More than 20 disc golfers, professionals and amateurs, descended on Beachfront Park in Crescent City on Sunday for the first-ever Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) tournament to take place there.
Par Infinity, a disc golf club out of Humboldt County, directed the tournament, which drew competitors from as far north as Brookings to as far south as Eureka.
According to tournament director Kelly Muth the park offered a variety of features they don’t have on other courses.
“This is a really nice park setting with the bay view,” she said. “It has good technical holes and some really good long holes that we don’t have on our courses down south.”
The setting drew professional disc golfer Rich Pelberg to the tournament.
“The reason I came out here is because the course is on the ocean and it’s a good course,” he said. “It has a lot of different holes than what I’m used to and I expect to come out and have a good time.”
“I’m looking forward to having a good day,” he added.
The fact that this is the first PDGA-sanctioned event is not lost on Gateway Education coordinator Ron Cole — Gateway has been a driving force in raising the level of attention paid to disc golf in Crescent City.
“I’m extraordinarily excited about this tournament,” Cole said. “In 2003 when Gateway Education started talking about having a disc golf program, we had a multi-tiered plan. The first tier of the plan was to get the courses installed. The second was to develop the disc golf culture through tournaments and eventually have a PDGA tournament.”
According to Cole, Wild Rivers Disc Golf Club now has weekly Sunday tournaments and hosts a State of Jefferson tournament in the park every year in August.
Two of the four courses — a beginner’s course at Joe Hamilton Elementary and the advanced course at Beachfront Park — have been installed and the club is seeking 30 to 40 acres of property to use for an intermediate course. The club is also involved in talks with Elk Valley Rancheria to develop a pro course.
“We’ve got the courses and we have the weekly tournaments,” Cole said, “but today was the first PDGA-sanctioned league tournament. Sure, it’s only a small league tournament, but it was PDGA-sanctioned — which means it puts us on the map.
“Now people will say that maybe they should have their event in Del Norte County.”
According to Muth, the event is part of an eight-event series that is sanctioned by the PDGA.
“It’s an eight-week series spread out over different courses,” Muth said. “We just want to shuffle in as many courses as we can in the event.”
The morning of the competition started out with a light drizzle but the sun was out by the time the competitors teed off at 11 a.m. and it stayed bright and sunny for the entire event.
The players of each of the three divisions — A, B, and C — were randomly divided and sent to different starting holes to keep the tournament moving.
By the end of the day, victors had been crowned with an even split between the traveling club and the local players.
In the A group — containing all of the professionals — Tateki Noma took third, Brian Murphy took second and Jay Baehr took first. All three of the A-tier golfers are from Eureka.
Third place in Group B was a tie between Crescent City golfers Blaine Dodson and Enrique Duran. Second place went to Mike Kemp of Eureka and first place went to Kevin Mealue of Crescent City.
Mealue shot 10 under par to win the B group and had many of the pros complaining that he should have competed in the A group because he had the best score out of all three groups.
In the C group, Dan Weatherspoon of Crescent City took first place.
“I thought it went great,” Muth said at the end of the event. “I saw smiles and we had great weather. It was the club’s first PDGA event here and I thought it went really well. People followed the rules and it couldn’t have gone better.”
“I know everybody had fun,” he said. “People in my group were saying things like, ‘Wow, where has this been all my life? This is beautiful.’ ”