Last weekend was, as usual, one of the best tournament weekends on my disc golf calendar, the Eric C Yetter Champions Cup in Newtown PA. This was my eighth time playing the tournament in the last nine years, and only an injury kept it from being nine in a row.
Since 2006, the Yetter and the DDGC have had a relationship in which we trade paid entries to our events and award them primarily to our MPO and FPO champions. We go down to play and help out with the event there, and they come up to play and help out at the DDGC. The events benefit from the cross-promotion, but even better are the friendships that have grown out of the repeated visits.
But I think even without the connection between the events and the friends I have down there, this is a tourney I wouldn’t ever miss if I can help it because of the course. What for a long time was a tough, challenging, and primarily wooded 27-hole course to which they added 9 monstrous and long temp holes in adjoining fields is now a tough, challenging, and primarily wooded 36-hole course. 35 of the 36 holes have three pin locations (A, B, and C) with the 36th featuring one pin but three distinct tees (A, B, and C). On many holes there are also long and short tee pads.
The A placements are the shortest with many a deuce opportunity in the 150-250 foot range. The B placements are much more challenging, adding some true pro par-4 options. The C placements are the longest and feature some unique and sometimes frustratingly challenging holes…true two and three shot holes outnumber the relatively simple par-3s by a wide margin. During most of the year, the baskets are rotated through each position, so rarely do you get to play a round that is all one letter. It’s typically a good mix of As and Bs with some C positions used on occasion.
For the Yetter though, all of the baskets are put into the C-positions and the longest tees available are used. That is the course at its toughest, meanest, and most challenging. And to me, it’s also the course at its most fun. It really puts the golf in disc golf like few other disc golf courses in the world. I could go on and on about the course itself, and maybe I will in a future posting. But for now, back to the weekend…
I headed down Thursday. It’s about a 7-7.5 hour drive if traffic is cooperative, and I knew I wanted to see the new holes before having to play them on Saturday. So rather than drive all day Friday then have to rush through the holes in the evening, I took my time driving down and was then able to take my time checking out the new holes all day on Friday. I played them through once in the morning with a guide, then played guide myself in the afternoon with another out-of-town traveler. I added a quick walk-through of the front half of the course (1-18), skipping around a bit and just enjoying the park. I finished the day feeling ready to go for the morning.
For this event, the day starts early because the courses are long and grueling and no one wants to feel rushed to beat daylight at the end of the day, so it’s the rare situation of arriving at the course when it’s still somewhat dark outside. To me, it just adds to the feeling of grandeur for the event, since in my experience, it’s only ever been really big events like this that have necessitated getting to the course before or right at sun-up.
Round 1, playing holes 1-18, began on the par-5 hole 13. Over the years, the course has gone through lots of changes and as a result, re-numbering. This one is best described to folks who know the course but are fuzzy with the numbering as the one in the tree. As in, the basket is slightly elevated and planted in the middle of a tree with multiple trunks. And you find this placement after traversing a winding 600+ foot fairway and then taking a hard right turn to the green. Not exactly the perfect hole to start with, but if you’re looking for an “easy” starting hole, there aren’t many to find on this course. I had a bad tee shot that forced a pitch out shot from the woods, but a good third shot enabled me to get the par.
The pars continued on holes 14-17 before I carded my first birdie, a 3 on hole 18. Right back to pars on holes 1, 2, and 3. Then I followed back to back bogeys on holes 4 and 5 with back to back birdies on holes 6 and 7.
That brought us to hole 8, a dastardly concoction of a hole. The length of it plays along Neshaminy Creek, so anything that kicks to the right side of the fairway is in danger of getting wet (and lost in the water). The tee shot is straight for the first 250 or so feet before it bends a touch to the right and drops about 30 feet. At the point where it drops, you can take the route to the right side which is narrow but goes straight toward the pin or the route to the left which completely takes the water out of the equation but is a much more circuitous route to the green. The straight route is probably 220ish, the left route probably plays 260ish to get to the same landing spot. That landing spot puts you within 30 feet or so of the basket, only you’re also 20-25 feet below the basket. Here’s a view from below (taken last year)…
And a view from above, taken this year, in which you can see the straight approach from the first landing zone.
I gacked a 15 footer for par with a view like the photo above. Strange how fearlessly I threw in a longer putt with a similar drop just a hole before. I birdied the next hole to balance things back out, then finished the round with three straight pars and a final score of 70, 2 under course par.
Even though I was only one throw off my goal score of 69, I still didn’t feel like I played all that well overall. Couple good holes, couple not so good, but the rest seemed pretty blah. I played with one of the better players in the field and also the course designer, Joe Mela, who shot a 69 and also didn’t seem all that enthused with the score. So I figured I was in the top half of the field at worst and hoping for being on the second card in the next round. This is what I found when the scoreport was revealed for round two…
What do you know, lead card for the second round. Second time I can claim that at this event. Oddly enough, the first time was also a first round in which I played with Mela and had a solid but unspectacular (seemingly) round that turned out to be better than it felt. And that time also meant a second round with Joe and a “big name” touring player (then Avery Jenkins, now Jeremy Koling). It was shaping up to be an interesting afternoon.
