On the road with JB: DGA Team Captain and 2011 Worlds Masters Champion Jon Baldwin is a contributing Author to the DGA website and periodically shares his experiences on the road as a profession Disc Golfer. Make sure to surf by Jon Baldwin’s website to check out what going on, what’s in his bag, Lessons, Instruction and more!
Third times a charm!
First of all, I think it is worth mentioning that this years Wide Open followed a week of rest and recharging at my Mother’s house in Rochester NY. There just isn’t much like spending time at home with family. Being on the road for a month or two, while fun and adventurous, is taxing in some ways and I really appreciated the opportunity to take a break from the tour. Thanks Mom!
Eric McCabe and I left Rochester in good spirits and made the 16 hour drive to Kansas City on Monday the Tenth of June. We drove about 11 hours that day and made just an hour or so shy of St. Louis. Cheap hotel was the call, and it was. Smelly dank room, and an old TV that didn’t work very well, but we were so tired from the drive that it didn’t really matter, we were out like lights. Having knocked out the majority of the drive already, we were stoked to face the comparatively short 5 hours since we would be playing golf shortly after arriving.
Driving through St. Louis was cool because it was the first time I saw the famous arch up close.
The highway passes with in an Aftershock of the base and I was shocked at how large it was. It’s a pretty impressive structure to be close to. Most of the photos don’t really give you an idea of how large it is, and I would guess you could fit a house inside each side of the base. Solid!I was reminded of how important sports are to the Kansas City area on the way into the city as we drove right past Arrowhead stadium and the home of the Kansas City Royals. I remembered all the big football games I watched on TV, and how the crowd noise was always a factor. I could almost feel the spirit of sports that echoes out of that stadium. That same spirit is something I sense in the disc golf community in KC.
After a quick visit to the Dynamic Discs shop, we went and got lunch right around the corner at a place voted Best Barbecue in Kansas City. Walking in, we saw Garret Gurthie, Big Jerm, and Jonas. The place sells discs, so it has to be good. Now, if you have been to KC, you know that that is a bold statement. What’s interesting is that this place is in a gas station. We were there at 2pm, and there were about 20 people in line ahead of us. Ok, it has to be good. It was. Real good. Shortly after getting our food, World Champion Paul McBeth and Brittany Blair came in and said chatted for a bit. We had been in town all of a half hour and already just ran into a several top players in the game. After eating our delicious BBQ, we were off to practice Rosedale.
I had played Am Worlds in 2003, as well as Pro/Combined Worlds in 2009, so I was familiar with the courses we were playing. Rosedale is a pretty fun track and it gets a lot of recreational play. There was a line to tee off on one and we waited our turn but quickly played through a few groups and soon we caught up to some famous golfers; Nate Doss and Valarie Jenkins. They were playing with Das Loomis, who I had got to know the previous season. It was good to connect with them and hear a little about how their extended trip in Europe was and also get to hear about Loomis’s plans to move to Finland for a while with fellow golfer Minna Dennis. The course was a little rough and some of the shots were a little different that I remembered them. We finished up the round and by that time it was time to pick up Paige Bjerkas at the airport. She would be continuing on tour with Eric up to Canada while I would catch a ride with Michael Williams up to the Minnesota Magestic. For this event, we would be hanging out together. We picked up Paige at the airport and went directly to Water Works. I hadn’t got to play this amazing course since Am Worlds in 2003.
It looked a little different, but Hole one at Water Works is one of my favorite holes anywhere, and as far as starting holes, perhaps the best in the world. The shot is downhill, and maybe about 500 feet.
You can take a low ceiling line right at the basket, or a hyzer line through the first set of trees, but you must negotiate another smaller tree that is right in the hyzer wheelhouse. The green slopes severely down to the left, so any shot that fades to the left will end up at the bottom of the hill unless you get the elevation and line just right. It’s a classic hole that really sets the tone for the rest of the course. We had a good round, it was great to have Eric show me some of the less intuitive lines and get an idea of the right disc selection. I had never seen Paige play and that was great too. She really gets a lot of snap on the disc and is a fun person to play with.After that it was time to check out our spot that we would be staying for the week. Hal-Baby and Ken “Tank” Franks were nice enough to let us stay in their home. Hal is quite a famous frisbee person and it was really cool to get to know him and Tank.
