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Watsonville Scores Big Disc Golf World Championships Finals

Pinto Lake neighbors are looking forward to the August invasion of players and media.

The 27-hole disc golf course at is still under construction, but organizers are confident it will be in premiere shape next month for the Professional Disc Golf Association World Championships.

The spotlight will be on Watsonville as an all-time high of will battle for $108,000 in the final round on Aug. 13—and as the sport tries to break into the world of televised sports.

“DirecTV is going to be covering this course all week,” said Tom Schot, executive director of the championship event. What's more, "Chains Productions [a local film crew] will have eight cameras out here and is doing post production.”

Just three years ago, Schot approached the county Department of Parks, Open Spaces and Cultural Centers with plans to install the course in the 40-acre meadow at the back of the park.

Schot hopes that and crowds expected to top 3,000 will turn Watsonville residents on to the sport, and lure them back to the park many gave up visiting years ago. Athletic fields were built in the front of the park in the early 1980s, but years of neglect allowed the meadow to degrade into a hub of drug and gang activity.

“Before the course was here, this would be the corner where all the bad things happened ...” said resident Nick Quintanillo, 51, who has lived next to the meadow for 30 years. “Since the disc golf has opened up, there is almost no crime at all. Now people can come and park their cars and come back and their stereo is still there.”

Parks Superintendent Bill Ratto said the county pitched in $50,000 to clear the land and remove the forest of poison oak that had taken over.

“That first hole was a nightmare,” said Ratto, adding that the neglected South County is "like the Wild West.”

The later stages of the work, including laying cement tee pads and removing trash, have been taken on by a handful of dedicated volunteers from the disc golf community.

Greg Doubledee, disc golfer and life-long Watsonville resident, says he is stoked to play in the Worlds—his first-ever prop tournament—on a course in his hometown. He says playing in the open division of the tournament as one just a few Watsonville locals is a dream in itself.

“My goal right now is to not finish last,” said Doubledee. “A secondary dreamer goal would be to make the cut and get into that fifth round.”

The turnaround of the park is unquestionable for local disc golfer, Erik Nelsen, who also will represent Watsonville in the Worlds.

“There was [poison] oak everywhere, Nelsen said. “This place was like no man's land. No one went back there.”

Sheriff's Sgt. Mike MacDonald, who works out of the South County Service Center across Green Valley Road from the lake, said he knows the park has had its problems.

"The neighborhood has complained that there has been trespassing on property to get into or leave the park," MacDonald said, adding that in the year or so he's been assigned to the , sometimes you will find "couples back there ... looking at the stars."

When Quantanillo saw people clearing the land over his fence, he thought they might be building an RV park. He says he couldn't be happier that it is a disc golf course, instead, and hopes that more Watsonville residents start disc golfing, because their positive presence works better to fight crime than any police force.

“All the years I've lived here, I have met more people in this short time now than I ever have,” he said. “I am so excited looking forward to this, trying to get a lot of these young kids here involved and see what your future is.”

john_s July 12, 2011 at 05:44 PM
That's great news for our community. And Good Luck to our local disc golfers!
CJ July 14, 2011 at 04:58 PM
Nice article.
Regina Tula July 17, 2011 at 07:08 AM
What a great way to support a fantastic family orientated sports great for people of all ages!
Regina Tula July 17, 2011 at 08:25 AM
Disc Golf really does break the boundaries between young and old to build mentors out of all people in each generation. I have seen children as young as five years old playing with siblings, parents, and grandparents. Disc Golf has saved families by uniting them in a common bond of a game in the park. Awesome! To top off this great sport, is the inexpensive cost for families to go out and play. It is a Win Win situation! I hope residence of the area will come out to support this event and the volunteers, players, directors, vendors, and sponsors who all assist in making possible the success of these types of tournaments.
Darrell Hagood July 18, 2011 at 02:41 AM
I was fortunate enough to play this course on a recent Disc Golf road trip down the Northcentral Coast. I took friends from Indianna there for their Disc Golf "pilgrimage" from the midwest. This is an absolutely wonderful course/place, and Watsonville should be proud of the all the blood, sweat, tears, and poisen oak relief cream, that that all the associated volunteers spearheaded by Tom Schot have put into reclaiming this little slice of heaven from the wild elements (of all types). A heartfelt hats off to all of you! Watsonville, Santa Cruz, and Monterey are lucky to have the likes of a Tom Schot who has such passion and vision...and the unrelenting drive to make these things happen. Coincidentally, the day we came through there and played, Mr. Schot was armed with a weedeater waging war on the caustic greenery along with his small army of dedicated volunteers. I had read a couple artcicles on him and his lifelong contribution and promotion of the sport of Disc Golf....I was pleasantly surprised to find him very approachable, very down to earth, very hospitable....and obviously very hard working as witnessed first hand. His sincere passion came through in an instant as he beemed a smile while asking "if we had been down to the water's edge to check out the amazing view there". I urge the community to get behind this guy and help him pave the way through any red tape encountered to build these courses...Disc Golf is truly a special and uplifting sport / activity...try it!

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