Scholl's Bicycle Centers Pittsburgh Flying Disc Open.
Friday, August 10, 2012
From Charlotte Worlds, we headed out for Morain and Knob Hill, our tournament courses in Pittsburgh. I was excited because I had never driven through the Appalachian Mountains. Looking at the maps and satellite view, they have a very ribbon like appearance, and it was very cool to see them in person. We had epic weather, violent lightning and thunder, a few of the strikes seemed within a hundred feet. The rain was torrential, I was enjoying it, but Shasta was driving and it was obviously stressful driving. He fought through and made it to Knob Hill Disc Golf Course about 8 hours after leaving Charlotte.
When we showed up, there were others gathering and they let us know doubles would be starting. Five dollar dubs is a pretty common thing for us to do, and seemed like a way to see a little more of the course than you would by yourself, so we played. The course was very technical. Narrow gaps through trees, and a good amount of elevation. The middle of the course plays through some grassy fairways with demanding, sloped greens. The end also finishes with a few holes with more grassy than tree'd fairways. The last hole is about a 470' uphill hole with the basket perched on a very steep grassy slope that goes down and to the left, exactly where a disc wants to hyzer as it tries to reach the ground. At the bottom of the 80' slope was an out of bounds road. A very difficult pin to approach. Sidearm shots hyzer into the hill, and can often roll long or bounce off a tree and end up in the road. It might have been my favorite hole there, and it proved to be pivotal as a couple local players tied yours truly and my partner for first place.
Doubles was fun and we found out the tournament would be played from the long tees, so we took a look at them as well. On some holes, the longs changed the hole from a par 3 to a par 4, adding 100 or more feet, and a few degrees of difficulty. The challenge of the course let us know our work was cut out for us.
The next morning we headed out to Morain State Park Disc Golf Course, north of Pittsburgh. The park was huge, with acreage on the north and south shore of a large lake. I have to admit, I loved this course. There were some long, challenging fairways, beautifully carved out of the woods, and some long gassy fairways lined with dense shrubbery that could be tough to get out of should you errantly throw in. My favorite hole was hole 6 I think. It was about 900', par 5 and imagine a 70' swath through the woods, grassy fairway, with the middle 30' having sparse trees in it and 20' on either side being clear. You had to decide which side you wanted to throw on, or navigate a route that utilizes the full width by going through the trees. It is a beautiful hole to look at, and a lot of fun to play, especially if you play it well.
While at Morain, we got to meet the tournament director, Scott Hartell. He gave us the news that he had found us a host for the weekend, which pleased us greatly, as there happened to be a convention in town and all the hotels were booked pretty full and more expensive than we were used to. After a quick break we decided to join Scott for some more practice on the back nine. It was good to play some of the holes with a local, and especially one who was running the event. Afterwards we decided to join Scott for a trip to a local brewery for a pint and some food. The place was packed and had great ales on tap as well as some pretty good food. Following dinner we were off to the home of Joe and Deb Busche, who along with their sons, Jackson and Damien, had agreed to host us for the tournament.
They lived about an hour south of Moraine, in a suburb of Pittsburgh. We were very lucky as each son gave up their room for us to stay in while they shared a spare room. Joe and Deb made us feel right at home and Joe even let us play a few games of pool on his brand new tournament size pool table. Shasta said it was the nicest table he had ever played on, and he has spent a lot of time in Fast Eddie's, a local Santa Cruz pool hall. A beer or two and some 9 ball games later and we were in bed, sleeping away the night after a long, full day.
In the morning it became clear why this family might want to host a couple touring pro disc golfers. Their sons are huge fans of the sport. They own all of the Marshall Street and Vibram DVDs. They know all the players and the courses, holes, everything. It was really great to see such young fans of the sport. They had a practice basket and their own 18 hole layout in the yard. They were very interested in us and our knowledge of the game. We promised them a putting lesson later in the week, and they let us know that they were really looking forward to it.
We spent the next few days practicing the courses and getting ready for the event. Joe and the boys would come with us and we would all play the course together. In my mind, there is no doubt that Jackson and Damien will be good golfers. They already are in their age group, and I think they picked up a thing or two watching us play. They even watched us once the tournament started. I haven't seen kids their age behave quite so well for an extended period of time. The rounds we played were probably about 4 hours long during the event, and they remained quiet and attentive the whole time.
The Friday before the event, the Busche's told us of a place we coud visit if we wanted to see some of the local sites. We headed towards downtown and after some tricky navigation ended up at the "incline" or a train track that goes up nad downhill to the riverfront area, with a train like car that fits about 12 people at a time. It drops you off near a transit mall with bars, stores and restaurants. We enjoyed a beer at a riverfront bar with a beautiful view of the downtown waterfront. Pretty cool spot. Cool enough that we spent the better part of the evening there. A great stop on our journey! Now, back to the event.
