Return to Success: CanNats satellite

For 2021, the Canadian Disc Golf Association held the Canadian National Disc Golf Championships in expanded COVID fashion. Because the singular event was cancelled due to pandemic restrictions, the CDGA shifted to holding satellite events in each province. On Sept 17-19, the BC satellite was held at Raptors Knoll disc golf course. The TD (Craig Sheather) brought a lot of creativity to the event, highlighting the diversity of Raptors Knoll’s multiple tee pads and pin placements. Day 1 we played 18 holes on a mixed course (6 red-tee short holes, 6 blue-tee medium holes, and 6 gold-tee long holes). The baskets had also all been moved from their BC Open positions. Day two saw play from the blue-tee pads for the open divisions, and interestingly, without any of the potentially punishing OB Raptors is famous for. Day three saw us on the gold pads with “all of the teeth” of Raptors in play (OB was back).

After my recent failings at the Stillwood tournament I was both nervous and excited about heading to Raptor’s. The course is much more open and suits my style play, but the mix of short and long holes was going to neutralize some of my distance advantage and force me to play holes I normally didn’t play. Stillwood also saw me running into some issues with putting, so despite a week of assiduous practice, I was heading into the event without a lot of confidence.

Friday broke dark, grey, cold and wet. Standing on the tee pad for one brought back memories of the previous week’s cold and wet event. My hope was to finish the round in the neighbourhood of 9 or 10 down–I wasn’t close. The best I could manage was a frustrating 3 under par despite two Eagles, one on hole 2, a 300 foot hyzer bomb through the woods driven by my over-stable Kahu (RPM’s primary long range driver) and the other on hole 17, where my under stable Pekapeka flew a beautiful anhyzer-S 340 feet to the basket, leaving me a 16 foot putt. An eagle on these holes is perhaps not as impressive as it sounds as these were eagles from the Red tees, and all pars at Raptors are calculated from the Gold (long) tees. Still, those shots felt good. We were playing in mixed groups, so I had no idea where that -3 put me in the division (MP 50).

Turns out the weather hit everyone hard–the three-down had me tied for the lead and calculated as a not unreasonable 940 rating. Day two was going to be exciting, playing from the blue tees and in much improved weather. The group was also going to be a fun one, with Graham Garlick (-3) and Dave Slater (even par) rounding out the top three in MP50 and Julie Moen (the event’s sole FPO also at -3) joining us. I’ve played with all of these folks before and both respect their games (Julie coming off a second place finish at Am Worlds!) and enjoy their company (serious players who also know how to laugh and enjoy the round). The moderate distances meant that low scores were achievable with good drives, but it wasn’t the birdie-or-die setup that the red tees offer. My round started slow with a par four on a hole that is an achievable three (my upshot flew wide and was knocked down by a tree well outside putting range). Hole two I missed my Eagle opportunity, but had a tap in birdie and hole three was a tap in birdie as well. Hole three my putt for birdie fell short, leaving me at -2 as we stepped up to the par 5 hole six. I promptly crushed my drive into the first available tree, locking up the bogie 6 and setting me back to -1, opening the door to another frustrating round. Graham was sitting at -3 by that point and Dave and Julie were with me at -1 . Reminding myself that hole six was the first hole of the rest of my round I picked up a tap in birdie that set up the start of something special–with me proceeding to score on 11 of the next 13 holes (10 birdies and an Eagle on hole 13). The final tally was a -13 1013 rated round (one point off my highest ever rated round), in the clubhouse with a 6-stroke lead.

The psychology of sport is a fascinating thing. I woke up on day three of the event playing out in my mind how I was going to fail on every hole. OB drive on one, into the trees on hole two, kicking right on hole three, etc. My putts were going to be short and my drives weak. 7:30AM saw me out in the park out back of our house throwing drives like Chevy Chase practicing the Caddyshack course the night before a big tournament (though my throws at least let me know I could still hit a decent drive). I had to do something to distract me and quiet my mind.

Which brings me back to last week’s post wherein I noted my undisclosed plan for putting warmup. I had envisioned creating a strip of cloth that I could hang from a tree or fence that would mimic the pole of a disc golf basket, with the chain area marked off at the appropriate height, allowing me to practice putting anywhere I could hang the contraption. A hour or so of peaceful distraction later, voilá!, the Pocket Putt 2000 was born.

By then it was time to pack up and head to the course, this time from the long pads, all ob in play, and in mixed weather conditions. Day three had the top three old guys running heading to head, as Julie apparently decided it would be more fun playing with her younger colleagues in MPO (OK, maybe that was the TD’s decision). I stepped up in the rain on tee pad one, ready to confront my demons from the morning, and promptly threw a weak hyzer straight ob, ensuring the bogie 5. Graham parred the hole, cut the lead to five, and I thought, ‘Well, here we go!’ That said, the poor throw strangely relieved the pressure I had been feeling and hole two and three were tap in birdies. After a brutal 45 minute wait to tee off on hole 5, I was able to score another birdie, putting me -2 for the day, now 11 strokes ahead, all but sealing the win barring a series of very unfortunate events (which happily never happened). I ended the day -1 (964), the event -17, and with my first win in a major provincial event since 2017.

