This past weekend, I finally got the courage to participate in a tournament. It was the ACT VI
at Wickham Park in Manchester, CT and I entered as a Recreational player or AM3. ACT is the Amateur Challenge Tournament run by Dave McHale who is not only a great guy, but a very active golfer and promoter of DG in the Northeast. Dave is also a webmaster of NEFA
who sanctions over New England.
I'm probably a bit biased, or riding a wave right now - but I think Dave has or should set a precedent in the disc golfing community: make a tournament that's geared towards amateurs and help grow the sport we love. It's an ideal way to get experienced and new players together and play a couple rounds. The lessons picked up are invaluable, the experience was nothing short of incredible.
My original thought on entering this was I want to find out where I stack up, how can I get better, and I also want to hang around others that are as into this as I am. I'm sure that most tournaments will have this same vibe, but after speaking with a few other players they all said the same thing - that I started in the perfect tournament. It's very relaxed and it's definitely a great tourney to learn and grow.
My friend Joe and I thought we got there early, but the second we got out of the car we heard our names over the PA saying we haven't checked in and to please do so. Geez!! This already put my nerves on edge, and I'm already psyching myself out. We got our bags out of the trunk of my car and headed over to the tent. Signing in was easy and someone already grabbed our scorecards. We got split up, but I think we were both ok with that. Joe is the guy that I play with 95% of the time and I think it was a good thing to be split up for once and see how we are on an individual level. The first round is all mixed divisions in the groups. Unfortunately I was the only AM3 in my group so I was the only one to play the short tees. Even though my ego was a little bruised by that, I was thankful for it halfway through the second round, not to mention no one gave me crap about it. My group was great, and really supportive.
I started off shaky. A couple bad drives and even a few bad approach shots sending me into a 3 hole bogey blur that I felt was only going to stay that way...then my putting instinct kicked in. I nailed a 20 footer that broke me out of that haze and I started to get into it, and before I knew it I was just playing golf like I do with Joe every week. My approach game and putting is what I live off of. I can drive a decent distance, but when I try to put more power in I lose accuracy. Then there's those days where my driving sucks no matter what I do. It's definitely the worst part of my game.
James, who was the advance intermediate player in the group, was having a real bad day. He would look at an anny shot and throw a hyzer bomb and vice versa. The biggest difference between James and I wasn't our 200 feet of distance in drives, it was our attitude when things went south. He kept his cool after some horrible shots and was always saying "you just have those days", "it could be worse" or "eh, I like a challenge". I was blown away by this, because when my Irish kicks up, it takes a hole or two to calm down. The other guys in the group threw pretty well, and it was great to play with good players that were willing to talk about their game and how they learned and progressed.
The course par is 58 and I finished with a 74 in the first round. Sure, not an outstanding score, but I walked away with no double bogeys and no OB, and I even birdied a hole! (courtesy of a short tee, and some great tailwind) I was amped, and looking forward to the next round already. I ran into Joe and it sounded like he had an even better experience than I did and was just reeling from it. It was kind of funny to see two grown men unable to know where to start to talk about their experience.
There was some ominous clouds looming, and we knew about the constant threat of rain but thankfully we got lucky through the first round. We finished lunch, had a quick meeting and headed right back out to hopefully beat the weather. The second round was grouped by division, and even though it had a different feel to it, I had another great group of guys and we ended up sharing stories about our first round.
The wind picked up after the 3rd hole and by the 5th we had a 3 minute shower, which was actually greeted because the humidity was killing us by then. I started the round off pretty well, and even birdied a closest to the pin hole to win a Vibram putter (which turns out Joe did the same thing 10 minutes after I did!) My game sagged pretty quickly after that. My trusty skeeter took it's usual anny line, but kicked it into high gear and grabbed some glide courtesy of the next round of showers to come in. We got to the next tee and the thunder and lightning started as we got ready to tee off. We still played that hole and as we're holing out we heard the horn telling us to get off the course. Apparently there was tornado warnings, but the area was expecting heavy thunderstorms for the next half hour.
Joe and I debated on leaving because we were both tired and had heard that it was going to rain on and off for the rest of the day. It seemed like as soon as we said "we'll give it 15 minutes and we're outta here" - the rain stopped. The sun even peeked out for a minute. Before we knew it we were grabbing the bags out of the trunk and heading back out. The rest of the round had it's ups and downs, but I ended up finishing 12th in my division out of 29 and Joe broke the top ten with 9th place. An amazing victory for both of us.
I've read the advice that says play with people better than you because you'll learn a lot, I didn't think it was bad advice but I had kind of brushed it off. Now I'm in the mode of wanting to get out there and find some pro's and beg them to play a round with me.
What an amazing experience overall, but the best part is now I feel like I can say with pride that I'm a disc golfer.