After a solid nights sleep we were off to practice Blue Valley before the heat really kicked in. This course is HUGE. Big shots with a lot of elevation. You pretty much need every shot in the bag as many of the pins are on sloped greens with potential to roll if you come in with the wrong spin. The shots are just part of it though, the course is long enough that endurance is a big factor. Whoever plays well on this track will need to be in shape, and I normally think I am in good shape, but not that good here. Hole 3 goes out towards a dam where the length of your drive has diminishing returns. Unless you have 450′ of power, between 340 and 450, you are just putting yourself on a slope that is hard to throw off of without a flat run up. The hole probably gains over 100′ of elevation too. Just a beast. I was stoked that I got to see a home town friend, Marty Hapner, on hole 10. Always good to see friends from home on the road. I think we had just about had enough practice there after 10-11 holes. It was hot and humid and we were tired already so we decided to pack it in.
That evening, Vinnie Miller arrived at the house. I had played with him the previous year at the Glass Blown Open, so I knew him a bit, but would get to know him much better this trip because we were both playing Master’s and I needed a ride to the different courses, since Eric was playing Open. We had an adventure on our first day, trying to pick up Joe Rotan of Twisted Flyer, we had the wrong address and went on a little wild goose chase, but I assured Vinnie we were all good, “Team No Worries” would get there just fine. It was a stressful start to the event, but it worked out just fine. We all made it to Blue Valley in time, and started our rounds. I didn’t play particularly well or bad, shooting a 67. I was pretty surprised that I was 7 strokes behind though. Local boy Fred Smith (who Eric had warned me would be tough to beat) shot a 1034 rated 60, awesome shooting Fred! After our round Joe took us out for lunch and I was stoked to find there was a salad bar where we went. I have learned recently that good food is crucial to me playing well. I always try to eat very well when playing tournaments and I think it is a reason that I seem to play better in later rounds. The body needs good fuel to perform at it’s best. So thanks Joe for the healthy lunch!
While we are on the topic of food, I was stoked to find another health conscious eater in the house in Tank. Found out we both had a fondness for oatmeal in the morning, and he turned me on to a brand of blueberry oatmeal that I have yet to see anywhere else. I finished up his box of it and went down to the store to buy 2 more boxes. Yummy! Finding a good store with good food you like to eat is always key for me when I’m on the road. Living in Santa Cruz, it isn’t hard to find healthy food, but on the road it’s tough. So thanks to Tank for showing me where to find the goods! Also, thanks to Halbaby for giving me a Tank No.7 Double IPA on my first night. Wow, what a good beer. If you are in the area, check it out. It is a premium item, comes in the 4-packs and still costs more than most 6 packs, but it is worth it. I hope Halbaby is still enjoying the ones I replenished his with (he said he doesn’t drink them that often).
The next day we were off to Waterworks. Some of you have asked about my mental approach, and I can tell you that I don’t often think about my score when I play. I just try to think of the next shot, because there isn’t much more important to think about in my opinion. I could have thought about how I was 7 back, or that I missed my first 2 putts, but really, I’m just trying to visualize that next shot. This day, I was doing that pretty well. I had a “swing thought” where I was relaxing my arm and not throwing with much tension, or strength in my arm. I was finding ample power with out trying too hard, and I was gaining accuracy. I never know what will work from week to week or even round to round, but this day, that worked, and I went with it. It really worked. I was hitting lines and distances and making most of my putts. I ended up with the hot round of 45, which I later found out were the hot rounds there in the open division. Obviously, I was stoked and it moved me way up in the standings. Other than that, it reminded me of how much I love that course. So many fun holes, greens, fairways and shots. Just a blast to play and my favorite in the area.The following day was time for us to play Swope Gold. This course has changed since I played it in 2009. They added some super long holes and made some par 4′s. I was playing with Jay Reading (one of my favorite playing companions) and Arturo, known as one of the best local players, and Fred Smith. It was a great round until our 14th hole or so, when it started to rain and look really ugly on the horizon. All of the sudden we were in survival mode- the lightning was striking all around and the wind was powerful! Vinnie and Joe found me and urged me to get in the car ASAP, which I did. We scrambled to find a covered area to protect from hail but couldn’t really find much so we did the best we could.