Graham, myself, and David, post-event

Despite my internal mental stresses of the weekend, playing with Graham and David was, as always, a real pleasure. Everyone in our group was jovial and positive, even when running into trouble. The three of us also genuinely want our competition to throw well, and for the event to be determined based on our own personal performance, and not the misfortunes of our competition. Any given Sunday holds for disc golf too–and these comradely battles will continue.

Below are all the winners of the satellite events across Canada. And here’s hoping we’re all back together next fall at a truly national nationals in PEI.

Recipe for Success?

This past weekend (September 12, 2021) I had the pleasure of playing in an event at the new Stillwood Disc Golf Course. The course is largely a tight and technical course through the woods, with a few open holes and some holes that start open and funnel to a wooded upshot. There are a lot of artificial OB and hazard areas that make even relatively open holes more complex (mentally if not strategically). On the downside, there were a few holes with crossing fairways that slowed things down, and a number of holes where tees and baskets were placed too close together, requiring a wait for safety. As far as the event itself went, the folks running it were well organized and much appreciated spotters were present on most holes, keeping the pace of play steady and ensuring there were no lost discs, even on some pretty errant shots.

I also got to play with a great group of pros–Wes McIntosh and Chance Stad (both of whom I’ve played with before and genuinely respect as golfers and like as people) and Juju McLovin (I mean Julien Quenneville). The inside joke there is that many disc golfers have rather unique UDisc screen names due to the way the program rolled out. Spoiler alert: Julien dominated, cruising to an easy 12 stroke victory.

When preparing for an event, there are a few basic guidelines I try to play by. First, make sure you play the course, or at least walk it, beforehand. That way you can have a plan of attack for each hole. I also like to make sure I get to the event early to have a solid warmup of putting and driving. Finally, I find it important to maintain a regular training regimen between events to ensure consistency.

Let’s see how well I implemented my plan leading into this event…

Play the courseX
Have a plan for each holeX
Systematic warm up before playX
Maintain practice skill practice

Any bets as to how the rounds went? The result of the careful lack of preparation was statistically the two worst rounds of disc golf (880 and 913) I’ve played in 15 years. What went most wrong?

First, the course does not play to my strengths–I am a distance player who favours a lot of side to side movement on my throws. Hitting a dead straight throw 250-300 feet is an area I need to work on. As a result, going into this course blind was a huge challenge. In the second round, I was able to drop six strokes off my score largely because I was able to attack holes differently based on the first round results. More experience on the wooded holes would have allowed me to further refine my approach.

Second, the failure to maintain a practice regimen before the event caused real problems with my putt. Over the last month I’ve really let my putting (and driving) practice lag and it played out in a strange new set of problems for me. I’m quite familiar with the yips (that internal feeling that there’s no way you’re going to hit the throw you’re lining up). This event, I would step up to the putt with confidence, and then whiff past or over the basket–just ugly misses. In similar fashion, some traditionally easy hyzer drives ended up coming out errant (rolling my wrist or sawing them off short). My brain and body were not connecting, and I blame that on my failure to practice over the last month (in part I’ve been recovering from a knee injury that kept me from practice).

The final issue for me is putting warm up. When I’m putting well, I putt slowly and systematically, with a slow drawback of my arm, focusing narrowly on a chain link on the basket, then exploding the putt. At events, there are normally a bunch of guys putting on the warmup basket at the same time, meaning the chains are jumping around, precluding that focus on a link, and using a slow putting stroke means I get in one or at most two putts before everyone else is heading to the basket to retrieve their putters. Which means I need to figure out a new warm up routine–either work harder at finding an empty basket, or bring my own (or perhaps something different?).

Did anything go well? About the best thing that happened for me was mid-way through the second round when we were talking about folks having tough rounds (hmmmm, I wonder why that subject came up??). We’ve all been in groups where someone’s having a rough go and it can really bring down the spirit of the entire group if said player is externalizing their poor play. Julien mentioned that he was chatting with someone at lunch about how well I handled my worst round in years (my description at the time)–that you wouldn’t have known I wasn’t having fun out there. To me, that meant a lot. Good sportsmanship is an important aspect of the game, and I am a very competitive guy, so when I’m not competing well, it’s still important to me to A) figure out how to get back on track and B) not wreck the fun for those around me. Julien’s positive reinforcement was a highlight of the day and really did help me continue to keep it fun.

I have a week until my next event at Raptor’s Knoll. I know that course very well and already have a plan of attack for each hole (although a busy week at work means no time for course practice). The course is also one that largely plays to my strengths in that it is relatively open and requires long drives. That said, I’m also committed to returning to daily putting practice, and hope to slip in a few days of driving and upshot practice. And, I have a new plan for putting warm up (more on that latter). So, here’s hoping for a better showing, and a lot more fun, at CanNats.

And, thanks as always to RPM discs for their support!