Santa Cruz is hosting the Professional Disc Golf Association's Disc Golf World Championships for the first time in the history of the sport. It is also the first time in 30 years that the tournament is coming back to California, since the 1982 inaugural event in Southern California.
“Everyone’s been hungry for this tournament for years,” said Tom Schot, executive director of this year’s World Championships. “Everyone has been working on their courses every day. In fact, I’m on my way to [DeLaveaga] right now.”
A lot has changed since that first tournament in Irvine where there was no official prize money given, according to pdga.com. Warp to 2011, where 432 players from 14 countries—25 alone from Sweden and eight from Japan— are fighting for a prize pool over $100,000. This is a landmark that signals a sport is ready to go mainstream, according to Russ Jacobson, secretary of the DeLaveaga Disc Golf Club.
Organizers are ecstatic about the explosion of international competitors, which jumped from six last year to 52 in 2011. The waiting list is over 80 names long, but this is the first year that has seen no cancellations for entry.
“I’ve had to tell really good friends I can’t get them in,” Schot said.
Also a highlight are the 36 women competing, the largest women’s disc golf field in history, with three from Sweden. The Nordic country has embraced the sport with an enthusiasm unseen in the rest of the world, and many Swedes plan to make a splash in the distance contest that will happen the Monday before the tournament at Anna Jean Cummings Park in Aptos.
Santa Cruz is not only the home of DeLaveaga—rated the best course in the world for decades, but considered by many to be the heart of the disc golf world, the place where it’s popularity has bled across the globe. Despite this reputation, the final round on August 14 will be played at the new Pinto Lake course in Watsonville, because expectations of large crowds and unprecedented mass media exposure cannot be handled by the facilities at “DeLa,” as locals refer to the course.
“Watsonville is where the final round is going to be because that park has the amenities,” said Schot. “[At] DeLaveaga parking is a nightmare.”
The work of laying new cement tee boxes, installing retaining walls, and building steps to increase safety at and beautify the course has been done by a purely volunteer force of local disc golfers. Through August they are having official workdays every Wednesday and Saturday, but club president Dave Thomas said “every day is a workday” from now until August. He says anyone can work as long as they let him know what they plan on doing to help out.
Santa Cruz's Nate Doss, the first world champion since Schot claimed the championship before the tournament was officially the “world championships,” has won the title twice in recent years, when it was held out of the state. In August he will test whether he has put to rest forever his home town jitters that he has said come “all of his friends and family [being there].
The tournament will be played on four courses between Santa Cruz in Monterey, also making use of the smaller course at Aptos high School for the legends and grand legends divisions, which feature players over 70 years old.
The disc golf movie, Chains, is set to premiere at the Rio Theatre on Tuesday August 9, and Jacobson says the movie’s producers have been contracted by the PDGA to film the tournament “with an eye for getting the sport on TV."
Director Derek Hastings and producer/sound mixer Vince Sanchez have been filming and editing for five years and are picking up the pace the premiere quickly approaches.
Jacobson said “The DVD will probably still be warm when the movie premieres.”