It rained hard and the wind blew for an hour or so and then we didn’t know if the round would be cancelled or not. A lot of waiting around later we got word that they would continue the remaining holes, but one lightning strike would delay the start another half hour. I actually wouldn’t have minded scrubbing the whole round because just as the wind whipped up before the rain started, I had thrown my second on a par 4 out of bounds, and so had Arturo. Jay had yet to throw when the horn sounded. I was not doing that well in the round, so the break was good for me to regroup. Well, we started back in the round and we immediately had an issue with where Arturo’s disc had gone out. It was one of those unfortunate situations where we all kind of disagreed. He thought he crossed the island, and we didn’t. I detest making calls against anyone, but you just have to call them like you see them and that’s what I did. He took the unfortunate spot and ended up with a 6. I hit a 45′ put to save a bogey 5, and Jay got the 4. Nobody played the next that well and I think we all parred. I managed to park the next one for an easy bird and picked one back up. On the last, Jay’s shot just drifted OB on the left, but he saved a bogie. Hitting that 45 footer was a turning point for me. It got me back into the round. Jay had the best round with a 55, Arturo and I at 58, and Fred had a 60. I lost 3 strokes, but it could have been much worse, and we finished the round with out getting hit by lightning. Which was nice.
Next up was Rosedale. I knew that it would be a tough round out there with the mucky conditions, but due to some very unfortunate circumstances, we didn’t end up playing Rosedale. Our final round was switched to Waterworks. Having just shot a 1060 round there, I was pretty stoked to go back.
That night I was feeling drained from the whole rain/lightning delay round, and I made a decision that you may find yourself faced with. Go have fun, or relax and recharge. I am a person on the introverted side of things, so parties aren’t always my first choice anyway. However, the party was at Pete Cashen’s place. If you ever are lucky enough to be invited, go. He loves to put on a good party and has quite the bachelor pad. I just wasn’t feeling it though, I wanted to rest and get some good food in my system for the final round. So I stayed home with Halbaby and Tank and made myself a salad and some chicken and took it easy while Eric and Paige went and had fun. There would be time to party after right? It turned out to be a good decision.
The next day I was feeling refreshed and recharged. Jay had me by a stroke, but I knew that I played well at Water Works, so I was pretty calm. Actually, I was very calm and confident. It isn’t the kind of feeling you can just turn on. Sometimes you have it, sometimes you don’t. The decisions the day before to take it easy and eat well helped, but even then, there is no guaranty. This day I had it though, and boy did I like it. I hit all my lines. I even hit solid chains for an ace on hole 3, the one with the peace sign green. One of those days when you hit your lines and make your putts, even the long ones. I ended up shooting a 44, which was one better than ANY player had shot there all week. A very special round that Jay later told me he didn’t expect, thinking that he had a great chance because I couldn’t repeat my last performance. I actually improved on it which was a surprise to most, even myself.
Well, you can bet that I made it to Pete’s house that night Had a great time too.
Thanks to our hosts, Halbaby and Tank- it was great to get to know you guys, thank you so much for your hospitality. Thanks to my traveling partners, Eric and Paige, you guys made it fun! And thanks to Vinnie and Joe for getting me to all the courses- Team No Worries! And of course thanks to DGA, Twisted Flyer, and the events title sponsor, Grip Equipment.
Lastly, thanks to Jack Lowe and all the team that helped him put on such a fun event. KC is a great town for disc golf ,thanks to all of the people that contribute!
Next up: Minnesota Majestic