Disc golf takes flight at state parks in Northwest OhioWritten by Andy Ouriel | | email@example.com
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TEMPERANCE, Mich. — While it’s nearly impossible for a recreational golfer to join the Professional Golf Association, a local group will allow anyone to make the cut.
The Toledo Area Disc Golf Association (TADGA) is an organization promoting the sport of disc golf at state parks in Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan.
TADGA members cater to its players by constantly improving the sport. TADGA runs various tournaments, cleans up courses and tailors improvements to individual holes such as changing the number of throws it takes to make par.
The main priority of the organization is to get individuals to play, no matter his or her skill level.
“It is an incredibly easy sport to pick up and play competitively, but it is also an incredibly difficult sport to become great at,” said Chris Wojciechowski, TADGA tournament director for May 30’s Stateline Classic Tournament. “The way it feels so easy, combined with the fact that it isn’t really that easy to master, makes it very addicting.”
Anyone can compete in tournaments affiliated with TADGA, including events sanctioned by the Professional Disc Golf Association.
TADGA splits its competitors into two divisions – professionals and amateurs.
Professionals compete for money and points. Points can be used to enter Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA)-sanctioned events, earn higher rankings through the PDGA point system and enter the annual World Championships. An entry fee is required for any professional entering a sanctioned tournament.
Amateurs compete on the same courses, but play for awards, apparel and discs. Amateurs do not pay an entry fee. Their participation is an extension of recreational play in a more structured manner, Wojciechowski said.
A series of tournaments popular with both groups is the Michigan/Ohio Border Tour (see schedule, right). Events have seen more entrants leading to better competition over the last decade, according to Mark Kruse, local disc golf enthusiast.
TADGA contributes to the popularity of the sport by making the game available in many different ways to those interested, Kruse said.
“If someone doesn’t want to play tournaments because it’s too nerve-wracking, they can always play the smaller, unsanctioned tournaments or leagues or just play for fun,” Kruse said.
Anyone can join leagues after paying a registration fee, Kruse said. Players interested in leagues can visit Disc Golf Scene’s website (www.discgolfscene.com) and find parks hosting events.
A popular venue for high school and UT students is Ottawa Park, Kruse said. One Rocket launching discs is senior Nicholas Gray. Gray, who plays in TADGA-sponsored events, learned how to play disc golf 18 months ago.
Gray’s motivation for playing is to constantly improve.
“From my first throw, I was hooked,” Gray said. “The pursuit of perfection — That’s what makes me keep coming out. I try to master and become the best at things.”
Robert A. Turner remains dedicated to the game after 20 years. Joining the PDGA in 1990, Turner has played at more than 500 courses from California to Florida and his home state of Michigan.
Nicknamed “Mr. Smooth Like Butter,” Turner mentors younger players in TADGA. He said today’s competition is the best he’s ever seen because of the sport’s increasing popularity.
“I love to teach the kids how to play and give them pointers,” Turner said.
Kruse believes corporate sponsors and television exposure on local television such as Buckeye Cable Sports Network will help the sport grow. But the most important aspect to attracting new talent is to expose people to the sport and entice them to participate.
“My goal is to try to make sure that we get as many people out there playing,” Kruse said.
Turner encourages anyone to try the sport, even if they haven’t flicked a disc before. Disc golf is great because it’s a way to enjoy the outdoors, let loose and take part in a little competition, he said.
“Go buy a [disc], try your first local course, play your amateur tees,” he said. “I will guarantee from your first throw to your last throw you will have improved probably 300 percent,” Turner said.
Anyone that pays dues can join the PDGA. Players can still play in PDGA sanctioned events at $10 per tournament. More information can be found at www.pdga.com
TADGA is free to register and members interested can join the group’s message board website, www.tadga.com.
Ziggy Bierekoven plays for the fun
TEMPERANCE, Mich. — Ziggy Bierekoven is the hardest-working pupil in this particular class.