I ended up taking 3rd place in Masters coming up 5 strokes short of Michael Stonestreet who won, and 2 strokes behind Bobby Jones who took second. I really enjoyed meeting an playing with the local masters players and loved the two courses we played. Pittsburgh disc golf is happening! Good people and great courses mean that I will be back any chance I get.
After the tournament, Joe and Deb graciously offered to let us stay over Sunday night and take our time moving on to the next stop on our tour. We some time on Monday morning to follow through on the putting lessons for Damien and Jackson. They were pretty anxious to start and I decided to get right to it. The main things that I wanted to teach them were the concepts of weight transfer during the putting motion, and that you need to practice at the distance away from the basket that you start to miss putts. Start close, and gradually back up to the point that you start to miss, and focus your efforts at that distance. Well, after just a little effort to get those two points across, they were both putting better and more consistently than they had all week. At one point Jackson hit about 7 in a row from about 25-30 feet. Wow, he was doing awesome! And we had also cured Damien from his "running" putt. His mini marker was previously a starting point, not ending point, for his run-up. So once we worked on his weight shift, he didn't need to run-up any more, he was making them from a good 10-15 feet, but with proper and legal technique.
We really had a nice stay with the Busche's and we both left them with some DGA discs as a small token of our appreciation. We also utilized our connection with DGA to help the family purchase a new DGA Mach IV that Damien and Jackson saved for over a year to buy and finally were able to purchase! I elected to get them a few DGA discs with the basket as well, because I know they will enjoy throwing the 150 gram DGA Squalls! I look forward to hearing about their soon to come tournament success. ~Jon Baldwin
Next up - The Brent Hambric Memorial- Columbus, Ohio.
2012 World Championships
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
What a great experience playing the 2012 Disc Golf World Championships was. The style of golf played a huge role in my enjoyment of the experience. Almost every shot required a decision. I introduced myself to Sam Nicholson, the Tournament Director, and he said that their goal was to make the players think. I can say that his goal was accomplished! The narrow fairways required a lot of thinking. Constantly assessing how much risk you were willing to take to advance down the fairway. I can't tell you how many times I said that I would love to play doubles on these courses. There were so many times that I would have loved to try to throw the perfect shot, but the loss of control seemed like too much risk to me. I felt the courses were fair, it seemed possible to play safe and just throw midranges down the fairway and accept that you were not going to get a birdie, but a par should be safely achieved. This of course was after seeing Michael Johansen play the same fairways very aggressively, really going for the birdies. I'm still learning how to play these shots that way. You really have to commit to every shot; any doubt or indecisiveness would lead to that all too familiar SMACK as your disc hits a tree. So once again, Sam --Mission Accomplished! I used my brain a lot.
The first round I was a little disappointed when I learned I was going to have to play in a fivesome. I really don't like playing in groups that large, particularly in a tournament, but there was an upside. Our fifth player was none other than The Champ himself, Ken Climo. There was some kind of mixup and we had to deal with it, but I suppose if you have to play in a fivesome, you couldn't ask for a better player to join the group. I was also pretty excited that I played with him in what he said was his very first tournament that he could have played open, but chose masters instead. He really put on a clinic in that round, which we played at Nevin. I really studied his form and determined that I need to work on my balance and follow-through. His form has stood the test of time and it was fun to watch him shred the course. His putt was working very well, nothing too flashy, but he consistently got the job done inside the circle. I think he beat me by 5 strokes in that round, and he would continue to do that through out the event.
Honestly, the event was kind of a blur looking back. Driving from course to course, finding lunch along the way, balancing visiting with friends and getting enough sleep was a challenge. I'm not sure I could have done it with out the GPS feature on my phone, it really helped navigating the country roads and interstates. Just when I started to feel like I knew where to go, the event was almost over.
I played well, but not my best in most of my rounds. I never really had a horrible round, and that was by design. All of the courses could easily jump up and bite you, and I realized that, and tried to play on the safe side. My worst hole of the tournament was at Eastway. Hole 16 has a carry over an OB pond, with OB to the left of the landing zone, and woods on the right. I threw a good drive to about 30 feet and made a decent putt that teetered on the right edge of the basket, and fell out, rolling to about 28 feet down the hill. Missed that one into the cage, it rolled to 15 feet, then banded the next and it rolled to about 15 again and finally made it for a 5. That was my second and last double bogey of the event, thankfully!
