By Kevin Morrow — For Rattling Chains
Standing on the first tee, I turn to face my group.
“Hi, my name is Kevin Morrow and I’m an 825-rated player.”
I then get that true support-group reaction, in unison.
Sometimes, I feel like my playing in disc golf tournaments equates to being an addict. It’s a lot of self-abuse and nothing good comes from it.
Let me back up a little bit.
I began playing disc golf in 1986. By the early 1990s, I was playing tournaments and finishing in the middle of the pack in Am2. I stopped playing tournaments in 1996 and by 2002, I had stopped playing entirely.
In all of those tournaments, I never cashed or won prizes. A few years ago, I picked up my discs again. Last year, I began playing in tournaments again. A big part of that decision was because of the local club — the Spotsy Disc Golf Club. I joined this year and it’s a great group of golfers. Being around them got my competitive blood flowing again.
Being at the back end of the masters division and being an 825-rated player has unique situations. As a player who isn’t new, do I enter the rec division or intermediate? Or do I man up and play advanced masters?
I had no grand illusions. I know how I play and no matter what group of club members I play with, I always end up with the worst score. I’m pretty sure there are 50 bag tags in our club. I have No. 49 and the only reason I don’t have No. 50 is because they didn’t hand it out.
This past year, I entered five tournaments — one in the rec division, two in intermediate and two in advanced masters.
My goal heading into any tournament is the same — don’t come in last.
Sometimes, it hasn’t been easy to meet that goal. I knew I was going to struggle playing in advanced masters, and I did. I finished last in the division by six strokes, having the second-to-worst score of the day. Take note — the worst score was a DNF.
My next adventure put me in the rec division. I did feel a little guilty and ashamed for dropping down, but I figured it’s where I belonged.
After finishing seventh out of nine players, I wondered if I needed to petition the PDGA for a lower division.
In my next tournament, I jumped up to the intermediate division. After the first round, I was in 12th place out of 36. I felt pretty good about it. I was able to hold onto that spot and finish in the prizes (payout was to 13th) for the first time!
My prize haul? Three Discraft Crystal Z Buzzzes, one of which I eventually dyed into a trophy disc that sits on my desk at work. The best feeling about this finish was being able to join my club members who had all either won or finished second in their divisions.
That feeling didn’t last long. To the next tournament, which I also played intermediate.
Not only did I finish last, but for the final two rounds, I was paired with the intermediate women. That actually wasn’t a bad thing. They were a lot of fun and a lot better looking than those who I usually play with. If I had played in rec, I would have finished in the middle of the pack.
For my last tournament, I went back to advanced masters. The good news was I placed fourth. The bad news was there were only four players in the division. I’ll still take that fourth-place finish.
It never failed, though. At each tournament, I asked myself — at least once — “why am I doing this?” Sometimes I even questioned why I played this game at all.
Then I remembered — I’m a disc golfer. This is all part of the game. I gripe, just like others from winners to anyone else who finishes in front of me. There’s a comfort for me knowing, even before a tournament starts, where I’ll likely be finishing.
Some call it a defeatist attitude. I counter that by saying there’s no pressure. It’s all about having fun. I might even put together a couple of good rounds and cash. After all, it’s happened before.
One of the better players I know made a comment about me during a round at a really tough course. He may have just figured out why I still play the game. We were halfway through the round and I threw one of many bad shots. I grumbled about it, walked up to my disc and threw my next shot.
He said he had never seen a player complain about his shot and then 30 seconds later be joking about it and having fun.
That stopped me in my tracks.
I realize I do complain a lot during a round. I try not to, but once the gripe is done, it’s out of my system and on with the next shot. And, back to fun mode. After all, the game is supposed to be fun. That’s why I play as much as I do. That’s why I’ll play more tournaments in the future.
Some of my friends are good enough to win local events and one is good enough to finish runner-up in his division at worlds. I’ll settle for vicariously enjoying those victories on the sidelines.
This year, I get to play advanced grandmasters. I’ll set my goal a little higher — to finish in the middle of the pack. That shouldn’t be too hard if there are only two or three entered.
I finished the season with a rating of 841. This off-season, I began some physical training to get into better shape and lose a few pounds. I’ve played at least on round and spent a few hours each week in the back yard. So far, the effort has paid off. I’m throwing 25 to 50 feet farther than last year.
Ahh, the promise of a new season.
The new season started off with a victory. It was a New Year’s Day doubles tournament and I played with a great kid, Austin Pfaff. He’s an amazing young player from our club and we always seem to play great in a team together.
It actually came down to the last hole. After battling from a few strokes down, we were tied. My drive landed about 20 feet shy of the basket, the closest in the group. Our opponents were about 25 feet out. I hit my putt and the others missed the birdie attempt, giving us the win.
The best thing I took out of that day? Even though my partner is many times better than me, I was able to contribute to our victory. I didn’t just try to not suck, I was actually able to throw the drive we used for a birdie or make a tough putt every now and then.
In our local winter Chili and Charity tournament, I threw my lowest tournament opening round and was one shot off the lead. And, even though I three-putted just about every basket in the second round, I was still able to stay in the prizes.
And that proves, to me, things are looking up and getting better.
Kevin Morrow is a disc golfer based in Virginia. You can see more from Kevin at his blog.