Bierekoven, a recent graduate at Andover High School in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., studied after school and weekends to perfect his skills. He also took field trips, getting accustomed to the surroundings.
And after hundreds of practice rounds and throwing thousands of discs at chain-linked baskets over the past six years, his hard work paid off once again May 30.
Bierekoven defeated 90 competitors and shot the lowest score to win disc golf’s Stateline Classic Tournament at Vienna Park — one of several regional tour events on the Professional Disc Golf Association Tour.
Bierekoven, a 17-year-old professionally sponsored disc golfer, won a $500 prize and points to enter next year’s World Championships located in Rochester, N.Y.
Bierekoven said dedication, and not age, is the most important factor as to who the best golfers are.
“In order to be the best, you have to play like the best,” he said. “You have to play every day, putt every day, drive every day.”
Bierekoven is the most successful player on the Michigan/Ohio Border Tour since 2008. He’s won 11 professional tournaments since winning the 2007 Junior World Championships in Milwaukee.
Bierekoven’s friend, fellow professional and disc golf partner Jimmy Bates, said golfers play their best when they have the most fun. If a player is only concerned about winning money or advancing through the ranks, a golfer will never be a top player because they aren’t prioritizing fun, Bates said.
“You can’t play well if you are not having a good time,” Bates said. “If it was only about the money, I wouldn’t be out here.”
Bierekoven overtook Bates during the second day of play to win the tournament. Bierekoven’s devotion to win is what, he believes, separates him from his competitors.
“Everyone out there wants it,” he said. “You got to want it more if you want to win.”
PDGA sanctioned events, such as the Stateline Classic Tournament, attract as many as four times the amount of participants compared to nonsanctioned events, according to Mark Kruse, local disc golf enthusiast.
Kruse said the atmosphere players experience when competing in sanctioned tournaments is a tremendous feeling, one which a league or recreational play cannot match.
“There is nothing like the feeling of being a part of a tournament with 90 players,” Kruse said. “There is an electricity in the air.”
Qdoba Mexican Restaurant sponsors first ‘Frisbee Golf Open’ at Carter Park
BOWLING GREEN, Ohio — Qdoba Mexican Restaurant gave customers the opportunity to taste victory Saturday at Carter Park.
The Bowling Green location hosted the Qdoba First Annual Frisbee Golf Open. Eleven teams of 22 players competed in a disc golf tournament where partners would alternate shots with one another on each hole.
The inaugural event, which attracted players from Toledo and southern Michigan, was a success according to Ganim Shihadeh, co-owner of Qdoba in Bowling Green.
“This is a pretty cool community event,” he said. “We thought it was time to host one of our own. It gives people something fun to come out and do.”
The tournament was organized for two reasons. First, disc golf is one of the fastest growing sports through participation. Multiple courses — free of charge — within an hour’s drive are available to the public. Qdoba wanted to capitalize on the sport’s growth, said Jacob Corall, event organizer.
“We just wanted to do something that people in the community would enjoy and just help promote disc golf,” Corall said.
Second, the sport is popular with Qdoba employees. Shihadeh said disc golf is a great sport because the game can appeal to so many different people without it being costly.
“Anybody from 10 to 80 can play this game,” he said. “You can be as good as you want to be with practice.”
The tournament was a nonsanctioned Professional Disc Golf Association event, meaning players participating were not eligible for money or points accumulated in those events.
This didn’t deter Nicholas Gray, a regular attendee of PDGA events, from playing.
“It’s still a tournament. It doesn’t matter if it’s PDGA or not,” Gray, a UT senior, said. “In this format, alternating [shots] is different than what I’m used to.”
Gray played on Team Gunner with his girlfriend Danielle Mahl who also plays in PDGA events. The two named their team after their pet Doberman.
Gray said he enjoys events such as this one because it allows him to help more inexperienced players with shots or encourage recreational players to join leagues.
Shihadeh said a second disc golf event sponsored by Qdoba will occur as early as this summer. Players interested in participating can visit the Bowling Green Qdoba located at 129 S. Main St.