I ended up in a tie with Ron Convers and Mike Moser (pretty darn good company!) for fifth place overall, 4 strokes out of making the top 4 for the final 9 holes. I felt pretty good about it, as I played well over my rating and the four people who played better than me were four of the top players in the world; Ken Climo(1), Barry Schultz(2), Johne McCray(3) and Patrick Brown(4). I guess that if you have to lose, it doesn't feel that bad to lose to such quality players. I feel I made a valiant attempt to defend my title, and I think erased the nagging voice in my own mind that said my victory the year before may have been a fluke. The way I see it, I played well, never once kicked my bag, made some new friends, and had a lot of fun, all of which equals success in my mind.
I would like to deeply thank Michael Johansen for his southern hospitality and disc golf guidance, as well as his mother Laura, father Robert, sister Virginia and her husband Geoff. Shasta and I felt right at home and were treated like family, and that was invaluable to the enjoyment of our experience!
Next up: Pittsburgh!
Friday, July 13, 2012
Arriving into the Charlotte, NC area after a 9 hour bus ride, I was a little off. It was nice to travel with Avery Jenkins and Leah Taylor, but now we were going our separate ways. Avery's host picked them up and somehow fit about two cubic yards of luggage into a late model Ford Fiesta. Avery kept saying, "some how, some way," and it all worked out. They left and I was soon picked up by Eric McCabe and he asked if I was ready for some golf. "Heck yes!," I said and we were off to Nevin Park. There we hooked up with Phil Arthur and had a great round, such a pleasure to play with two of the top golfers in the world. They helped me around and showed me the landing zones. Nevin is a very tight wooded course with a few more open holes. Good golf that really forces disciplined decision making. Get out of the rough safely and carefully. Sometimes a difference of a foot can ruin your next shot or stance. When you have to lay up, you really have to do it precisely. It is very rewarding to get to the right spot in the fairway and then watch your shot carve down the fairway.
From Nevin we went to Renny, where the three of us were joined by Paul Dorries. Renaissance is an extreme course, with tight holes and varied terrain. Hole 2 is a par 4 and features one of the most interesting approach shots I've ever thrown. From a grassy landing area, you throw over a ravine to an island green with ob behind, and the ravine in front. The basket is elevated and going out of bounds long leaves an all or nothing death (if you go past into the ravine) putt. It is a great introduction to the style of golf that you play here. There is risk reward on the tee, in the fairway, and on the greens. It really is a grind to work your way around the course, and you must keep your focus all the way to the end as hole 18 demands everything you've got. A par 5, your tee shot must fly between two large electrical towers and on a narrow fairway. Your second shot looks like you could reach the island green, but would require a perfect 450+ foot shot that finishes to the right and soft. So most will wisely lay up to the left into another narrow fairway island that leaves a short approach to a very small but beautiful green that is fronted by the very same steep ravine that surrounds the front of hole 2's green. Spectacular finish!
Now it was time to drop Phil off and pick up Shasta at the airport and be off to meet up with our host and area disc golf legend, Michael Johansen. We were welcomed into a very nice home and were quickly joined by his friend Alex. I can't say what we did after that, but players in the tournament will find out soon enough- more to come on that later. I was so tired due to the sleepless bus ride that when it came time to lay my head down, I was out so fast the large fluorescent light shining right on my face wasn't enough to keep me awake, and I was out for some of the soundest sleep in at least a week.
We took our time waking up the next morning, and once we got going, Michael took us to Nevin park for Shasta's first look at it. It was great to have a top local pro like Michael to guide us around. He knows the courses as well as anyone and I really felt like we were getting the royal treatment. I played the course much better the second time around, finishing somewhere around 5 under par. Michael was double digits under par, even though he spent most of his time helping us out with the layout. Awesome golf!
We then headed out to Renaissance for another guided tour. It was so awesome to play it again and learn a little more about the ins and outs and Michaels approach to some holes. Sometimes knowing a bogey is ok is helpful as you approach a difficult hole. One errant drive or upshot and bogey can become a very good score on most of these holes. I really enjoy the courses that have par 4's and 5's. It matches the way I learned golf, where you generally must execute a drive, fairway iron, and then a putt. These courses all have at least a few par 4's and I love them for it!
Another night of deep sleep and we were off to see Shasta's last course, Bradford. We had a special treat here as well as we were joined by Brian Schweberger. Brian always has a great attitude and really likes to have fun when he plays. He utilized his great overhand hook thumb throw to much success. The course was fun and had a good variety of shots, some open, some wooded. Soon the round was over and we were off to my last course, Eastway.
