2013 Masters Cup: Plenty of Santa Cruz locals to watch

Every year in April, Santa Cruz, CA is not only the ‘Epicenter of Disc Golf’ – the label we gave ourselves in 1989 after the nearby Loma Prieta earthquake – but the center of the professional disc golf tour as well. DeLaveaga Disc Golf Course has hosted a National Tour event every year since the tour was established, and the Masters Cup has drawn the sport’s best talent for about 20 years before that.

If you follow the tour, you’re familiar with many of this weekend’s competitors. Young Guns Ricky Wysocki, Paul McBeth, Will Schusterick and Nikko Locastro will all be there, as will veteran champs Ken Climo, Dave Feldberg, Nate Doss and Avery Jenkins. And there are plenty of other names you’ll recognize as well, like Philo Braithwaite, Paul Ulibarri, and Josh Anthon.

You know all about these guys already, and they’ve proven that any one of them can step up and win on any given week. I’m not about to pretend that I can predict who will win, although Josh Anthon is a Norcal player who knows DeLa well and has come close, Nate Doss grew up and honed his craft here, and Wysocki and Shusterick are good bets too. But this post isn’t about picking a winner.

On Saturday, after the first round is in the books, and even Sunday when it’s down to the last 24 holes, there are bound to be some names you don’t recognize on the tops cards. Or rather, you would not have recognized if you hadn’t read this. You’re welcome.

And let me state for the record that I’m not ignoring the women’s divisions. It’s just that there is a big separation between the top women and the locals, and there is no chance of a surprise. Kristy King, a DeLa local and DGA-sponsored player, has a chance of finishing in the top third of the field and cashing, but the win will likely go to Sarah Hokom, Valarie Jenkins or Paige Pierce.

Local pro and longtime course maintenance leader Jim Hagen works on his backhand form while starting up his mower four days before the start of the 2013 Masters Cup.
Local pro and longtime course maintenance leader Jim Hagen works on his backhand form while starting up his mower four days before the start of the 2013 Masters Cup. Photo by Jack Trageser

In the men’s divisions, on the other hand, the combination of a deep pool of local talent and the idiosyncrasies of DeLaveaga as a course that plays very different than most courses on the pro circuit makes for some intriguing possibilities. I’m not saying that any of these guys will win, mind you, just that they can. Look for one or more of the following names on the lead and/or chase cards Sunday, and remember I told you so.

Matt Bell- Disc golf is a sport where the best players improve on a super-steep curve, and can go from beginner to world-beater in a hurry. Matt Bell played half of his 15 PDGA events last year in the Advanced division, but this year has been turning heads locally. He won this year’s Enduro (Ice) Bowl at DeLa this year, topping a number of known players, and has the power, savvy, and local knowledge to make a run. Look for him to be in the running at least until the magnitude of the situation hits him- and maybe longer.

Shasta Criss- He enjoys a rep as a solid player and great guy on the tour, especially on the West Coast, but Shasta flies below the radar to most pro disc golf followers. He’s DGA’s top sponsored Open Division player and has all the tools necessary to make a run, including a penchant for hitting 50-foot putts. Plus, that name is just meant for disc golf, and it’s impossible not to like him. If you see his name in the mix, feel good about rooting for him.

Chris Edwards- Big, easy power and a recent ascent into 1000-rated territory mark Edward’s game, along with a sincere desire to promote disc golf locally and beyond. He’s the coach of the UCSC disc golf team, and if his mental game catches up fully to his physical talents he’ll be in contention. Edwards is a birdie machine when he’s on and simply needs to eliminate or minimize the mistakes.

Myles Harding- Like Nate Doss, Myles literally grew up playing DeLaveaga. Longtime NorCal tour players remember that he and Greg Barsby went head-to-head in Juniors, then Advanced, then Open, both winning lots of hardware- but as kids and teens Myles actually won a bit more. Harding, like his dad Rob, has all the shots in his bag, super-smooth form, and the ability to turn in some low rounds. Whether he can string together three of them in a row is the question, but he’s done it plenty of times before.

