a disappointment.
“There definitely was a lot of pressure. I definitely put a lot of pressure on myself,” said Gilbert.
In the opening round things were close, with Bell and Gilbert actually matching at 62.
“I just had to collect myself – to tell myself I can still play solid,” said Gilbert, adding he generally tries not to watch or worry about what other players do, because “what other players do is out of my control.”
Gilbert said at the event a real key for him was his first shot.
“At this tournament throwing off the tee was crucial . . . I probably had the best throws off the tee in the tournament,” he said, adding he felt it was part of the game that he really excelled at, suggesting his strong tee shots left him “twice as many birdie chances” as his competitors.
Fortunately, with good drives made, Gilbert said he was also solid with his putter, and that led to the win.
The win was just another step for Gilbert who is constantly looking to improve his place in the sport.
“I’ve always had a very eager, competitive nature. I’m always pushing myself to the next level,” he said.
Gilbert said as soon as he picked up his first golf disc he was looking for tournaments to play in, and better players to challenge him.
In 2017 Gilbert looked south and has been playing pro since. The Canadian National win is a confidence builder toward better things ahead, he hopes.
“It builds confidence I hopefully can transfer into future events,” he said.