– Ben Martens


2024 PDGA Portland Open

In addition to playing disc golf fairly regularly, Elijah and I have watched a lot of the pro tournaments online. They have a subscription network for live coverage, but we generally watch an edited version of the final round for free on the JomezPro YouTube channel. Most of the tournaments are in the midwest and southeast but there were a couple Oregon tournaments on this year’s schedule, so last weekend we made a day trip to Portland for day 3 of the 2024 Portland Open.

I didn’t really know what to expect and it was going to be a long day (6 hours in the car plus ~8 hours at the tournament) so I was hoping for the best. I had so many questions starting with “What is parking going to be like?” There wasn’t a lot of info available ahead of time about parking but I was thrilled to see that we could just street park within about a 5 minute walk of the course!

The tournament schedule had the ladies teeing off first followed by the guys. Elijah’s disc golf teacher was in one of the first groups of ladies to tee off and that had happened a couple hours before we got there. After checking scores on my phone, we made a beeline back to hole 16. There was almost no one around and we weren’t even sure we were in the right area, but then we saw his teacher come through. She spotted after teeing off and came running over to give Elijah a hug! We watched her through the final holes and got to chat with her after. She made Elijah feel super special and even took him up onto the #1 tee between groups to get a great photo by one of the big PDGA sign boards. You can see it on her Instagram account.

After walking around the booths and grabbing some lunch, we watched the top ladies groups finish up on hole 18. Then we headed over to hole 1 and parked ourselves in a great spot with some shade but also great views of the green.

It ended up being a magical spot. One of the first groups we watched had Niklas Anttila in it (one of Elijah’s favorites.) As Niklas walked by, he fist bumped Elijah and blew Elijah’s mind! It was a tiny act but the unnecessary kindness of it was so wonderful.

That was more than we expected but it certainly wasn’t the end. When Andrew Presnell came through, his caddy handed Elijah a signed trading card. And then when Ricky Wysocki came through, his caddy rummaged around in his bag for quite a while and came out with a Ricky t-shirt in Elijah’s size! Elijah immediately put it on and Ricky gave him a big smile as he walked by. Just being close to all the people he watches on TV was a hit but these extra interactions sent him over the moon. In this image below, we are back against the trees just to the left of the guy’s disc in his hand in front in front of the person in the red shirt.

We watched everyone come through and then we headed further out on the course to watch a few more players come through before finally settling on hole 18 to watch everyone come through again. It was about 10 minutes between groups but Elijah never once talked about being bored or tired even though it was about 8 hours on the course in total.

If Elijah had to pick one player as his favorite, it would probably be Calvin Heimburg. Calvin was in the second to last group. We got to watch him make a stellar eagle on the last hole. You can see us in this photo below to the left of the basket. We are all standing and Elijah has an aqua colored shirt on. Or watch this video for a longer clip of the video that this screenshot was taken from. You can see Elijah jump up and cheer.

If you kept watching that video clip to see Calvin’s putt, you might have noticed that Tyla and Elijah were gone. (I was standing there recording a phone video like a dork.) Earlier in the day, Elijah had picked out a Calvin Heimburg disc as his souvenier. After the round, he waited in line to get it signed by Calvin and even got a picture with him too!

As I mentioned, it was a long day and we were wiped out by the time we got home. The morning drive wasn’t too bad but it would have been really nice to have a hotel that evening. I was really thankful for the autosteer feature on the Tesla as it took a lot of pressure off both of the drives.

If you can’t tell by now, we were very impressed with the event. Yes, disc golf is still a niche sport, but they put on an excellent show. You can tell they’re putting a ton of effort into really polishing it as much as possible. But since it’s still picking up steam, it’s very easy to attend an event like this and tickets were only $21 (plus Elijah got in free.) The only time when a crowd was minorly annoying was on the final hole of the day with the final group, but realistically it was probably only 200-300 people. I was still able to see just fine, and there was zero traffic leaving the event.

Most of these same players will be playing next week a little farther south in Oregon. We’re excited to do this again sometime, but that’s probably a little too soon. We’ll have our eyes on the schedule next year though! Most events are east of the Mississippi but it’s nice to see a couple within driving distance for us.

A huge thank you goes from our family to everyone who made our day special, but especially Corey! She made Elijah feel like a VIP!

Blyth Park Disc Golf Tournament

I played my first disc golf round in early August, so less than two months later, I’m clearly ready to enter a tournament, right?

We play most often at Blyth Park and I saw some signs up for a tournament. This was an “unsanctioned” tournament meaning you didn’t need a PDGA (Professional Disc Golf Association) membership to enter. I figured it would be a stretch for my skill level, but the $40 entry fee included three discs and that’s about how much three discs would cost so it seemed like a reasonable way to add more discs to my bag and learn more about the sport. The catch was that you can only use those exact three discs in the tournament even though you’ve never thrown them before.

My tee time was at 12:30pm so I showed up around 11:30am not knowing what to expect. We got there just as an ambulance was pulling up. I quickly learned that a player had broken their leg on the course! It winds through the woods and there are some very steep sections. He took a bad step and SNAP! That delayed everything by about half an hour so I didn’t end up teeing off until 1pm. The injury happened in the furthest point from the road so it took them a long time to extract him.

