FORE! WOU disc golf tournament takes over Dallas City Park

DALLAS -- The most beautiful sound in Dallas City Park on Saturday was the rattling of chains.

DALLAS -- The most beautiful sound in Dallas City Park on Saturday was the rattling of chains.

That is at least for the 60 golfers competing in the second Western Oregon University Disc Golf Club Tournament that took over the park for most of the morning and afternoon of March 12.

In disc golf, the target isn't a hole in the ground as in traditional golf, but a basket-like structure with chains meant to "catch" a Frisbee-like disc thrown into it. Rattle the chains on the basket and -- with a few exceptions -- a golfer has found the target.

Much like golf played with clubs, disc golf is played on a course with a hole, a tee, and a number of obstacles in between. In tournaments, again like golf, the winner is the golfer who can complete the course in the least amount of strokes, or tosses of discs specially made for the sport.

That is where the similarities with traditional golf end.

There are no caddies or perfectly manicured courses and many of the holes are planted in areas that would be considered "in the rough" by enthusiasts of the other golf.

It's also an all-weather sport -- and that is a good thing, as golfers in Dallas City Park saw everything but nice weather Saturday. Intermittent rain turned the course soupy with super-slick mud and shoe-swallowing bogs of water, mud and grass.

"Disc golfers are pretty obsessed to play in these conditions," said Shaun Kirk, a golfer from McMinnville who played in the tournament's professional division.

Kirk was introduced to the sport several years ago by a friend and has "basically been obsessed ever since." He just turned pro last year.

Kirk played the second round in a group with three other pros: Dion Arlyn, Jesse Hickerson and Brandon Hill.

They were competing in the same division, but from their interactions, you would never know it. The group, and everyone else on the course, were encouraging and applauding each other for good shots.

"People are having a great time," said Chase Estep, the tournament director and president of Western's disc golf club. The club, along with sponsor pHd Productions, organized the tournament as a fundraiser for the club's trip to the college-level national tournament.

Arlyn said the relaxed environment on the course Saturday, at least for the pros, may have been because the tournament isn't part of the competitive national tour. He said Saturday was an opportunity for disc golfers of all levels to share a fun day on the course, without the fierce competition of sanctioned tournaments. Out of 60 golfers, only nine were pro.

Arlyn has played professionally since 2006 under the sponsorship of Discraft. He will spend most of his weekends on the road, touring nationally.

"I'm trying to do this for a living," he said.

Less-than-cut-throat competition didn't mean the golfers at the tournament didn't take their technique and game seriously. Hickerson brought 21 discs for the tournament, wanting to be prepared.

"I didn't know what I was going to be up against today," he said.

He and many of the other golfers lugged their discs around in a backpack-like case, choosing the one that best suited the conditions on the course, the obstacles in the way and the distance they had to cover.

Golfers have to maneuver the discs by throwing around trees -- and even buildings -- or use them to their advantage to redirect their disc's flight path. Like golf clubs, discs come in "drivers" and "putters."

Arlyn said the sport has been growing fast in popularity in Oregon. Dozens of courses dot the state, allowing for the development of hundreds of highly competitive golfers.

"Oregon has some of the best courses in the U.S.," Estep said. "Disc golf as a sport is really growing."

Estep, who took second in the men's advanced division, said Saturday's tournament pulled in players from Corvallis, McMinnville and as far away as Portland.

In an unexpected finish, Arlyn brought the tournament win home to Corvallis.

He was in fifth place after the first round, but put the pressure on the leaders by stringing together several birdies in a row. With four holes remaining, he found out he had a shot at winning tournament.

He made a run for it.

The third-to-the-last hole was a 650-footer, the longest one on the course. Arlyn, who holds the record for throwing distance, made the most of his talent to keep himself in the hunt.

He gave himself about a 20-foot running start and spun around twice -- discus throw-style -- before chucking his driver about three-fourths the way to the hole. Two tosses later, Arlyn had scored another birdie.

Minutes later, the excitement was taken out of the dramatic conclusion when Arlyn learned he didn't even have to shoot par on the last hole to win.

"This is the best round of golf I've played all year," Arlyn said. "This is a good day."


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