Students heading to the Beverly J. Warren Student Recreation and Wellness Center on Saturday morning may have seen an object flying hundreds of feet through the air followed by a loud metal clang.
The 1st Annual Golden Flash Open, a disc golf tournament organized by tournament director Joe Schank, was held at the Kent State disc golf course.
Schank got into disc golf because of his eighth grade science teacher. After being introduced to the sport, he quickly fell in love with it.
“It’s a great sport. It’s just as competitive as you want to make it,” Schank said. “I have people that I play with that are 74. I have people that I play with that are 16 and can throw farther than I can. It’s an awesome sport for everybody.”
Disc golf is a sport played in a very similar manner to golf, but you don’t use clubs and balls, instead you throw a flying disc.
According to the Professional Disc Golf Association, “A disc golf hole begins from a tee area and ends at a target, the most common of which is an elevated metal basket. As a player progresses down the fairway, he or she must make each consecutive throw from the spot where the previous throw landed. In group play, the farthest away player always throws first. Players should not get ahead of the away player. The trees, shrubs, and terrain changes located in and around the fairways provide challenging obstacles for the golfer. When the 'putt' lands in the basket, the hole is complete.”
Tournaments have been on the rise in Northeast Ohio. In October, the 2nd Annual Rubber City Classic will be held in Silver Creek Metro Park in Norton, Ohio. The Attack of the Grassman tournament in Ravenna, Ohio will be played in November.
Schank has assisted in the running of some other tournaments along with running weekly leagues. The Golden Flash Open was the first one that he was the director of.
“I saw the course, and I’ve played here a couple times,” Schank said. “I looked at our tournament schedule for Northeast Ohio, and I didn't see any on here for Kent, and I was just so surprised because it's such a great course.”
So Schank, along with his assistant tournament director Jarek Shernit, organized the tournament at the course.
“It really is a unique course,” Schank said. “No two holes are the same. You have a healthy mix of open holes, elevation changes, some wooded areas and holes for little putter shots. It challenges you in different ways, and people really enjoy that.”
The course opened in 2014, and it begins outside the main entrance of the center, loops around various areas of the recreation corridor and ends back at the center. It is free for anyone who wishes to use it.
The tournament had a roster of over 80 people who competed in various skill groups. The categories ranged from the professional players to intermediate to novice. This made the competition fair and allowed for each player to be competitive with each other.
Each group completed the course twice in the two-round event, and the best players in the professional category received cash prizes.
Just like golf, the person who scores the lowest is the winner.
“It’s like ‘Man, I want to go hang out with a friend, but we don’t know what to do,’” disc golf player Clay Troyer said. “Well, let’s go throw some plastic at some metal.”
Troyer has been playing disc golf for 12 years, but he didn’t become involved in the community until recently.
“I didn’t really know there was this whole world of disc golf out there until a friend introduced me to that aspect of the game around two years ago,” Troyer said. “It’s been really cool to get involved in the community and to see everything going on as the game has grown.”
The disc golf scene has exploded in the wake of the pandemic. When quarantines were in effect, many people saw the sport, which is able to be played outside and with social distancing, as a safe way to see friends.
Schank said the sport now has more players than ever before.
“The Pro Disc Golf Association, they’re kind of the governing body for disc golf, has seen a three hundred percent rise in members over the past nine months. And that’s mostly due to COVID.”
Troyer is a 2018 graduate of Kent State, and he said that the disc golf scene wasn’t as impressive back then.
“There was a disc golf club on campus that didn’t last long,” Troyer said. “It didn’t gain any traction.”
“So going from that to seeing a tournament that’s fully packed out and having to put temporary holes to fit more people? That’s really cool. As someone who has loved the game for over a decade now, it’s awesome to see people really get into it and to be able to make friends from it.”
Schank said these groups are some of the most caring people out there.
“The community is just so helpful,” Schank said. “With other semi-competitive sports, like softball or bowling, there’s a lot of animosity. You see none of that here, it’s all loving.”
Schank hopes to be able to hold the tournament again next year, and he encourages anyone who is interested in the sport to check it out.
“Just give it a try,” he said. “It’s such a good sport to get into. And the people are so diverse and welcoming that it’s basically a family.”
Troyer hopes to see more players in the future as well.
“We have five different courses within 20 minutes of campus,” he said. “So go to Walmart, buy your starter pack, head to one of those courses and just get involved.”
If you are interested in joining any upcoming tournaments go to www.discgolfscene.com
Jimmy Oswald is a sports editor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org