This past week my husband competed in the the 2011 United States Disc Golf Championship in Rock Hill, South Carolina. The tournament was held at Winthrop University on their breathtakingly beautiful, Winthrop Gold disc golf course. Ricky was absolutely stoked to qualify, but he knew the best of the best would also be competing. These photographs were taken on the first day of the tournament: round one. As one might expect, my husband had major butterflies. Everyone was assigned a tee-time and paired with three other players; so, there were four golfers on each “card.” The dudes on his card were Dutch Napier (from Kentucky), Charlie Coleman (North Carolina) and Brett Burgess (Kansas). As my husband stepped up to the tee-pad, the announcer on a microphone stated, “Representing Georgia… Ricky Nance.” I’m sure that didn’t help calm the nerves.
Ricky has played in tournaments before, but none that even come close to comparing to this one. The holes wouldn’t be that hard if it weren’t for the out-of-bounds roping everywhere… what was once a game of hundreds of feet quickly became a game of inches. The parking lots and roads were OB, as well as the lake. It was difficult to photograph a hole in its entirety because the yellow ropes tended to blend with the grass… but every time you see rope in this photograph, beyond that is considered out-of-bounds. The first 9 holes were never really an issue for my husband, but the back nine could be absolutely brutal. Skills could only get you so far; and smarts got you the rest of the way.
The first round was pretty rocky for Ricky because there were two guys on his card that were pretty incredible to watch. This game is pretty mental, and it is hard not to compare oneself to the other golfers on your card. Dutch Napier and Charlie Coleman pretty much smoked this round… although, they too went OB on some holes… it was pretty impossible not to go OB at least once in a round. Spotters stood at each hole and watched where the discs would land. Each spotter had a red and a green flag to wave, which signified in or out of bounds. These spotters added an incredible amount of suspense to each hole because, after each throw, the group would wait anxiously for that green flag to wave. And boy, did I feel for those who received red flags because a red flag equals re-throwing and two-stroke penalty. The system of called “stroke plus distance” penalties was put in place so that amateurs had a chance of competing with the pros. Some loved it and some absolutely hated it. And even though it was frustrating at times, it forced you to become smarter and,therefore, a better golfer because accuracy was everything on this course. If a shot was too risky, it was almost better to pitch it up a ways instead of risking the possibility of it going OB.
The first round was a learning experience for my husband… and he soon discovered he wasn’t the only one who was learning through their experience of that first day out on the course. I love disc golf tournaments because you meet so many wonderful people from all over the country and world (there were some folks there from Finland… and there was one guy from Alaska). The guys on Ricky’s card were awesome and I found myself rooting for every single one of them. Dutch and Charlie moved up on the leader board the next days, and you’ll notice that I followed them on their finish every single day. I thought I would want to go back and take a nap after Ricky finished each round, but no… I found myself wanting to see how everyone else would finish. And I wanted to see the greats finish also… Ken Climo and Dave Feldberg were featured on a DVD of Ricky’s that I watched with him one day as he prepared for the upcoming tournament. I was slightly star-struck watching them play. They were sooooo much fun to watch.
Ricky learned a lot from watching them play and, even though he didn’t do as well as he had hoped the first round, he was determined to seek revenge the following day. Anything can happen out there. This course was designed to be challenging for the professionals… so you can probably imagine how challenging it was for the amateurs. But, what an incredible opportunity for my husband to play on such a beautiful course and hang out with some of the best disc golfers in the world all week… it was heaven. And I found myself enjoying this piece of heaven as well. I want to learn how to throw! Anyways, I hope you enjoy these photographs and don’t worry, there is more to come!
GALLERY OF PHOTOS FROM ROUND ONE:
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