Don Smith- I know firsthand of Don’s tenacity as he beat me once on the 11th extra hole of an epic sudden-death playoff at a local monthly with an 80-foot uphill birdie putt. Since then I’ve gotten older and he’s gotten better, making disc golf his full-time occupation. He’s been on tour nonstop for a couple years now, and that and the the fact that he’s likely played 1000 (or more) rounds at DeLa are the reasons I would not be surprised to see Smith in contention on Sunday. He’s got the game necessary to shoot double-digits under each round, and that’s what it will take to win.

Tony Tran- I gotta mention Tony because he can show up at DeLa for the first time in nine months and throw out an 11-under. He used to play more than he does now, and he never plays anything but local events anymore (I’m not sure if he ever did) but he’s got game. He’s another guy to pull for if you’re a fan of feel-good stories. If he wanted to put the time in, he could be as good as most of the guys who try to play for a living.

Jon Baldwin- This guy won the world championship playing here in 2011, so no one should be surprised if he wins the Masters Cup. Baldwin, DGA’s most marketed sponsored player, is a golfer in the best sense of the word, winning with focus and guile as much as with his sufficient power, steady putting and all-around game. Look for him to be right there all three days in the Masters Division. He’s played three major events this year and taken 2nd place at all three (to Phil Arthur, Ken Climo and Jason Tyra), so he’s certainly hungry for a win on his home turf.

The players listed above are all Santa Cruz locals. They call DeLa home. But other participants in the Masters Cup have lots of experience here as well. The aforementioned Josh Anthon and Ray Johnson are NorCal stalwarts, Steve Rico and Philo Braithwaite show up often from SoCal, and we still claim Nate Doss as our own.

The cream does in the end rise to the top, and it’s likely the trophy will be lifted by someone you knew before reading this preview. But Santa Cruz has tons of local talent, and more so than at any other NT stop you can expect to see some unknown players in the mix.

Out of Production, but still producing: disc value is in the eye of the holder

If you frequent online enclaves such as the the Disc Golf Collector Exchange group on Facebook, or the similar forum pages on the Disc Golf Course Review website, the acronym O-O-P is well known to you. It stands for ‘out of production’ and refers to discs that are no longer being produced by their manufacturer. This of course is significant to collectors because it means a disc that is O-O-P is in limited supply and therefore of potentially higher value.

It means something to me, too, but for a different reason. While collectors get excited about O-O- P, I get nervous.

Having played disc golf for more than 20 years now, I own close to 100 discs not including the stock I have on hand for use in my School of Disc Golf. But I would not consider myself a collector. Possibly a bit of a historian, and more than anything else an accumulator, I’d say. But as collectors are thought of as those who like to build a collection either as a hobby or for profit, I can safely say that isn’t me.

The author collects only discs with personal significance. Among this group are his first ace, most memorable ace, a disc to commemorate the opening of the first course in S.F., a NorCal 'Hotshot' disc awarded for the low round in a tour event, and a prototype DGA Blowfly signed and given to him by Steady Ed Headrick. Blurry photo by Jack Trageser
The author collects only discs with personal significance. Among this group are his first ace, most memorable ace, a disc to commemorate the opening of the first course in S.F., a NorCal ‘Hotshot’ disc awarded for the low round in a tour event, and a prototype DGA Blowfly signed and given to him by Steady Ed Headrick. Blurry photo by Jack Trageser

I have some discs that would go for much more than their original sales price if I ever decided to sell them, but all the discs in my possession that I value the most are dear to me for one of two other reasons: either I have a sentimental attachment to them – like my first ace disc or a prototype signed and given to me by Steady Ed Headrick; or they are out of production and I still use them to play. It’s the second of these that is the main subject of today’s post. Irreplaceable actually retains its literal definition when the object that is difficult or impossible to replace is actually serving a function rather than just gathering dust (in it’s dust-cover, of course). The mere thought of losing a key disc in your bag and not being able to replace it can cause little beads of sweat to form on one’s forehead- am I right?

