Pro Worlds recap- NorCal shines

Haven’t had the energy yet since the last day of the event to look at all the numbers, but one stat jumps off the page. Of the eight people crowned World Champion of disc golf on Saturday, 6 come from and live in Northern California. Only two of them call any of the Worlds courses home (Nate Doss and Jon Baldwin, DeLaveaga), and Nate is on tour and away from DeLa most of the season. And he doesn’t play much in the off-season. It wasn’t a Santa Cruz thing so much as a NorCal thing.

My conclusion here is twofold, and both are points I’ve made in this space before.

  1. Northern California has more concentrated disc golf talent than anywhere else in the world, and it’s not very close.
  2. The courses in NorCal present challenges most disc golfers – even most top pros – just don’t see very often.

I won’t spend much time on the superior player angle as I’ve done that before. Suffice it to say that in addition to dominating the winner’s podium, the two other players that provided the biggest threat to Doss are from NorCal as well: Derek Billings, who led for the first two days and shot a -18 in the opening round, and Josh Anthon, the greatest player to not yet win a major.

As far as the courses go, it seems that most top players are conditioned by typical disc golf courses to play ultra-aggressive golf. Rarely do they get themselves into trouble that results in more than one bogey stroke at other courses. Bad drives usually result in settling for par rather than deciding how to minimize the damage. Not so at most NorCal courses, nearly all of which combine sloping, rugged terrain, dense foliage and challenging layouts.

To those tempted to say that the NorCal players had an advantage from being familiar with the courses, my response is qualified agreement. NorCal players are privileged to learn playing a form of the game much closer to traditional golf than what most others experience. Game management is of the utmost importance, and it is this trait more than any other that made the difference at the 2011 Pro Worlds.

The 27-hole round is also something that requires adjustment, and perhaps those that have played tournament rounds at DeLaveaga were better-prepared in that way as well. If your mind is conditioned to maintain focus for 18 holes, and then you have to another 1.5 hours . . . . that’s when mistakes and errors of judgement happen.

I know somewhere, someone who knows Tom Schot and his PT Barnam ways well believes Tom just pulled off the Hustle of his great career. But those that know Tom really well know that’s silly. He doesn’t care who wins so long as the world hears about it and it advances the sport.

Which Worlds course will be talked about years from now?

Maybe the headline of this entry should have had a qualifier related to DeLaveaga. Those that have never played DeLa may lean in the direction of the iconic Santa Cruz course because of its long storied stature and the fact that she still deserves her reputation and still requires a 1000-rated round to shoot par.

Those that have played DeLa in past Masters Cups or other events may choose to go another way, though. They may remember which of the three other, much newer courses provided the greatest tournament challenge. That remains to be seen, of course, but DeLaBlahg can provide a small bit of insight from the perspective of a local.

First of all, generalizations that hold true for all four courses: The combination of trees, slanted and non-grassy fairways and variable winds adds up to difficult pars if you don’t place your drive where it needs to be. But for the most part, the length of the holes is reasonable- not long just to make the hole a tough par 3 or 4- or 5 (Pinto Lake, Hole 11, 1280 feet). These courses have plenty of other factors adding to the challenge.

Ryan Ranch
Ryan Ranch is so beautiful right now, so dialed in with the sweet teesigns and basket toppers, it reminds us a femme fatale-type assassin. Many of the baskets are close enough to craggy brush and trees that you’ll find yourself straddle-putting often. The winds can get up pretty good since it’s mostly exposed. It’s long enough that if you arm can get fatigued at the end of a long day, you’ll do well to monitor your performance closely and adjust accordingly during the last 9 holes here- just like at the other 27-hole layouts.

CSUMB Oaks
The likeliest of the four courses to have wind be a major factor. If the wind is up in a major way, play to minimize the damage. It’s tough because the direction changes so often, with the course being the closest to the Pacific Ocean. But this course isn’t a birdie-fest on the calmest of days, so unless you’re in the Open division and vying for a top spot, lots o’ pars are good here too.

Pinto Lake
Tom Schot’s attempt to match his achievement at DeLaveaga is mostly successful at Pinto Lake. You may not like a couple of the holes that have thread-narrow dirt roads for part or all of the fairways (we don’t) but they are exacting and everyone has to play them. Most of the holes have yellow OB rope left, right, and in some case behind the pin. Make sure you know where that rope is on every shot. Especially on the meadow (upper) holes, which look so wide-open and innocuous after the first 4 holes, the OB can creep up on you very easily- especially if there is any wind to speak of.

The guess here is that Pinto Lake will stand out from the three courses not called DeLaveaga. It has the significant advantage of being the location for the semi-finals and finals, after all. It’s the only course the top divisions will play more than once. But that’s the only reason we cast our vote for Pinto Lake. The other courses are epic as well, and they’re all tough, technical, long, and a big departure from the courses most competitors play regularly. We like to envision conversations years from now among people who played the 2011 Pro Worlds, spirited debates about which course ended up being pivotal in XXXX XXXXXX being crowned World Champion.

Be aware of the lake on the one hole where it actually comes into play (14).

Poison oak, next week’s weather, and fashion choices

Everything that has been posted on the Worlds site and various Facebook pages so far about treating poison oak is more or less correct. Wash thoroughly with soap and/or use Worlds sponsor Zanfel or Technu. The sooner you do it, the better in terms of severity and prevention of spreading. But wouldn’t it be better to prevent exposure in the first place?

One of the main things you can do to lessen exposure is simply wear long pants. The weather is supposed to be quite mild during the 2011 Worlds, with highs on the hottest course (Pinto Lake) possibly never even reaching 80 degrees. Remember, too, that Northern California has very low humidity.  Getting a tan isn’t worth it if it means also experiencing Poison Oak, which is many times more potent than Poison Ivy. And it’ll be overcast most of the time anyway.

