I love ending the season with a bit of a bang: the longest road trip of the year to play the last PDGA event on my schedule. For the third year in a row, I made the trek south to the International Disc Golf Center for the Directors’ Cup tournament and seminar.
I left a little after 7am on Thursday, arriving to meet my travel buddies John and Joe in New Jersey around 4pm. We headed out from there just after 7pm. We arrived in Augusta GA a bit before 6am. Yay to 23 hours spent mostly in the car. I feel like we made good time.
After a pre-sunrise breakfast at Waffle House (a morning staple for this trip), we back-tracked a bit over the border to South Carolina to watch the sunrise over the Hippodrome Disc Golf Complex, home of the National Collegiate Championships. We then played an early round on the Hogback course there (not enough energy to play Old Glory as well), which was a fun little course that put an emphasis on throwing straight and accurate. It is also home to a bit of a landmark in disc golf, the giant basket which we found on the 5th hole.
I really only mention our trip to the Hippodrome so I can post the picture and also to note the one new addition to my list of courses played. In the three years of making this trip, I have added at least one to the list each time, outside of the courses at the IDGC (which were only new the first time).
After our round, it was on to the IDGC where we caught up with our friends on staff, toured the Hall of Fame museum, and relaxed on the comfy couches in the lobby. Before we left at the end of the day, I squeezed nine holes in on the W.R. Jackson course. Fortunately, I ran out of daylight to play the rest.
I say fortunately because for all the deserved high praise the course gets as a “gold” level course, the back nine is extremely cramped and condensed, especially in contrast to the spacious, sprawling front nine. It’s a bit baffling that the space wasn’t used more efficiently. I’ve played it before, and I wasn’t that bothered to not get to see it again. Anyhow, on to the main attraction…
The Directors’ Cup is a free invitation-only event for tournament directors, state coordinators and other movers and shakers within the PDGA. It involves a two round tournament (one per day) and a number of seminars covering a range of topics.
Saturday began with a number of sessions headed by various PDGA staff members in which they tackled topics within their area of purview with the PDGA. From the basic structure and aim of the organization to where it is headed in the near and distant future. Some things were informative though most felt quite basic and remedial for a room of experienced TDs and ardent supporters of the org.
The most invaluable aspects of the weekend were really found in the “down” time in which the attendees were able to converse and share thoughts with fellow TDs from around the country. I was able to get far more out of talking to folks during lunch from California, Idaho, Indiana, Georgia, and Alabama than I did sitting in a room hearing the same spiel from PDGA folks that I heard last year and the year before. I think in the corporate world, they call it “networking”. Lots of good networking to be had all weekend long.
Then there was the golf. There was a bit of a laid back atmosphere relative to most tournaments I play through the year. With all the other activities and conversations going on, the competition seemed secondary and it showed, at least in how I played.
Saturday afternoon’s round was on the Jim Warner course, which is my favorite on the property. It is a challenging course with a lot of semi-blind angles and significant elevation changes. Arguably for those same reasons, it’s supposedly the least popular of the three at the IDGC…it wasn’t even used for the National Tour event hosted there in September (they put the concurrent Am A-tier on it instead).
I continued my recent trend of riding the roller coaster of birdie-bogey-birdie-bogey for much of the round, heck for the whole weekend. I opened with a birdie only to follow it with an immediate bogey, and it continued from there. I putted fairly well through the round, it was getting in position to make those putts birdie putts that proved difficult. The only blown birdie putt of the day came on the gorgeous hole 14 after a great drive just missed acing by a foot or so.
I followed that missed bird with the most unfortunate shot of the round. On the extremely challenging par-5 hole 15, I threw my drive around the corner, only to find the narrowest of narrow OB creeks. The creek at most was maybe a foot wide, and my ~9 inch wide disc managed to find the dead center of it. OB throwing three while still 500 feet and a whole lot of uphill to go to the basket, I scrambled to salvage a double-bogey 7.
I followed that with a pair of deuces, but it wasn’t enough to get back to par, so I finished with a 64 (+1). Good news was that was the second best score in the division. Bad news was that it was seven behind the leader who shot 57.
After some excellent southern BBQ for dinner and an evening of watching an MMA PPV (not my idea), it was back to the IDGC on Sunday for a couple more seminar sessions and then round 2 on the Steady Ed course.
It should be said that after a long dry spell, the area around the IDGC had been hit with an extraordinary amount of rain in the last month. As a result, the lake the complex is set on was at extraordinarily high levels this weekend. Certainly higher than I’d seen before, which made the course a whole lot more of a challenge than it has been in the past.
The first hole affected by the high water is the iconic hole 5. Water that was kinda sorta in play when playing to the long and barely a thought when playing to the short placement was high enough to render the long placement unplayable and the short a bit trickier.
The water wasn’t the problem for me on hole 5 though I still managed to take a bogey on the hole after starting off the round with three straight birdies.
I did find the water off the tee on hole 12, which normally has a dry 40-50 foot wide fairway to throw on with the water safely (for this lefty) to the left. On this day the water was up to a point where there really was no “fairway” for the first 300 feet or so. Got wet twice more on hole 13, once from the tee, and once on the green. And on hole 14, I went from nearly acinge to rolling within a few inches of finding the water again.
Once away from the water again, I notched two more birdies then found another narrow creek for another OB bogey, and that was that. Another 64. Another one-over-par round. A third place finish overall. On the plus side, though, it was a trophy spot and the trophies for the event were nice carved wood plaques. It was better than some first place trophies I’ve taken home.
We departed early on Monday morning, but we couldn’t resist one lengthy pit stop on the way home. I think the pictures speak for themselves…
Sure it’s not quite the same without the ropes and the staff and the galleries, but it was still a treat to play the Winthrop Gold course for the first time in five years. Since I was traveling with an Innova sponsored player, we also made a stop at the Innova East warehouse so he could do a little “shopping”. I’ve been there before, but it felt a bit strange going in there as a player now sponsored by a rival. Definitely the first time I haven’t come out of there with a stack of goodies for myself.
Took another 24 hours once we left there, but I finally made it home in one piece and thoroughly exhausted. It was a great trip and a great way to wrap up the traveling season. Between now and the spring, I don’t anticipate much disc golf activity other than a couple doubles tournaments and as much practice as I can muster. Now’s the time to rest up, heal up, and start the process of preparing for 2016.