Andrew’s Travelogue: Time to Train

(Editor’s note: Andrew has been submitting stories for several months and we’ve been spacing them out. Therefore, this story was written before the Korean National tournament). 

By Andrew Belet – Rattling Chains staff

September 28 and 29 are the two biggest disc golf days in South Korea.

Why? Because it’s the 6th Annual Korean National Disc Golf Championships, of course!

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I, for one, can’t wait to compete in my first PDGA-sanctioned tournament on foreign soil. Though it is only a C-Tier, it promises to have all the thrills and excitement of an A-Tier or even a Major, just because of the pride and dedication KPDGA puts into this event.

Despite being rated at a paltry 845, I will be competing in the intermediate division. Other Americans have given me a bit of guff over this, thinking I should be playing even higher, but playing two divisions higher than my rating allows seems enough for this humble disc golfer.

The course for nationals will be a temporary course set up on the grounds of the Korean National Youth Center, right in the heart of Seoul. As is appropriate for most Korean courses (save, of course, The Dragon’s Lair with our awesome 600-foot hole), the course is set up to be short and very technical.

There is also a strangely disproportionate amount of right-finishing holes. Nevertheless, it promises to be a good, yet demanding, time. There will be many Americans competing, but the only other American from my neck of the woods will be Joe, who will be entering his first tournament (he’ll be playing in the recreational division).

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Andrew’s Travelogue: Politics and disc golf — the whole mess (part 2)

By Andrew Belet – Rattling Chains staff

Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part column on Andrew’s experience participating in and organizing tournaments under the Korean Professional Disc Golf Association. Get caught up on part one here.

The man almost solely responsible for the rise of disc golf in South Korea is the great Sung Bae Kim. He has done more to get disc golf recognized in his homeland than anyone I’ve ever known.

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Kim and his dedicated crew have really worked on what I think is something the disc golf community needs to emphasize: youth activities. Whatever disputes players have with the way KPDGA runs tournaments, no one can say anything negative about their handling of expanding the Korean youth’s knowledge-base and skill set when it comes to disc golf.

Kim is also no slouch when it comes to competition. He often participates in the tournaments he holds, and frequently wins in the masters or grandmasters divisions.

Known for his international travel, he has also competed in Japan, Taiwan, Israel and tries to make PDGA Worlds every year. At the 2013 Worlds, he placed 15th overall in senior grandmasters, shooting a 56 in his final round.

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Andrew’s Travelogue: Politics and disc golf — the whole mess (part 1)

It’s been quite a busy time here lately.

I’ve touched on it before, but I reason that I should go into a bit more detail with this next bit — one of the hardest parts of serving in the military is being gone all the time. I don’t mean just being deployed and away from your home and family, I mean being gone even while you’re deployed.

For instance, my unit just got back from more than a month in the field. Granted, “the field” in Korea is a bit more luxurious than “the field” in the states (i.e. hot showers, chow hall, even laundromats), but the fact remains you are out in the boondocks for more than a month. You are practically devoid of communication with the outside world, and do nothing but training, training, training. It’s a gigantic inconvenience, but one we have become accustomed to accepting.

Some of us, of course, work harder than others (photo by Andrew Belet)

Some of us, of course, work harder than others (photo by Andrew Belet)

The KDPGA (Korean PDGA) hosted its biggest event — the Korean National Disc Golf Championships — in late September.  To say I was excited would be an understatement.

(Editor’s note: Andrew submitted many stories to be run over time. This one was written before the championships took place). 

While my rating is still well below 900, I figure it’s about time to give it a run at Intermediate. Hopefully, I can win it all and become an intermediate national champion! There’s one for the resume!

I had heard, in year’s past, Korean nationals filled up quick. Not wanting to miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I e-mailed the secretary of the KPDGA, who speaks excellent English. I even let him know I’d be out in the field when the registration opened and he assured me he would e-mail me the signup form and hold a spot for me. So, everything was gravy. Or so I thought.

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Andrew’s Travelogue: International Diplomacy

By Andrew Belet – Rattling Chains staff

At the risk of sounding crude and violent, I must begin today’s submission with my explanation of how I’ve treated international situations up until now.

When I was 15, I was fortunate enough to go to Germany as an exchange student, which I loved. I joined the military right out of high school, and since then, my diplomatic skills have started at the barrel of my rifle and ended with the impact of the projectile. It’s not a fun job, believe me.

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This is why coming to South Korea for a year is so great; there is a phrase here that refers to Korean/American relations: “katchi kapshida,” which means “we go together!”

Truly, South Korea would be much worse off if not for us. As well, America would be much worse off without our friends in the now-prosperous country of South Korea.

For armed forces members here on the peninsula, we are constantly encouraged to go out in town and volunteer in the community. We do so, and gladly. In fact, this winter, I will be coaching the Korean Special Olympics, which is a passion of mine I’ve had since I first coached weightlifting in high school for the Montana Special Olympics.

Most Koreans regard our presence here with great respect and a spirit of friendship. Older Koreans, who can remember the Korean War, show their gratitude to every American they see, armed forces or not.

So I was quite excited when my Korean friend, HyunDo Jang, contacted me via Facebook and asked if he and his girlfriend, Shinah Kim, could come up and play the Dragon’s Lair.

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