In my bag right now, along with an Obex, Trak, Lace, Blizzard Ape, Blizzard Destroyer, ESP Nuke, Pig and two Aviars, are no less than four such discs. Every time one of those gems flies out of my sight I feel like a father whose teenage daughter is out on a date. (Okay, as a father with actual daughters I admit that’s an exaggeration, but still!) These are discs that if lost or broken would leave a big hole in my life, er, I mean my bag.

First there is my gummy Champion Beast. It is a pre-Barry Schultz mold that flies very straight and is great for low, flat S-shots. And the material is virtually indestructible ( I have a theory that Innova stopped using it because it’s too durable). I stocked up a bit on these so I’m prepared should it ever get lost, but still. O-O-P.

The author's orange gummy Champion Beast. Purchased on eBay after it was already O-O-P, after he had already fallen in love with it as a 'thrower'. Photo by Jack Trageser
The author’s orange gummy Champion Beast. Purchased on eBay after it was already O-O-P, after he had already fallen in love with it as a ‘thrower’. Photo by Jack Trageser

Next is my Pro-Line Rhyno, very soft and grippy yet firm for throwing. I’m sure I can replace it if I have to, but I’ve checked on eBay where I actually bought this one, after losing its predecessors) and the price is going O-O-P up . . .

The author's well-worn ProLine Rhyno. Flexible, but not floppy. Grippy, and still hold's the (Pro) line. Photo by Jack Trageser
The author’s well-worn ProLine Rhyno. Flexible, but not floppy. Grippy, and still hold’s the (Pro) line. Photo by Jack Trageser

After that is a disc that is a perfect midrange for me as a straight flyer that can also hold a turnover line forever: my yellow Champion Cobra. This disc doesn’t say ‘First Run’ on the stamp, but I think they only made these in this mold for a short time. It’s very different from both the original Cobra and the ones being made now, with a completely flat top and decidedly midrange nose profile. I have one other one (in purple), but it doesn’t fly quite the same. Whenever this disc isn’t exactly where I expect it to be, my heart rate rises steadily until it’s safely in my bag once again.

The first version of Innova's Cobra made in Champion plastic. Very different from the original Cobra mold, and in the author's viewpoint the perfect flat/turnover midrange disc. Photo by Jack Trageser
The first version of Innova’s Cobra made in Champion plastic. Very different from the original Cobra mold, and in the author’s viewpoint the perfect flat/turnover midrange disc. Photo by Jack Trageser

Finally, there is the great-grandfather of my bag, a 173-gram DGA Disc Golf Disc Distance Driver that was made in 1989. This baby has both practical and sentimental value. It’s my go-to finesse rollerĀ  with no conceivable replacement waiting in the wings. And being a virtual antique made when there was no other plastic other than what is now known as ‘DX’ (Innova’s designation for the lowest grade) I cringe whenever it so much as heads for a tree. I originally purchased four of them from Steady Ed himself, at the DGA factory, but the other three have all died the deaths of brave warriors. There is virtually no chance of replacing this disc, and every time I get it to roll perfectly on my second throw on hole 13 at DeLa, it’s like watching one of those vintage World War I planes zoom across the sky. There is a sense of watching history unfold before your eyes, but also a nervousness around the fragility and irreplaceable nature of that disc in particular. Discs are meant to fly (and roll), though, and I’ll keep using it as long as I can.

It says driver, but this one is now most valuable as a super finesse roller. Also, I bought it was purchased from the Father of Disc Golf. That's something, too. Photo by Jack Trageser
It says driver, but this one is now most valuable as a super finesse roller. Also, I bought it was purchased from the Father of Disc Golf. That’s something, too. Note the copyright date on the stamp of 1989. Photo by Jack Trageser

By the way, a quick side-note about this disc: When I bought it in 1998 it was already out of production. Those who knew Steady Ed will appreciate the fact that he charged me $20 for each of them.

So my questions for you are, do you have O-O-P discs in your bag? What are they? Are you a collector who has rare discs that you’d like to throw but don’t want to reduce their value as collectibles? Use the comments section to join the conversation. I’m sure we’re all interested to hear the range of opinions on this one, and I personally love hearing about other antique discs that are still out there producing, even if they are officially Out Of Production.