Friday, September 26, 2014

Just One Crazy Year

It's pretty easy to watch time slip by and not take stock of what has actually happened in the last year. It's been incredible, frustrating, elating, torturous, joyful, painful, hilarious and no end of work.

I wanted to get down some of the things that stand out as the blog clocks in it's first year of existence (which overlaps nicely with my disc golf life's first year of existence).

I blame Mark Ellis for some stupidly cold mornings.
A year ago, I didn't even know what I didn't know. I was blissfully unaware of form, wind, hyzers or even how to putt. I didn't understand what the difference was between an understable and an overstable disc. I carried around my discs for a solid week before losing them in rivers and tall weeds.

But I was hooked. I loved the sport from the first minute. It was so tantalizing to see guys like my brother throwing 400', when I was barely squeeking out 200'. I wanted to join the club - I wanted to bend physics to my will.

My brother at Deer Mountain almost a year ago.
Youtube taught me how to start practicing: Mark Ellis told me to putt everyday, which I did through wind, snow and frozen hands. I spent the better part of that year starting my day, rain or shine at Paco Sanchez. Lunch was spent learning how to throw as far as my poor self-styled form would allow. Rounds after work or more fieldwork.

I became friends with my now good friend Kyle. I am still not sure why he hit me up over facebook to meet for a round, but I'm glad he did. I spent more time in the first 3 months of playing disc golf with my brother than I had for the entire year before. We shared many insane conversations about form and disc physics late into the night.
Kyle and my blurry bro.
I became friends with my now good friend Ryan. Once I got past his seemingly prickly demeanor, which probably comes mostly from being 6'3" and looking like a caveman, we became close friends and my kids enjoy trying to climb all over him. He taught me what real form can do for your game and completely annoys me by hitting at least one 60' putt per round. I tied him once and beat him once... but like they say, even a broke clock is right twice a day.

Ryan = my caveman buddy.  photo by Pete Kenny
I've made many friends, in fact. I just got off the phone with a guy who lives in Florida, that I've corresponded with for the last month. He just broke 400' with his backhand and I have no doubt he will be hitting 450' shortly.

The memories start to bleed into one long hike, strewn with drives and upshots. Lonely fields and discs that disappeared somehow.

Friendly faces, hand shakes, break through's and high five's.

Test driving a Renegade on lunch break.

OB strokes, hurried drives back to the course to find a forgotten putter as the sun's last vestiges dim into dusk.

Standing knee deep in a river, feet frozen, hands numb, desperately feeling for a favorite driver.

Hanging a blanket in my basement to throw into.

Stepping on snakes and screaming like a little boy.

Watching Central Coast Disc Golf's entire archive. Having no idea how somebody gets so good and feeling honest to goodness deflation when I realized what the best players in the world are capable of doing. It was another universe.

Cracking the door to that universe, just a little bit, enough to break 400' with my driver and on one crazy throw hitting 450' on flat ground. Hitting a clutch 40' putt in a tournament... learning that at least now... I know what I don't know.

You people - my friends - the people who email me - who comment on the blog - who I talk to on reddit and dgcr - who I talk to at tags matches and casual rounds - I thank you all for a year that was incredible.

The stoke I have for you guys and gals, who are as driven to clamber into that maybe not-so-distant-universe... that stoke is real and I appreciate it and I look forward to the next year.

Happy disc'n amigos.

Monday, September 22, 2014

By the Skin of our Teeth

Yours truly putting at Ghost Town. 
When my brother signed us up for a doubles tournament, I had no idea who Johnny Roberts was, other than a course was named after him in Arvada, Colorado. I didn't even know that he was a disc golfer, I just assumed the park was named after some a city official or something.

Turns out, he was one of the early disc golf players (PDGA #115) who brought a spirit of "the winner is the player having the most fun" to the game. We honored his memory over the weekend, by laughing, having a great time and of course howling at the sky before each round.

Any regular reader of HeavyDisc knows that I obsessively spent the better part of the summer trying to rebuild my form and going into the last couple weeks before the tournament I was still pretty nervous about where I stood in terms of putting the disc where I wanted. The last thing I wanted to do was to be the anchor that was dragging my brother down, and even 2-3 weeks ago I was having a hard time adjusting to a release point that was so much more out front of my shoulder.

My field work leading up to the tournament went down a path towards less is more. Less movement, less muscle, more leverage, more accuracy. I had some glimpses of consistency and when I had the stars align, I was getting very accurate.

We were signed up for the Advanced category which played at Bird's Nest, Ghost Town and the following day at Badlands. 

Bird's Nest I've played about 6-8 times. It's a fairly straight forward course that is wide open enough to take advantage of the fact that both my brother and I can typically get close to the basket inside of 400'.  Plus you can see the baskets from the teeboxes, which helps when you're not playing on a locked-down course. We got there a good bit early and played catch for about 20-30 minutes, starting at 30' and eventually stretching out to 200'. That warmed us up and then we played about 4 holes getting a into a good head space before putting for the remaining 20-30 minutes before the players meeting. 

We played a pretty solid round of alternate shot, making some clutch putts to save par and we put a few birdies on the card to offset a couple 4's that came from some longer holes that were setup for the day. 

A couple highlights: my brother hitting a 60' putt when I over-drove a blind shot at the basket for a birdie. Huge putt! I drove our last hole of the day for a bird, throwing a hyzer flip uphill and getting us close enough for an easy bird. Our round put us into a tie for 2nd place going into the 2nd round and only 2 strokes off the leaders.

Second round was promising to be tough as it played at a relatively short (and stunning) 18 hole course called Ghost Town, that is strewn with OB on every hole. I'd never played the course before and my brother had played it once. We were in for a battle and quite often we didn't know where the basket was located until somebody pointed it out.

My buddy Ryan parking his drive at Deer Mnt. (mixed dubs) photo by Pete Kenny 
We held on to a respectable score managing to limit our OB shots and making some pretty big putts to save par. And honestly there was some blind luck - I threw one shot thinking I knew where the basket was and watched in dismay as my TeeBird faded more than I wanted - and then I realized it landed right by the basket. We were tired by the end though, and our game started to reflect it... making some poor choices that cost us a few easy strokes, but over all we finished feeling pretty good and we sat tied for 2nd place with one of the groups on our card - while the guys who were leading pulled ahead by a few more strokes.

Was starting to look like it was a battle for 2nd place, but at Badlands anything can happen - so we went into day 2 with the idea that we'd just shoot to play a bogie free round and take whatever birdies we could scrape together.

Well, we stayed bogie free for a long time, but couldn't seem to putt strong enough to put many birds on the card. Eventually my brother parked a 413' downhill shot and then we started getting into the more birdable holes and carded some more 2's.

Best shot of the tournament though: our last hole of the tournament. My brother is standing in a big pile of weeds looking at a 100' upshot with a big leafy tree protecting the basket from an air shot. My anhyzer forehand attempt had snagged the tree and left us with an obstructed 40' putt... and I notice he's holding a Monster.

"What are you doing with that?! You can't annie a Monster!" I'm convinced he's lost his mind and I wasn't going to bite my tongue.

"Forehand roller. I got this."

"Okay." I mutter, the dude's clearly insane.

Mike lays down a roller that is utter perfection, angles over breaking left under the trees - rolling to 10' from the basket. We saved 4 on what had to be the gnarliest 800-900' hole I've ever seen.

And with that, we managed to squeeze into second place by one stroke.

We made some great friends on all our cards and had a wonderful tournament. I can't thank the tournament staff and John Bird enough for getting the tournament and courses put together in such a great way.

Final Results