As the Memorial Championships, the official start of DG season an U.S. National Tour 2012 approaches, the speculation is building up steam on which names will be most often seen in the podiums of big events this year. Team Discmania will of course once again be touring a lot this season and many are putting focus on our 17-year-old wunderkind Seppo Paju, who definitely gave a storm warning last year by taking home the Finnish Champion title, finishing strong in the European Open and cashing in with this awesome Hole-In-One at the Distance Showcase during Pro Worlds last year.
Seppo is currently in Sottsdale AZ, getting ready for the Memorial with fellow Team Discmania members like Avery Jenkins & Jussi Meresmaa. We did a little Q&A with Seppo before he left to his all-time 8th U.S. trip from his home town of Lieto, Finland. Here's what Seppo had to say:
Q: How did you practice during the long cold Finnish winter to keep your game in the A-level?
Seppo: This winter has been different than few other off-seasons in my life. Now I have practiced more on my fitness than disc golf. In my opinion it is the part that I need to practice most. And if I want to play on A-level and win some of the biggest tournaments in the world, I have to be tull of energy and focus all the time. If my health is not doing so good, I can't be focused all rounds long because I'm getting tired. I noticed this last year during Pro Worlds when we played 27 holes each round. The first 18 holes I played like 6 to 12 under, but as we reached the last holes I was so tired that I just couldn't keep my focus on the game. Consequently I played bad since I was running out of energy. Putting is another big part of my off-season. I have done thousands of putts with full attention. Putting feels natural now and my putters are banging the chains better than ever!
Q: Do you consider that players living in areas where there's no real winter have an advantage against players living in areas where there's snow in the ground during winter?
Seppo: In my opinion it's an advantage for sure, but i think that if you really want to practice well even with snow in the ground, you can do it. But you have to want to do that. It is not so easy but it's possible. In California and other warm places in the world practicing is not any kind of problem so it's easier.. We (finns) can do it also but in a different way. We have snow in Finland.. but i know that no one has practiced as well as I have.. including the best players on planet.
Q: 2011 was a big year for you (Finnish Champion in MPO, 8th place at the European Open, Ace @ Worlds distance show and PDGA-rating raising from 999 to 1014), what goals have you set for 2012?
Seppo: 2011 was indeed a great year for me. Goals for season 2012 are that I want to repeat my Finnish Championship title, I want to win one big tournament out of the many I'm going to play. Memorial Champ sounds nice in my ears :) I also want to help develop this sport more towards a real sport.
Q: What's your tour schedule for 2012?
Seppo: I'm going to play many tournaments in Europe but also some key tournaments in the States. My current schedule includes: Memorial (NT), Dutch Open (EuroTour), Copenhagen Open (EuroTour), Tali Open (EuroTour), Swiss Open (EuroTour), Sula Open (EuroTour), Stockholm Open (Major), Pro Worlds (Major), Finnish Championships (A-tier), USDGC (Major) and Presidents Cup (XA-tier)! Of course some smaller tournaments here and there also!
Q: Life on tour is rough for a 17-year-old. Do you travel alone your with company?
Seppo: Yep..that's one more reason for getting good fitness and health :) Usually I'm traveling with my family or one of my brothers. I want to thank my all family of supporting me and coming to tournaments with me. They are the reason why I can play more tournaments outside of Finland than most Finnish or European players. Discmania is also helping me a lot and I'm actually going to Memorial alone for the first time, but Jussi Meresmaa is taking care of me after flights from Finland to LA. In Arizona I'll see many good friends from States and it also helps me a lot because I have many friends there and I know they will help me if i need any help. I appreciate it!
Q: Who will win at the Memorial?
Seppo: I would say myself. Don't think I'm being egoistic, because you ask and i answer :) I am my answer ;)
Apart from myself there is many good candidates but i'm sure it'll be one of the top level young guns. I would put my money for one of these players: Nikko Locastro, Paul McBeth, Paul Ulibarri, Ricky Wysocki, Will Schusterick or myself of course :)
Q: What kind of advice you have for aspiring AM's out there thinking about going Pro?
Seppo: If you feel like a Professional disc golfer, do it. If you feel like an Amateur disc golfer, be amateur :) Simple as that!
Seppo Paju signature edition S-line PD2 (Chaos) debuting at the Memorial
PD2 lovers will be in for a treat at the Flymart of the Memorial Championships this weekend as the Seppo Paju signature edition of the pre-release S-line Pd2 will make it's debut there. The S-PD2 will only be available with the Chaos stamp in the U.S. once it will be released, so this is your chance to grab an exclusive disc for your bag and/or collection.
In addition to this, other very interesting pre-release goodies from Discmania will be available as some hand-picked gems in the form of S-line & C-line FD (Jackal) will be sold at the Flymart. The sales of these discs will benefit the Russian Disc Golf Championships and they'll feature this sweet graphic by disc golf artist Skeet Scienski! If Arizona is a bit too far away for your liking, you can still purchase them from Hero Disc USA. More info about the fundraisers here.
Follow Seppo's blog!
Seppo will also be bloggin' actively during the Memorial Championships and for the first time he'll blog completely in english. So be sure to check what's up and leave a comment if you feel like it. Seppo's blog address is http://seppopaju.wordpress.com/ and the first two articles about Memorial are already out: part 1, part 2.
Now, who do you think will win at the Memorial? Leave your guess to the comments!