The 2009 Pro Disc Golf World Championships is an event I’ll never forget. I went there with the intention to play Advanced Women and left with a one-in-a-million photograph that ended up being my first ever published image in DiscGolfer Magazine, of course it was Avery Jenkins’ winning putt in the sudden death playoff with Josh Anthon. Which left me wondering after the event, is this the best image in disc golf history that I will ever capture?
The first day of the tournament it rained a lot. In a field of 34 Advanced Women, including Paige Pierce, and in typical nervous Lauren fashion, I grip locked almost every shot. How do you throw this thing again? Where’s the basket? After the 740-rated round I was second to last. But I came back hungry for more every round after and remember getting a birdie on one of the longest holes (at that middle of know where course with farm animals and a camel, you know the one) with OB road next to and behind it with my white Valkyrie that I still carry in my bag to this day (ten years later). It had been freshly signed by Markus Kallstrom and the other Swedes that were staying in the same hotel as us in Kansas City just days before (eeeek!). I worked my way up the rankings after that terrible first round and ended up in 19th place but it wasn’t enough to secure me a spot in the semi-finals. I was bummed and excited at the same time because this meant I would be taking pictures here on out with my Canon Rebel and brand new Tamaron 28-300mm zoom lens with vibration control.
During the semi-finals I planned on photographing the Female Pro Open division at Water Works. When I heard that Brigitta Lagerholm had hurt her back and was going to play with no caddy, I knew I had to be her caddy. For someone with a broken back I was surprised by the amount of weight she had in her bag, not too many discs so I just assumed there were rocks in there and didn’t ask any questions. She played well enough to maintain her 4th place finish but ended up opting out of the Final 9 to reduce her risk of further injury.
When we got to Blue Valley there were so many people all over the place, different divisions playing for titles on all different holes. I didn’t know where to go with so much going on so I kept a simple plan: follow the FPO then the MPO. As I was taking pictures of the women, Des Reading came running down the hill right towards me, I looked around, surely she was running towards someone else. All of a sudden she’s TALKING TO ME and says thank you for taking pictures, hands me her old beat in Pro Wraith (the gummy kind) and tells me "it lost its left leg" and she wanted me to have it. My jaw drops, I don’t know what to say (I ended up using that disc on holes I knew I could never possibly loose it and once in a tournament I almost got an ace with it after hitting the basket in Bloomington, IL. I knew that disc was magic. I still have it today but it stays stored away). The rest of the women’s round was a blur after that but I do remember Valarie Jenkins being so far ahead of everyone that it was an easy win — and this meant she got a turkey! A Worlds Turkey. Her 3rd consecutive World Title. Gobble Gobble!
Up next the Men's Pro Open, the card featured Avery Jenkins, Josh Anthon, Cale Leiviska and Matt Orum. I missed a couple holes of their Final 9 from covering the women but the battle was on and teeth were clenched. Avery - Josh or was it Josh - Avery? It was a tie, PLAYOFF! There are only two sudden death playoffs in the history of the disc golf World Championships, the first was in 1987 when Gregg Hosfeld beat Michael Sullivan at Toronto Island in Canada. And now Avery Jenkins versus Josh Anthon, the race was tight and it came down to this short uphill shot after a couple holes, Josh had thrown a touch shorter Avery. My gut told me that this was it, this was the moment. I sprinted up that hill and dove into the grass securing my spot in the gallery for the perfect shot. Josh didn’t convert the putt. Avery took a moment to breathe and just threw it in. I just kept on clicking because I knew this was big and I don’t think I realized the enormity of it all until after I got home and looked at the pictures myself.
I sent about 300 pictures (sorry John) in a Kodak gallery (yes, the one you can order prints from) to John Whinery, the editor of DiscGolfer Magazine. He wrote back saying he had tears in his eyes and the moment was perfectly captured and they wanted to use it in the magazine. I was overjoyed, I’m going to be published! When it arrived in my mailbox there was a copy of the magazine with a check for $100 payable to Lauren Lakeberg. I hit it big time!
What’s more than that, I can’t believe I was there, I can’t believe I captured this moment of history. These moments of brother and sister victories, together. And how, just how was I the only one in the gallery to capture that winning putt?
Without further adieu, the 2009 PDGA World Championships:
The is just a small segment of the history of the disc golf and my life as a disc golf photographer. These are stories that I've wanted to tell for a long time. **If you see a photo here that you would like to use for your own personal purpose because there is a personal connection that you have with these moments, it is okay to post on social but please do not edit them. Photo credit: LEL Photography. "PC: @LELPhotography" and tag me. I’m on social as @lelphotography on all platforms. I'd love to hear your story and what these moments meant to you.** For commercial inquiries please e-mail me firstname.lastname@example.org.
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