A pair of Bowling Green residents brought home world championships last weekend at the 2021 PDGA Professional Masters Disc Golf World Championships in Johnson City, Tenn.

For Rick Voakes – “Dr. Rick,” as the Bowling Green pediatrician is known – the world championship was his 11th career world title.

Bowling Green’s Andy Ritter claimed his first world championship on the same day – and his trusty light-orange Innova “Corvette” disc heavily factored into his winning weekend.

“All I can say is it was just my week because I played good all week long,” Ritter said. “I’ve played really good this year overall. I think everything just came together and it was just my turn.”

Ritter’s victory came in the Pro Masters 55+ Division, where he shot a 39-under par 300 to claim a two-stroke win over runner-up Roger Reyes of Saint Charles, Mo.

Heading into Saturday’s semifinals – where the field was cut to the top 13 – Ritter and Reyes were even. But Ritter created some serious space over those 18 holes to build a six-stroke lead. That turned out to be enough, despite a late charge by Reyes in the four-player, nine-round final as he cut Ritter’s edge to two strokes.

With that sizable lead heading into the finals, Ritter could’ve played it safe – he opted to keep pushing.

The holes were very difficult,” Ritter said. “Roger made some great shots and some good putts. I didn’t play bad. I just played maybe not as great as I could have.”

The world championship was a long time coming for Ritter, who said he’s previously played in “eight to 10” world championships, with a previous best finish of 10th in the Open Division at the 1999 event in Rochester, N.Y. Ritter took up the sport in 1989, playing his first round – like Voakes – at Kereiakes Park.

“I still feel like I’m learning,” Ritter said. “Putting, sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s not. And learning what you can do to get out of a slump. Driving, it’s always a challenge. There’s always new discs coming out, there’s always different conditions – just trying to learn what your shot is going to do during the different conditions. It’s a lifetime thing.”

Bowling Green’s Rocky Russell, who finished 14th in the Pro Masters 60+ Division in Johnson City, said Ritter has learned plenty over his years of playing.

“Andy is one of the best putters on the planet,” Russell said. “He won’t say it, but I’ll say it for him.”

Voakes tallied a 10-stroke win the Pro Masters 70+ Division, adding to his impressive collection of world championships that started with the Masters Division title at the 1988 event in Cincinnati.

In Johnson City – where play was split between two courses, at Harmon Hills and Winged Deer – Voakes got a tremendous boost in the opening round Tuesday by connecting on an ace on the par-3 No. 5 hole. That set up an opening-round 54 to give Voakes a two-stroke lead and he continued to add to that advantage over the next three rounds.

In Saturday’s semifinals, Voakes did see his lead slim by six strokes thanks to a solid push from Ron Engebretson of Victoria, Texas.

Then came the finals.

“For the finals this year, we played the nine most difficult holes,” Voakes said. “I averaged about 20 points above my player rating, so I had to push myself really hard.”

That final push helped Voakes tally the round’s best score with a 1-under 33, marking the fifth round out of six that he’d shot the lowest score.

“It felt good,” Voakes said. “There was a big crowd for the first hole of the finals. I was up first, and it was a really hard shot and I threw a really good drive on it – I threw 340 or 350 (feet), probably ... it was way out there, and all week I hadn’t gotten over 300 on any drives, so that one felt really good.”

Voakes, who’s wife Sylvia is also a disc golf multiple world champion, is looking forward to a shipment of new discs from his sponsor as a reward for his latest title.

“When I win a worlds, my sponsor Innova Discs makes a special 100 discs for me,” Voakes said. “I put all the 10 different worlds that I won around the edges. I’d like a new one this year. I’ll have to start a new line around the edges.”

Ritter is already thinking ahead in hopes of doubling his world championship total next year.

“I want to try and go back next year and see if I can repeat (in Peoria, Ill.),” Ritter said. “It’s a course I’ve played a few times before. I feel like I have a chance.”{&end}

– Follow sports editor Jeff Nations on Twitter @Jeff_NationsBG or visit bgdailynews.com.