I had one goal for that round outside of trying to shoot a solid score and its a goal I like to achieve any time I find myself paired with a disc golf “celebrity”. Of course, it’s something I like to do in every round but they take on added significance in rounds with such stellar competition. That goal was to “win the box” for at least one hole.
Mission accomplished for that quite early in the round. Two holes in, I carded a birdie two on hole 21 and leapt to the front of the line. Didn’t last long when I bogeyed hole 22. But another birdie on hole 25 put me back on the tee first for hole 26.
Bit of disaster struck on that hole though. My tee shot came out of my hand a little early, clipped a tree and dove into the rough on the left. At first, we weren’t sure I made the mandatory on the hole, but once we found my disc, we realized there was no way I got to where I was without making the mando first. Too bad, in retrospect, because going to the drop zone with a penalty might have saved me a throw or two. I found myself in a big hole created by a large fallen tree. So I had an awkward side-hill lie and I was backed up against the roots of the fallen tree giving me very little room for a backswing. It took me two throws, what were essentially putts, to get myself back out to the fairway, then two more throws to get to the green. I putted in from 20 feet for a triple-bogey seven.
I followed that by gumming up my second shot following a perfect drive on 27 and taking a par 4. Then I bogeyed 28 and parred 29 before being again the only birdie in the group on hole 30 and taking the box. Hole 31 is a long par 5 in which the first throw is uphill at about a 45 degree angle to a landing zone. I placed my drive well and had a good looking second shot until it clipped a tree late. From there, I took two bad shots to get to about 30 feet then missed the putt to take a bogey six.
Missed a 25 foot birdie putt on hole 32 then dropped in a birdie 4 on hole 33. Finished the round with bogeys on holes 34 and 36 to end up at 71, four over par. Save for a couple holes, I didn’t feel like I played that much worse than the first round, but the score didn’t seem to reflect it. Once again, I’d managed to play worse, both overall and in actual number of throws, on the “easier” of the courses for the day. It was bad enough to drop me from a tie for 3rd to a tie for 12th going into Sunday’s monster 27-hole round. The heartening thing was there was only about three throws between 5th place and 16th, so I was not out of contention by any means.
Sunday morning dawned cooler and windier than Saturday did. Autumn seemed to have arrived overnight, necessitating warming up and beginning the round with a jacket. Fortunately, it didn’t stay on for long.
Started the round par, birdie, bogey, before settling into a run of 9 pars in 10 holes with just a bogey in the middle. then I got into a yo-yo string of birdie-bogey on holes 31-36, managing just one par (hole 34). After another par on hole 19, the disaster of the day came on hole 1.
The hole is a basic “L” shape fairway. You throw 280 straight through a wood-lined narrow fairway to an open field, then turn hard right to go another 250 or so downhill to the basket. The tricks to the hole, other than staying in the middle on the initial drive, is OB long on the tee shot and thus on the left side after you make the turn and also OB past the basket.
My tee shot it first available and kicked right into the weeds. The only fortunate part was that the throw was bad enough that it didn’t even get to the thicker trees/bushes that lined most of the fairway. So I had a reasonable window up and over the bushes and out into the field. I hit the window perfectly, but I over-estimated the distance in my disc selection. Instead of flying out to the field and turning right to land in the fairway, my shot flew out to the field and penetrated too far into the OB area before it turned right and came up about 3 feet short of getting back in-bounds. Oh well, I was still in position to get up and down for a five. Except my approach screamed by the basket and into the OB long. From there, it was up and down for a triple-bogey seven. Yay.
I finished the round by going par, birdie, par, par, bogey. Other than the disaster on hole 1, I was even for the round. Hole 1 took my final score to a 3-over-par 109. Good for winning my card, not good for moving up in the standings at all. In fact, I technically dropped one place (as the massive tie for 12th was broken up) to 13th. Still in the cash though, so that streak remained intact at seven straight events.
The great thing about the 27-hole round on Sunday is that play was wrapped up by around 1:30. Awards were over by 3:00. Everything from the event was broken down and put away by 4:00. And a big group of us were able to go out for a scrumptious dinner and decompression, followed by a good two to three hour “goodbye” in the parking lot. Those are always the best.
Next up on my schedule is another fun filled event called the Earl Cup, on October 10. It pits two teams, one captained by yours truly and the other by the sitting NEFA president, in a Ryder Cup style match play event. My team is defending the Cup this year, hoping to finally successfully retain it in a road match.