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What Just Happened? “The Holy Shot” by James Conrad

By Nicholas Wilson | 08/03/2021
What Just Happened? “The Holy Shot” by James Conrad

James Conrad threw the most incredible shot in disc golf history. The circumstances, shot shape, and clutchness all add gravitas to the moment. But “The Holy Shot” is much more than just a great disc golf shot. It has been billed as one of the greatest moments in sports history. That’s right, of any sport. Just think about the minuscule chance that he makes THAT shot at THAT moment. I have watched the shot more than I wish to divulge and it still sends chills down my spine. Let’s break down the shot and look at how it is being perceived outside of the sport. But first, let’s get to know the man.

Who is James Conrad (PDGA #17295)?

James Conrad was born on May 4, 1990. Conrad grew up as a self-proclaimed “Army Brat” and moved around much of his childhood. Their family finally settled in Blacksburg, VA where he still calls home. His Father introduced Conrad to disc golf in 1996. He then played his first PDGA sanctioned tournament in 2000 and later played his first MPO tournament in 2006. Conrad has been a touring professional since 2016 while being sponsored by Innova through 2020.

2021 was Conrad’s first season with his new sponsor, MVP Disc Sports. He had to completely overhaul his bag and figure out how to throw a brand new lineup of discs. This was very apparent in the early season. Conrad was inconsistent in his tournament finishes and did not have a win until the World Championships in late June. He came into his prime at just the right time.

The Set-Up

The 2021 PDGA World Championship consisted of five rounds played over five days in Ogden, UT (June 22-26). Rounds one and three were played on a ball golf course at Mulligans. This left rounds two, four, and five to be played at “The Fort.” This is a heavily wooded course that demands precision. This is Conrad’s type of course. In his three rounds at “The Fort” throughout the World Championship, Conrad shot rounds rated at 1059, 1070, and 1071.

Conrad had been hanging around the lead card all week. Paul McBeth came into the final round with a one-stroke lead over James Conrad, Kevin Jones, and Calvin Heimburg. All of them played well but in the final few holes of the tournament, it was a two-horse race between McBeth and Conrad. When they stepped up to the tee on the par 4 hole 18, McBeth still held a one-stroke advantage over Conrad.

McBeth was first on the tee on the treacherous 18th hole. His drive flew past all of the guardian trees and began to hyzer left as he urged his disc to “Sit, sit, sit!!” His disc slid to a stop two feet short of OB. He was safe on the left side of the fairway with an advantageous angle to the pin. Conrad was next on the tee. He grabbed his trademark extended run-up and let his MVP Tesla fly. Just gotta beat the guardian trees and…THWACK! The Tesla dropped straight to the ground safely out of the meandering creek 3 feet behind his disc. He was out of position for birdie and simply had to throw a pitch-out shot to progress himself 250 feet up the fairway. McBeth digested this play and knew he had a shot to work with. McBeth also threw a layup as he did not want to challenge the OB surrounding the green. This was the right play at the moment. Conrad would have to throw into the basket from 247 feet to force a playoff.

Then it happened. The late afternoon sun shined down on Conrad and the crowd of hundreds. Conrad had 247 feet left to the pin as he visualized his shot. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and let his Axiom Envy fly. He put it up high to the left of the basket on an understable anhyzer line as the disc drifted back to the right as it lost altitude. “Get in the hole!!!” Many fans screamed as the Envy approached the basket. SPLASH!!! Straight into the basket as the crowd went wild and Ian Anderson on Disc Golf Network commentary exclaimed “OHHHHHHHHH no way, no way!!!” Pandemonium around the green ensued.

Conrad jumped up and down, hugged and high-fived people around him, and then sprinted down to grab his disc out of the basket as the crowd went insane. He had done the impossible. McBeth then got up and down to send it to a playoff which Conrad won on the first hole.

One of the great aspects of this age of disc golf is that there are cameras everywhere. Take a look at some of the other angles that caught the action:

“The Holy Shot” Heard ‘Round The World

Conrad’s shot was an exclamation mark on one and a half years of explosive growth for disc golf. The COVID 19 pandemic has seen a massive influx of players interested in the sport. As a result, many fans had never seen a world championship as the 2020 tournament was canceled due to the pandemic. Due to the incredible nature of the shot, many media outlets who typically do not carry disc golf gave “The Holy Shot” air time.

  • ESPN’s “Sportscenter” named it their #1 play for their “Top 10 Plays.”
  • Jomboy Media broke down “The Holy Shot” on their YouTube Channel (1.25 million subscribers).
  • SB Nation did a write up on the shot.
  • James Conrad’s hometown CBS affiliate in Blacksburg, VA ran an article on his achievement.
  • Latestly.com releases viral trends in social media and produced content of the shot.

Conclusion

Countless other news outlets ran stories on “The Holy Shot.” It has reached far beyond the confines of disc golf fans. We have no idea what this moment will do for the sport. The point here is that this single-shot reached more viewers than any other shot in the history of disc golf. What is also of note is the vernacular and tone that larger media outlets are using for this shot. Gone are the days when disc golf coverage is chuckled at by bigger media outlets. All of these outlets now speak and write with the respect that our sport deserves, finally! Now go back and watch the shot over and over again from the many different angles available and appreciate this moment in disc golf history.

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