Wednesday had the most intense competitive disc golf yet in the , held this year for the first time in its history in the Santa Cruz area.
Local favorites carry the lead in the Men's and Women's Open Divisions, with Valarie Jenkins in first and Nate Doss tied for first, respectively. Local Jonathan Baldwin is in a close race for second place in the Masters Division (ages 49-59).
The high standings of these local golfers should dispel some skepticism about the importance of a home course advantage in the competition. The race for first place is very tight, however, and not just between the local players.
DeLaveaga may be the toughest course in the country, with its steep burr-filled brown hills and its lack of the manicured, green grass more typical of courses on the East Coast, and more typical of what disc players refer to as "ball golf."
In the Women's Division, there are seven players within seven throws of the lead. Valarie Jenkins and Catrina Allen tied Wednesday at The Oaks at CSU-Monterey Bay, which put them into first and second place respectively.
It's crowded at the top of the Men's Open Division as well, with current World Champion Eric McCabe and two-time World Champion Nate Doss tied for first. They are not alone in the lead, however; Derek Billings and Josh Anthon both follow within 3 strokes.
“I feel like I'm doing pretty well," said Doss, after his first round at DeLaveaga. "I'm confident in myself and my game. This is world class competition, however, and if you don't take every opportunity to do well, you're not gonna make it. I did squander a few chances today, and I really hope that doesn't cost me. But I look forward to getting stronger in the next few days. I think that's the key to winning; the key is to continue to get better in every day of the competition.”
over and golfers will not have a second chance at any one hole, unless they make the semi-finals.
“It's very different courses day to day," said Stephen Crighton of Vancouver, British Columbia.
Crighton played at The Oaks Wednesday, which is on the campus of the CSUMB. The holes wind through dune forest, ice plant and spooky abandoned army barracks.
“The thing about a course like this is its part of a world class competition," said Crighton. "It should be a course which challenges your skills, as well as your bag. We've gone through this whole course, and I've thrown like, four different discs. Thats whats so good about Delaveaga; I used nearly every disc in my bag.”
While Crighton may not be very excited by the challenge provided by The Oaks, many players were excited by the chance to score at the relatively easy course.
“Definitely, there are softer greens, softer fairways than at Dela. And higher ceilings.” said Leif Swenson, 18, of Pacific Grove.
Competitors on the last hole had to aim between tree branches and make tough choices between letting discs fly toward the hole and risk hitting the road—or even a car, as happened once—or playing it safer by rolling the disc and having to putt.
The tension at the event definitely gained palpable momentum in the second day of competitive disc golf, especially in the late afternoon at Delaveaga, when it was possible to hear a pin drop while the leading golfers took their drives off the Top of the World, DeLaveaga's final hole and the highest point in Santa Cruz. It was used as a lookout location to spot ships and submarines in World War II.
Most golfers have been careful not to break the competitions hushed atmosphere, but there have been some very minor disagreements between certain golfers over sportsmanship. Wednesday at Delaveaga one player reprimanded another for his use of curse words, which is against the PDGA rules.
“It's a rule, dude,” he told the player. “You don't have to like it, but it is a rule. I don't get to smoke. I want to, but I don't get to, and so you don't get to swear.”
Nate Doss's easy smile and his serene attitude while golfing illustrates the immense confidence he has in his game, particularly when contrasted with the frustrated and self-deprecating attitudes occasionally displayed by some golfers. His demeanor is a perfect illustration of the truth in the motto of Disc Golf's creator “Steady” Ed, who said, “The player who has the most fun wins.”
The winner of the 2011 PDGA Disc Golf World Championships is by no means decided, and the coming days of disc golf will only be more intense for a record purse of $100,000.
For a contrast of how the sport has progressed in just six years, check out this article in the New York Times on Doss and the competition for a $5,000 purse.
For an official schedule of events, as well as the score postings thus far, visit the PDGA event website.