There were three other guys in my group and thankfully they were all nice to play with. Most people in the sport seem to be very nice but there are always a few of “those guys.” The first whole on the course is very difficult. There’s a row of trees across the fairway and it feels a bit like the windmill hole on a putt putt course. You try to get it right but there’s a lot of luck involved (at least at my skill level.)

I was encouraged to see lots of other players hitting the trees too. That was a common theme for me during the day. Lots of other people struggle with the same things that I do. Anway, my tee shot survived the trees (in a different gap than I aimed for) and my next shot from about 100 feet out hit the chains and bounced out! I was thrilled with a par on that hole and told me teammates not to expect more throws like that from me in the future.

We were keeping score right in the UDisc app. I don’t know if there are other disc golf apps, but this one seems to have pretty much cornered the market. They’ve done a really good job with it and I keep all my scores in there. For the tournament, it easily let one person track scores for the whole group and all the stats show up right on everyone else’s phones so they can find errors, track live leaderboards, etc.

When playing the course normally, there aren’t official out of bounds areas clearly marked but they had them all marked for this tournament. Some of the baskets are within a few feet of the out of bounds line so that adds a significant challenge. On hole three, my putt hit the chains of the basket, bounced out, and had an agonizingly slow roll just barely across the line. So my par 3 turned into a 5. Ouch!

I can finish a round (10 holes) by myself on an empty course in 25-30 minutes. If I play with Elijah, it’s about 45 minutes. But it took us 1.5 hours to finish our first 10 holes. (For some reason this course has 10 holes instead of 9.) Thankfully, the weather was perfect. It was a real blessing for being so late in September. It was in the low 70s and sunny, and if there was anything to complain about, there was just enough wind to make you think about it on some throws.

I get to spend a lot of time learning my recovery shots when I hit a tree and end up off course.

I finished the first 10 holes at 4 over which is good for me. I’ve had two rounds at 3 over and if you factor in the OB rules that I had to contend with this time, I was very happy. Two of the other guys in my group were a stroke or two under par and the third guy was quite a few strokes behind me.

The second 10 holes was rougher and looking back, I think I was getting tired. It had already been a long day and I usually only play 10 holes at a time. The whole course is in the woods so it’s not uncommon to hit a tree, but usually I can recover and still get par or bogey. But I hit multiple trees on both holes and double bogeyed both. I was able to pick up a birdie later to offset some other less than stellar holes a little and ended up +6 on the back 10 for a final score of +10 over 20 holes.

Tyla and Elijah came to watch my final few holes and take some pictures.

There were some extra competitions happening within the tourney too. You could pay an extra $5 for an “ace pot” to be split among any players who got a hole in one. As far as I know, only one player got it so he won $500. (It was on hole 8 if you know the course. He had a good throw plus a bit of luck with a friendly tree bounce.) The other competition was “closest to the pin” on every hole. There was an orange flag marking the closest tee shot. By the end of the day, all of the flags were either touching the pole or within a couple feet. It was amazing to see some of those throws when I’m happy just to par the holes.

I’m waiting to see the official results with the full 100 players, but the UDisc leaderboard says I was 65 out of 84 players. My goal going in was to have fun, stay out of the way, and not be last. I’d say I accomplished all of those goals!

Will I do it again? Yes, but probably not very often. I like that you get free discs for playing the courses, but until I’m good enough to have a chance at making it into the money, I probably won’t do more than one a year. The top 30 players got a payout in this tournament and a score of +1 was the cutoff for that. That’s a big stretch for me right now but my personal goal is one round (10 holes) at even par. I have a ways to go before I’m in possible contention for the money but it seems achievable.

Disc Golf Newbies

The new craze in our house is disc golf. I asked for a cheap starter pack of discs for Father’s Day, and all three of us enjoyed it the very first time we went out. There are about half a dozen free courses within a 30 minute drive and the closest one is only 5 minutes away.

I was a bit nervous/embarrassed the first time we went out, but I’ve found the disc golf crowd to be extremely friendly and welcoming. Plus, we quickly learned that lots of people are just out there having family fun and we weren’t as slow or bad as we thought. Course etiquette is very similar to golf so I was able to work on those social norms with Elijah first and then we started learning more about the game.

YouTube is a great resource for learning disc golf and it helped us understand the basic form, the flow of play, special rules, etc. While there are people who are extremely good at the sport, I’ve found it to be very accessible for inexperienced players. You can go out there knowing nothing and have a blast. And while it would take a huge amount of time to master the sport, you can find bits success early on. For example, only about 10 rounds into the sport, we’ve all made a par and I was a few inches off from a hole-in-one. You can pick up a starter set of discs for around $30, and as I mentioned, many of the courses are free. The UDisc app is a great way to find nearby courses and keep score.

It’s fun to discover a new activity where I can compete against myself, play for basically free, and see myself rapidly improve since I went in knowing nothing! If you’re in the area, I’d be happy to share some discs with you and show you what it’s like. At the very least, you get to enjoy walking around in a park for an hour.