Monday marked the opening of the 2011 PDGA Disc Golf World Championships, held this year in Santa Cruz and the larger Monterey Bay area for the first time in the tournament's 36-year history.
The opening day consisted of the field events held at Soquel's Anna Jean Cummings Park, better known to locals as "Blue Ball Park" due to the large blue spheres which dot the park's hillside entrance.
For a taste of the sport's grace, check the video on the right.
The field events were a variety of disc golf-related competitions, including distance throwing, putting competition, mini-disc golf, and the EDGE (Educational Disc Golf Experience) which is a challenge for specific skills such as roller shots, backhand and forehand shots, and throws from a variety of positions such as crouching and sitting, as well as tosses around obstacles.
Many well known local golfers were there, including Nate Doss, and sibling duo Valerie and Avery Jenkins, who are up against the stiffest competition from all over the globe.
For many of the athletes, this was the chance for the first of many competitive throws in the grueling days of golf to come, and because of this the atmosphere was relatively relaxed.
“This is a world class competition, but that being said, it is not disc golf, so its not quite as serious,” said Chris Edwards, 24, a disc golfer from Felton.
Many golfers used the event as a way to meet and greet fellow competitors, show off skills, size up the competition, and discuss the many types of discs they will use to suit each unique situation they will face in the upcoming world wide disc golf show down.
The top performers in the putting and distance competition will be invited for a final round this Thursday evening at Santa Cruz's Main Beach by the Boardwalk, with the distance finals to be thrown off the city's Municipal Wharf onto the beach.
Some athletes complained that conditions were unfavorable for a distance competition, because of the considerable headwind which foiled the flights of many well-practiced throws.
The headwind forced competitors to make careful choices about which disc they would use in such adverse conditions.
“I'm throwing a Destroyer, its not that flippy, and I don't want anything too light because of the wind,” said Sam Aldrich, 23 of Tracy.
Aldrich proved his expertise in discs when he won the EDGE competition, which called for use of all kinds of discs in a variety of difficult situations.
“I feel like the universe conspired against me,” said distance competitor Chris Edwards, who was disappointed that his throws were inadequate to qualify him for the final round on Thursday. “There was a tailwind this morning, but it switched to a headwind as soon as I got ready to throw. I waited too long.”
Word got out at the event that 12 time world champion Ken Climo will not play in this year's competition for the first time in 23 years, because of tendonitous.
Despite some disappointment about the wind, attitudes at the event were generally relaxed, and the competition lighthearted, as many withheld their energy for the up-coming disc golf world championships, where the real high stakes are held.
This year's World Championships hold the largest ever prize purse for victors, weighing in at over $100,000 dollars.
The competition will really start to heat up in Tuesday's first round at , and continue on for the rest of the week at three other Monterey Bay area golf courses.
To see the official schedule of events, as well as postings of tournament results, visit the PDGA 2011 World Disc Golf Championships website.