  • DeLaBlahg packs a travel size/trial size pack of ‘Wet Wipes’ in our disc golf bag for times when we know we’ve contacted the vile weed. Immediate cleansing with the wipes seems to neutralize the toxic oils. Read it somewhere, and it’s always worked for us.
  • As you keep your eye out for the leafy poison oak plants on the ground, don’t forget that the gnarliest (literally) plants are the vines that climb trees. They don’t have many leaves, but if you get scratched by one and it breaks the skin, look out. To be safe, steer clear of any dry, brittle-looking vines you see creeping up trees.

Tidbits on the Worlds courses; local TV news coverage

DeLaBlahg accompanied Nate Doss and Valarie Jenkins to a local TV Station early this morning, then joined them for a practice round at Pinto Lake. The live segment with the local morning news co-anchors went well, and clips should be re-posted on the Worlds homepage and Facebook page as soon as the station makes them available. For now, here is the first segment as captured by the Discmasters camera on the camera on the action.

The morning news team, which is small and amazingly capable, ended up doing two segments that were both a couple minutes in length. Review of the entire show later in the day on DVR showed that they even plugged the disc golf segments twice as teasers beforehand- although the repeated called it ‘Frolf’ until we corrected them during a break. In both segments, co-anchors Colleen Chen and Tamara Berg toss putters toward an orange powder-coated DGA basket and ask Val and Nate questions. After receiving some basic instruction both showed improvement. The sound cut out some on the live broadcast during the second segment, but not enough to ruin it. That’s important, because according to the show’s producer they get a bunch of viewers right at the end, tuning in for the CBS Early Show which follows it.

Nate Doss and Valarie Jenkins with Colleen Chen of KION News

We’re hoping to get more coverage on KION/FOX 35 before the end of the tournament, so stay tuned.

Course Notes- Pinto Lake
Headed to check out a couple of the Worlds courses after the TV studio shoot. After a stop at Ryan Ranch to check out the new tee signs, benches, and ‘basket-toppers‘(all looking incredible), we headed to Pinto Lake.

Volunteers were hard at work laying out what will be the words ‘2011 Pro Worlds’ in 80-foot tall letters, along with a correspondingly large KEEN logo on the course’s 1200-foot hole, #11. It’ll be so big it will cover most of that long fairway and be visible from 30,000 feet. When it’s done, cameras in airplanes and/or helicopters will hopefully capture some images we can share.

The rest of the course is looking great – even better than great – but for those heading out to practice for the Worlds, a few important notes:

  • The yellow OB rope that will be put down on the first five holes and holes 14-18 should be there in the next couple days (by Wednesday August 3rd). Until then, pay attention to hole maps and look for the low-protruding 4 x 4 posts that define most of the OB right now.
  • Watch out for yellowjackets on holes 10 and 12, in both cases within 50 feet of the basket.
  • Even though this also should change in the next day or two, hole 12A doesn’t have a basket (it has a tone-pole, much of a tee (two markings on the ground) or signage (none) as of Monday August 1st around Noon. Here’s how to get there and then on to Hole 13: After completing hole 12, walk back up the hill along the OB line to the right, to keep safe from being hit by drives on 12. When you get to the tee for 12, you’ll see the tee for 12A not far behind it. After finishing 12A, walk down to a trail on the right that cuts across toward Hole 13.
  • Hole 18’s basket will be moved from it’s normal position about 75 feet longer, into the open grassy area short of the restrooms. There is a stake to mark where the basket will be- hopefully in, you guessed it . . . a coupla days. Max. There was already plenty to polish up in the next few days, and that sign is gonna be huge.

DeLa with Nikko

Nikko Locastro is in town to defend his title at the Otter Open in Monterey, and decided to get here a week early to practice the courses that’ll be played at the 2011 Pro Worlds. I played some holes at DeLaveaga with him on Friday to get some action footage while interviewing him for the upcoming TV show Discmasters.

I’ve heard that Nikko is a workhorse before, and Friday I got to see it for myself. On each hole he threw as many drives as the flow of play would allow, along with multiple putts. That pattern culminated with at the Top of the World, where he emptied his bag trying to ace the basket in its mega-short position. Ironically, his very last shot is the one that hit the cage- and I think we did catch it on film.

He seems to me to be a decent enough guy, and more mature and focused than I was at his age. We’re supposed to play a full round at Black Mouse and talk some more next week, and I’m looking forward to it. It’s a funky tight little wooded course with all kinds of blind shots that you gotta play to learn the lines. Maybe, just maybe . . .  either way, I look forward to learning more about what makes this rising star in the disc golf world tick.

Just like that: the World Championships in Santa Cruz

Even though it’s one of the ‘majors’ of professional disc golf, the World Championships has always seemed more to me like a Worlds Fair. In fact, in disc golf circles it’s known as ‘Worlds,’ as in “did you go to ‘Worlds’ last year in Kansas City?’

I played in one Amateur ‘Worlds’ in my illustrious career, in 1998 in Wisconsin, and one pro Worlds, in 2000 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Both are notable for me for different reasons.

The 1998 event was the culmination of me finally putting it all together as an Am player, and I finished 12th out of 180 or so. In 2000 9after turning pro right after the 1998 Worlds), I was in the middle of a long period of floundering in the Open division, but I had other things on my mind. I was in the first six months of dating my now wife, who is from Michigan. she went with me to the Worlds, I met her family in Michigan and Ohio . . . and sucked big-time at the Hudson Mills Metroplex.

Why all this talk about Worlds? Because somehow, inexplicably, the PDGA’s biggest show is coming to Santa Cruz. We’re hosting it at four courses between here and Monterey, and Tom (Schot)’s vision will have us breaking new ground in several areas. Stay tuned . . .