Tuesday was the first round of disc golf in the 2011 PDGA World Disc Golf Championships, and the atmosphere at DeLaveaga Disc Golf course was hushed and tense.
DeLaveaga's wooded slopes house by far the Santa Cruz areas most popular disc golf course, and a quiet day at the course is highly uncommon, even on a foggy and wet morning. The course was closed to non-competitors, and the lack of the usual hustle and bustle was noticeable.
The quiet did not necessarily entail an aura of calm, however, as the hushed voices of the competitors carried with them extreme competitive tension.
Chip Frink, a volunteer from of Oroville, CA, found the quiet and tense atmosphere at the World Championships to be in sharp contrast to the laid-back vibe at many other competitive events.
“At many tournaments people don't take silence and distractions so seriously. I played in the Mach One tournament recently, and they had certain holes called 'razz holes,' where the audience was encouraged to heckle and distract the players while they putted. It was a non-sanctioned tournament, but still, it goes to show how different this event is.”
For many players not from the Santa Cruz area, this hushed round of disc golf was one of the first times they had played at DeLaveaga, a course known world wide for its unforgiving nature.
“You play a couple bad holes, and it cripples you," said Stephan Crighton, 36, of Vancouver, B.C. "You spend the rest of the round just trying to catch back up.”
Others wished they had another crack at the course during the tournament, a second chance they will not be granted in this World Championship, because each player rotates through four local courses over the next three days.
“I'm still just learning this course," said Ben Van Dusen, 30, from Boulder, CO. "I don't like it when I don't get a second crack at the throw. I keep thinking 'oh, now I know what to do next time I throw here,' then I realize, 'oh, darn.”
For many athletes, the difficulty of the course and the stiff competition forced them to play extremely conservatively, and avoid taking dangerous shots when possible in favor of the safe and predictable lay-up to the basket.
Terry Miller, 33 of Pewaukee, WI, better known to those familiar with his video blog as 'The Disc Golf Guy,' played his round in a conservative manner and achieved a par at nearly every hole in the course, which earned him a score of two strokes over par at the end of the round.
“Delaveaga suits my style the most out of all the courses in the tournament. Two pars is always better than a birdie followed by a double bogey. I only got one birdie, but then again I didn't get many bogeys either.”
'The Disc Golf Guy' has traveled the country and the world, playing disc golf tournaments. He has been to Japan twice and has played the last 16 World Championships.
“The courses in Japan are so different from the ones over here,” Miller said. “They're all on ball golf courses, and each basket is on top of a mound. And they use much lighter discs. Its a totally different game over there.”
Some local competitors said they missed their golden opportunity to really press their home course advantage at DeLaveaga.
“I had at least six or seven drives within 30 feet of the basket with no real look at the birdie,” said Sam Aldrich, a UCSC graduate, now living in Tracy, CA.
“Tree branches forced me into a lot of lay-ups.”
Aldrich still managed to finish the round at 5 over par, a score which is nothing to be depressed about on a normal day at DeLaveaga. Aldrich also won the EDGE competition at Monday's field events in Soquel.
Of course, this is the World Championships, and a round played conservatively may do well over-all, however, it may not add up to a winning score, considering the stiff competition each player will be facing.
Wednesday will have the toughest competition DeLaveaga Disc Golf Course has ever seen, as it the day that former world champions, both local and from abroad, will have their chance to show what they are made of.
Wednesday, while the incumbent world champions compete at DeLaveaga, the open divisions will rotate to the other area courses: The Oaks at CSUMB, Pinto Lake Disc Golf Course in Watsonville, and Ryan Ranch in Monterey.
For more information about the tournament schedule and postings of scores, see the 2011 PDGA World Championships website http://www.2011proworlds.com/
and to see Terry Millers video blog visit TheDiscGolfGuy.com