I’d like to start out by thanking my Sister Becky and her husband Bert for letting me borrow their truck, because with out that option, I couldn’t have played this event. So thanks Becky and Bert, I guess it is fitting that you get to keep that awesome trophy on your mantle- for a while, not forever 😉
Anyway, this was my first to the International Disc Golf Center, and it didn’t disappoint. It is in beautiful and expansive Wildwood Park. There are camping and boating on site. Brian Graham informed me that there are huge bass tournaments held on the lake. As an aside, I used to spend all my free time as a teenager in upstate NY bass fishing, and the idea that I could have made a career out of that is almost as hard to believe as me having a career in disc golf. Back to the IDGC, far from the city, it is a good 30-45 min drive out into the country and you sometimes wonder if you are going the right way. Once you turn into the park, the signs point you to the disc golf part of the park and you are then sure you are in the right place. The center itself is a good sized modern building, and you really get a sense that it is there just for us. A good sized parking area with a pavilion decorated by international flags from I don’t know how many countries give it a real official and international flavor. Inside, there was an airy, high open ceiling providing a spacious feel. A disc golf video playing on a large flat screen tv, plush leather couches and walls covered with discs, and plaques for every hall of fame member make the place feel comfortable right away. The staff were kind and attentive, full of southern charm. On the right there was a museum that had some very special memorabilia of the priceless type. If history of the sport is your thing, this is the place for you, for sure. Through the back of the building is the very well stocked pro-shop with every manufacturer well represented. Then you exit onto a nice deck, with what would be a well utilized awning to wait out passing showers. Tables and chairs to enjoy a lunch break around. Then you notice a great view of a practice area that has 7-8 baskets, all different types, so you can practice upshots and putts on what ever basket you prefer. Pretty sweet.
Each of the 3 courses has a decorative archway entrance with a course overview map showing the hole arrangement. Everything about the facility is first rate quality. We chose to practice the Steady Ed course first.
What a treat. The first shot is a long downhill hallway shot through the woods. It was set up in the tournament par 4 configuration. The Ed course is the oldest and most mature. There are short tees for every hole and the shots were a lot of fun, with a lot of variation in the way of elevation and shot shape. Hole 5 is one of the more memorable there. You are elevated a good 60 ft above the lake, and there is a lane out over the water to a pin ~600ft away, out on a peninsula. You can play safe to the left, throwing maybe 200ft to a landing zone, and then working your way down the wooded hallway to the pin. A great hole that has good risk reward options. I really enjoyed this course. The fairways rewarded precise lines, and the elevation always kept it interesting. Another of my favorites was #7 which is shaped like a reverse letter S. On the tee, you are shooting up over a rise to a fairway that goes 90 degrees to the right. It isn’t a particularly long drive, but it needs to be precise and finish moving to the right. Too far and you are in the woods. Too short and you can’t go for the pin. The second shot plays slightly downhill and turns to the left. A good drive means a simple midrange hyzer. Other drives need to get creative. There are some narrow passages through the trees, but miss your small window and you are looking at bogey. Fun hole!
Next up was the Jackson course. This was the first Houck design course I’ve ever played, and it didn’t disappoint. The fairways were plenty wide, and several holes had an option or three off the tee. Par 4s and 5s are the kind of golf I love and this course has lots of them. One of my favorite holes was #15. It starts on an elevated tee, looking down a semi narrow down hill fairway with an OB creek down the left that crosses across the fairway about where an average driver shot would land. Shots that hyzer out will be penalized. Shots that don’t carry the creek will be OB. Playing too safe to the left will put you behind trees for the second shot. Most players lay up short of the creek with a midrange. The second shot becomes blind as you walk down the fairway because it is up over a rise on the other side of the creek. A good placement shot will leave a 200 ft uphill blind shot. You can try to carry the creek on the drive and leave a much easier second shot, or if you have a lot of power, you can go for the green to possibly get a putt at the basket, but that is risking a kick into the deep woods that could leave you with a bogey or worse. I loved this hole. It is the kind that you would love to play in doubles so you could really challenge it and go for the green. Overall, I really liked this course a lot.
I’m not sure I which course I would play more if I lived nearby, kind of like flavors of Ben and Jerry’s. You can’t go wrong, it just depends what you are in the mood for 😉
The tournament started under threatening skies. Fortunately it didn’t really rain that hard the first round, and unlike California, rain doesn’t mean cold, and I was able to play in shorts and short sleeves for the first round. We played the Ed course first and I played ok. Nothing too special, but pretty solid. I think I was 2 strokes behind Jay Reading after the first round. The second round was on the Jackson course on Saturday morning.
I think it’s worth mentioning that I really liked the format of this event. We were playing two courses. I like that because as a touring pro I have a limited time to practice, and two courses is better than three. I also liked that it was three days with the first round starting Friday afternoon. You get to sleep in! This is nice because it gives us time to let our arms rest Friday morning. Most likely we threw too many shots on Thursday, so that extra half day is valuable. Then two rounds on Saturday, just like all the tourneys used to be, so I liked that. Then one finishing round Sunday so everyone can finish up early and get on the road before dark. Great format!
Saturday was kind of a blur. It was rainy. Golf in the rain is better than no golf, but tournament golf in the rain… questionable 😉 Anyway, I played pretty well on the Jackson in the morning, and a little better on Ed in the afternoon. The rain was a challenge, but having a Birdie Bag helped keep my hands dry and my grip strong. A huge help. I can’t really recall any notable shots, the rain challenged me to keep my focus, but I have to say, it was the best I have ever played in those conditions. After the third round I had a one shot lead over Jay and five over Phil who was really struggling.
Sunday turned out to be a pretty good day, a little rain, and definitely some soggy conditions, but not as bad as Saturday. There was a lot of back and forth in my battle with Jay. I think the lead changed or narrowed 5-6 times and in the end I slowly pulled away. One shot in particular stands out in the middle of the round. Hole 2 on the Jackson (we started on 11) is a par 4 dogleg right. My drive was very good, down the middle and turned around the dogleg 50ft or so. Jay’s shot clipped a tree just prior to the dogleg. Then Phil Arthur crushed one waaayyy around the corner, to within 60ft of the pin on a 600+ foot hole. So fun to watch. Now Jay had a long approach to the green that is extremely wooded. I actually think it is a little too wooded in this case, but it is for everyone. He threw a great shot that was inches away from reaching the green and clipped one of those trees, just when you think it is past it. That left him 70ft or so to get up and down for par. I was about 230ft out and the only real route was a dead straight lazer beam line. Once again, my trusty “experienced” lime green aftershock was my choice. It is broken in enough to turn a little right even at slower speeds. It was one of those windows that makes you pucker a bit. Tough to relax and throw, it can create tension in your arm that reduces your accuracy. I made every effort to stay relaxed and trust my shot. I can feel it when I do this effectively, the disc releases naturally with a little extra spin that only a relaxed arm can provide. A slight hyzer flip that stayed right in the middle of the window the whole way and settled 10 ft from the pin. I had earned the birdie,and that was the moment that defined my round, boosted my confidence, and helped me tune into the feeling of a good shot.
When all was said and done, I had won by 4 strokes, and earned one of the coolest trophies I ever saw. Our field was small, just 5 players, but thanks to 10k added cash, it was still a handsome payday and an overall great experience at the IDGC! Thanks to all the staff that really made me feel at home and busted their butts to put on a quality event. I appreciate all your hard work and hospitality.
2013 Disc Golf Hall of Fame Classic: MPO Final 18