Once in the parking lot of Eastway Park, we met up with women's Open Champion, Paige Pierce and Sarah Hokom, who where just finishing lunch. They wanted to join us and a few minutes later we were off. Eastway is a departure from most of the other courses in the area in that it is quite open in comparison. The other area courses have some very narrow, wooded holes that are paths cut through dense woods. Eastway didn't really have that kind of hole. Most fairways were relatively wide and grassy. There were a good variety of shots that I really enjoyed playing. Hole 18 is a great hole. I won't begin to explain it until I get a decent photo of it, but I really liked it. Unfortunately our round was cut a little short as a thunderstorm worked its way through, but I saw most of the holes and felt good about my chances there.
More from Charlotte soon... JB
Good-bye Maryland, and heading to Charlotte!
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
I'm on a Greyhound bus, leaving Washington DC. I had a great visit, reconnecting with my cousin Mark Stiles, his wife Barbara, son Dan, and daughter Christina. While I was up in Delaware playing the DDGC, poor Dan was stuck in a town decimated by an unusual storm called a Derecho.
Generally thunderstorms pass an area in a front that moves fast and clears out relatively quickly. Derechos move fast, but follow one another sequentially and cover vast areas. The only analogy I can think of is a wide paintbrush. Normally you use it to cover as broad an area as possible with each stroke. If you were to turn the brush sideways, it would cover a smaller area, but put down more paint, and that's what this storm did.
Dan used the term "Biblical" to describe the storm, he said that it was as if the sky was constantly lit up by lightning so as to almost appear as a full moon night. I was sleeping in a hotel with ear plugs and the thunder was still loud and powerful, pounding through the walls. The next day there were trees down everywhere. At the tournament we cleaned the fairways in our warm ups, but in the city the trees took the powerlines down with them and it was reported that 1.5 million people were without power during 115 heat index days. People lost all their food as refrigerator fell silent and warmed up. It wasn't much fun at all for 4 days in Mark's neighborhood. Fortunately the outage didn't last the full week that was forecast, as I slept tuesday night, the whirrs and buzzes that all the appliances we like to take for granted came back on and stayed on. Never have I appreciated power for airconditioning so much. The sweltering heat was oppressive. Relief was wonderful.
I took the next few days easy and enjoyed our newly appreciated power supply to stay cool, venturing outside only to practice putt or run to the store for food. Because it was so hot outside I decided to bring the practice basket inside to practice putt. Having played Reny and Hornets Nest, I knew that I needed to practice putting to an elevated basket. There are several greens where you might be putting up at a basket several feet above you, and if you haven't done it, it can be pretty awkward. So I put the basket at the top of a flight of stairs. I removed a framed photo from the wall to be sure I wouldn't damage anything, and started putting. I quickly discovered that this was going to do more than help me putt at steep upward angles, it was also going to be a workout because after every two putts, I would have to go up the stairs to retrieve the discs. Two putts, up ten stairs, and right back down. It wasn't a very hard put, but I still missed some, and I decided to do ten pushups for every missed putt. I committed to doing 100 putts, missed 8 and did 80 pushups, and 50 trips up and down the steps. Pretty good workout and practice. I'm hoping I'll feel more confident on those elevated baskets!
The next day I was invited by those really cool Disc Outfitters guys, Brian Cooke and Joel Provencher, to play a round of disc golf at Rockburn Park. It was of course very hot, but the course was fun, and they brought along Rick to complete the foursome. Somehow I ended up with the lead by one stroke after it was all said and done. The course was fun, though less than it's best due to a few fallen trees from the storms. After we were done we hopped in the car (AC!) and headed to a place called The Green Turtle for some brews and appetizers. A great selection of beer was available and they got me some Maryland Crabmeat sliders - Yummy stuff, I wolfed them down and we shared some stories over some fine ales. Then off to their retail location where I met some cool peeps who help them run their disc golf products and silk screening equipment. Then Brian continued the hospitality at yet another fine drinking and dining establishment. Thanks guys!
So after those few days I had made plans to hook up with Steve Ganz for a round of golf at his home course, Franklin Park, about 30min from Leesburg, VA. He texted me the night before and said another World Champion would be joining us. It turned out that Avery Jenkins and Leah Taylor were staying a few days with Leah's brother who also lives in Leesburg. Well the heat wave hadn't broken yet, and we played a round from the long tees to the long baskets in the 100 degree heat. It is a fairly wide open course with par 4's and 5's. It was a lot of fun to watch Avery throw some HUGE drives, making it look pretty effortless. We all had fun and Leah was really cranking them out there. Needing to get out of the heat, Steve treated us to some great food and beer at Fireworks Pizza in Leesburg. Yummy pizza and some really good IPA really hit the spot.
