Throwing a frisbee may be easy, but disc golf is not. Throw a smaller frisbee a distance of tens or hundreds of yards. Add in sharp curves, water traps, trees, wind and other obstructions, and one can see that the once-simple game has evolved into something of a science.
With a few hundred onlookers, the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) came to Santa Cruz last weekend, staging the 27th annual “Steady” Ed Headrick Memorial at DeLaveaga Golf Course.
The event is one of six tour events on the PDGA’s 2012 National Tour Elite Series, which will crown a champion based on points scored in August.
“The pros get double points for this event,” Steady Ed Memorial tournament director TJ Goodwin said. “But this tournament usually shapes up to be fun for the whole family.”
The event featured six different competitions, including an open master’s tournament for players 40-plus years of age and an open women’s tournament. The memorial took place over three days, with every day featuring the world’s best disc golfers facing off for cash prizes and points.
Santa Cruz was well represented in the tournaments. In the men’s open, UC Santa Cruz alumni Colin Chambers and Chris Edwards competed, while Santa Cruz locals and former men’s champions Nate Doss and Avery Jenkins took second and sixth place, respectively. In the women’s open, Santa Cruz locals Valarie Jenkins and Kristine King finished in second and sixth place, while three other locals finished in the top 15. PDGA tour manager Andrew Sweeton was unsurprised by Santa Cruz’s success.
“We like to think of Santa Cruz as the epicenter,” Sweeton said. “There’s so many courses in the area, and they are all fun to play.”
One of three local courses, DeLaveaga is one of the hardest disc golf courses in the world. Angles are difficult and players often roll their disc in order to find the putting green.
For UCSC intramural sports supervisor Kevin “Skippy” Givens, the event featured as much local flavor and personal interest as it did disc golf. Givens recounted stories of disc golf glory, while providing the reasoning why DeLaveaga is famous in the disc golf community. Givens mentioned “the kitchen,” or DeLaveaga’s twelfth hole, as having particular lore among athletes.
“Golfers used to keep an old fridge and a six-pack of beer in it,” Givens said. “If you miss the throw and hit the fridge, a golfer will ask you to get them a beer. It’s an old joke the golfers play on each other and the guy who hits the fridge absolutely hates it.”
Disc golf is a rapidly growing sport. Last year’s world championships, which took place at DeLaveaga, featured 432 pros, an increase of over 100 players from 2010. The disc golf team has been at UCSC for six years and has seen interest grow every year. Earlier this year, the team set up a temporary course around Stevenson College, where 60 students were able to learn the game for the first time. Givens, who also advises the disc golf club team, explained that a more permanent course for UCSC is in the works.
“We’d need to map out a course design that minimizes crossing pedestrian pathways and impacting visual corridors,” Givens said. “It will likely be set up as a temporary course, working toward a permanent course status later in time.”
Givens said UCSC is ready for a disc golf community of its own.
“There is a long history of college students throwing frisbees around,” Givens said. “There is a growing trend of disc golf teams being formed at college campuses. Couple that with the rich history of disc sports being played here at UCSC, and you have a natural fit for a student club.”