In talking to Avery and Leah I learned that they were heading down to Worlds about the same time I would be and I told them that I thought they would be welcome at my cousin's place. Barbara indeed welcomed them into their home and we were spoiled by having an extra car for a few days as Mark had left for a work conference in Korea. A highlight of our time together was a trip to Flying Dog Brewery for a tour of the facilities. One of the most in depth brewery tours I've ever had, we got to taste and touch all the ingredients used in their brewing process. Barley, hops, and even some of the yeast, as well as some wort from actual batches of beer. After seeing the huge vats, filtering, bottling, and packaging rooms, we went back to the tasting room to use our six tokens for some samples of their finished products. Let me tell you, if you like IPA's, you have to try these beers! They had so many good ones it was hard to pick a favorite, but I would have to go with one called Double Dog- a super good, super strong double IPA- yummy! Then to top it all off, a gentleman named Kenneth, who Avery had email correspondence with regarding the tour, showed up and gave us some special treatment. A full pitcher of really good ale, and a complimentary trip to the gift shop for a few classic shirts. An awesome time that I will recommend to anyone who likes good beer. Barbara can't wait to take Mark there.
A few more courses and a few breweries later and all three of us thanked our hosts and said our goodbyes and now we are riding the same bus down to Charlotte to start our practice in earnest. I haven't been on a bus ride this long ever, the closest being the ski buses I enjoyed in high school, but most of those were just a few hours. I'm hoping I can get some sleep during this 9 hour ride, but not until we get past Richmond where we have to switch buses. Well, that's it for now. More to come from Charlotte soon... JB
Let the tour begin!
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
My first bona-fide disc golf tour is underway. After a mini tour a few weeks ago, consisting of a return to the Open division at the Steady Ed Lakeport tourney (T4th) and a solid 3rd in Masters at the Beaver State Fling NT, I am embarking on a tour of the east coast starting with the Delaware Disc Golf Challenge. Thanks to my cousin Mark Stiles, I have played the grueling Iron Hill course before when we took a tour of MD, DE, and PA courses a few years ago. This course is unlike any I had ever played. If memory serves, all but 2-3 holes are in the woods, down narrow hallways of fairways. A legitimate par 72 with par 4s and 5s, and I believe a par 6 as well. It was a battle of wills- you verses the trees. You will hit some and how you deal with it will likely determine your success. Let them get to you and your frustration will boil over; roll with the punches and you will have a better shot at succeeding.
I think this tourney is a perfect start to the tour. I was stoked that my cousin Mark was into playing it with me and putting up for a week before worlds. It will prepare me for woods golf, and the stresses that come with throwing down hallways through the trees. It should also help me acclimate to the heat and humidity of the east coast. I grew up in Upstate NY, so I have experienced it before, but not for years have I lived in it, and I haven't ever competed in tournaments in it. All in all it should be a great warm up for the World Championships in Charlotte. Check back soon for my recap of the event and my thoughts going into my title defense in Charlotte. -JB
Victory at the 2011 PDGA World Championships, Monterey Bay, California, August 7-11th.
What a week it was, truly one I will never forget. Though I was playing very well for me, and in the lead or near the lead for the majority of the tournament, until this putt dropped, I was never expecting this was going to happen. I was very confident that if I continued to play as I was, I could do well, but just thinking about the possibility of winning a world title was unnerving, so I just tried to never look any farther ahead than my next shot. It turned out to be a great way to be fully absorbed in the moment, and allowed me to flow in a very intuitive, confident way. Definitely a factor in my tournament success. Another key factor was being in the right place at the right time.
I felt very forutunate that the worlds came to my back yard, mostly riding on the shoulders of a very enthusiastic disc golf promoter and my friend, Tom Schot. His energy and enthusiasm are what made this tournament happen. For those things, I will always be grateful to him for having the opportunity to be a part of the epic event that it turned out to be.
I was blessed to have the privilege to contend for the World Championships on the very courses where I learned to play the game. Delaveaga in Santa Cruz, CSUMB in Seaside, and two relative new comers to the Monterey Bay area disc golf scene, Ryan Ranch in the Del Rey Oaks area of Monterey and Pinto Lake Championship Disc Golf couse in Watsonville. I had played Delaveaga since 2000 or so, it was the first permanent disc golf course I had ever seen, and I have been a steady user of the park ever since. Not long after that I began playing tournaments and the CSUMB Otter Open at the Cypress course was one of my first few tournaments, so I knew that course as well.