Flight Crew Reflections on the Summer That Just Wouldn't End
It is moving on towards mid-October and I sit on the front porch of the Shack listening to a light drizzle ping down upon the tin roof and watching fat drops drip from the chains of my practice basket and reflecting upon the glory of one of the finest summers in Oregon history that I (a lifelong resident) can remember. Most especially, I cast my memories back upon a little month I like to call "Disctember." Three great Oregon disc golf events and a fairly fine summation of my performance and growth this season as a player (it could easily have been four events, but, I know this will come as a shock, I actually do other things besides disc golf and Labor Day is my BFF's Mom's long running Cribbage Tournament... in which my strategy is to get knocked out of the competition early in order to avoid the semifinals and finals that traditionally run long past dark, and devote the rest of the day to playing the bean-bag game... yeah, yeah... I know it's really called "Cornhole," but I don't like saying that... this year my Auntie Mo and I went undefeated and were the undisputed bean bag champions).
Disctember started for this Next Adventure Flight Crew member with the long running Eugene Disc Golf Celebration (this was it's 25th Anniversary) played on the fantastically awesome Dexter Disc Golf course and run by the Professional Disc Golf Association Board President, Rebecca Duffy with great support from the Eugene Disc Golf Club.
The Celebration was followed up by Oregon's Coup de Disc Golf Grace, the Oregon Disc Golf Championships, which takes place at Trojan Park around the former cooling ponds of the long since dismantled Trojan Nuclear Power Plant. Jeff Hagery runs this amazing event with an epically monstrous and challenging lay-out that is often referred to as "Trojan on steroids" and has been known to make even the strongest of disc golfers break down and cry (no, I will not name names, but I will say it wasn't me).
I got to finish up the glory of Disctember with the Willamette Open, run by Nate Sexton (2011 and 2012 ORDGC champion) and played at two of my favorite courses, Adair and Willamette Parks.
As always, the field in the Women's Open Divisions was small for these events (only one card of 4 at each event and in fact, there was only three of us at ORDGC), but the competition was outstanding and the challenges were great. Disctember made it clear to me that we are raising the bar for women's disc golf in Oregon. Our skills are increasing and we are setting our sights higher, reaching towards goals that will put us closer to that elite level of the touring pros. And I think that that is very cool.
The Eugene Celebration
Disctember 8th & 9th, 2012
Through some sort of kismet, I ended up traveling to Eugene with this incredible gal, Julie Choate, and rooming together at the Crossland Inn Economy Suites. Julie is from the East Coast, is about six feet tall, has a fantastically dry and rich sense of humour, has to be one of the quietest sleepers in the whole world (not like me! I sleep like a baby... I fuss and toss and turn and make a variety of funny noises and wake up several times during the night), knows enough to leave a person alone in the morning with their coffee and exactly when is the right time to bump a little Tupac in the parking lot (that would be Sunday morning, by the way).
My first two years competing in the Celebration I took home 2nd Place. Last year was especially bitter. I played two of my hottest rounds ever on Saturday and was looking at a five stroke lead going into Sunday, which, after a poor start, I hung my head in shame and gave away to Suzie Q (I thought within the first 9 holes... unbeknownst to me, as I was much too busy hosting my own little pity party to pay attention to such piddly details as the scores, it was not actually until the 2nd to last hole that she took the lead). Needless to say, I was on a bit of a mission this year (plus, Julie said, "Only winners ride home in the CRV," so... ). Our card consisted of myself, Suzie Q Wagner (defending champ and looking for the threepeat), Zoe Andyke of the beautiful hyzer bombs, and Miranda Erickson, recovering from serious back injuries after a car wreck and a total bonus... she made the decision to play Saturday Morning about 15 minutes before we teed off.
It became clear that this was going to be a battle between Zoe and I after our first two rounds. Zoe crushed the course with her big arm and I managed to park enough up-shots and his just enough putts to be right there with her. After our one and only Saturday round Zoe was up by two strokes.
Sunday started with my Ninja knee socks, red Chick Flick power shirt, samurai style bandana around my head and a Tupac party back of Julie's CRV in the parking lot... and also my very favorite thing that was said to me all weekend long (credit to Suzie Q): "Just so you know, you in a bandana doesn't initimidate me!" Well, maybe it should, people, as I went on to shoot my only satisfactory round of the weekend that morning to flip-flop and gain a two stroke lead over Zoe.
And as an extra high light, we all got to witness Miranda Erickson catch fire and shoot, not only the hot round the card, but the best golf I have ever seen her play.
And now, on the Next Great Disc Golf Adventure...
Oregon Disc Golf Championships
Disctember 15th & 16th, 2012
(aka "And the Sunshine Continues...")
Flight Crew represent! Dan Carpenter, Emma Hanley, Ryan Gwillim & Cindy Mcmahan (oh, my goodness! Watch out for Michael Medlock!).
Ever since I started competing in PDGA sanctioned events, the ORDGC has pretty much been the end-all and the be-all in my eyes as far as Oregon tournaments go (yeah, yeah... I have heard of the Beaver State Fling... sure, sure... all the big boys and girls come out to play at Milo, it's a National Tour event... yaddah, yaddah, yaddah... ). It's the state championships! You have to qualify! You have to a qualifying fee!!! And mostly, I suppose, because it was the first disc golfing goal that I ever set for myself... to qualify for the ORDGC... and, probably, because I am an Oregonian through and through and nothing pleases me more than to be the nondairy cream of the Oregon disc golf crop.
Flight Crew member (and 2012 Advanced Men's Champion), Ryan Gwillim, also did a blog on the ORDGC (in a much more timely fashion, I suppose I must add), please do take a peek at it, as I am mostly going to discuss the glory of women's disc golf in Oregon and the stunning beauty of watching Zoe Andyke play her game.
So here's the story on Trojan: ORDGC layout. It's very long, featuring multiple combined holes and plenty of extended holes and there is a lot of very nucular water involved (you're darn right, I said "nucular"). I do believe, out of 18 holes, there are 5 holes in which water does not directly come into play, but, oh! fret not, every hole has it's fair share of strategically (read: diabolically) marked OB (out of bounds) to contend with.
This was my third year competing at the ORDGC, and while I may have only won it just the one time, I am the only pro woman to have played it all three years (Flight Crew member and two-time Advanced Women's Champ, Cindy "The McMayhem" McMahan claims that honor in her division, I might add). I am also one of the only people that has yet to be made to cry by this championship level behemoth (THERE'S NO CRYING IN DISC GOLF!!!). Well, folks, I tell you what. I am pretty sure that Miss Zoe Andyke is gonna be back. She took her licks that Trojan dished out, her drives gone awry that found the water or somehow skittered out of bounds, lifted her shoulders, stuck her chin out, smiled her most amazing smile and just kept on throwing beautiful.
Now I am going to tell you a secret. Losing really pisses me off. I wish I could be a better sport on the inside about it, but that's just straight up the fact of the matter. But something wonderful happened that weekend of Disctember 15th & 16th, 2012. I was so happy that Zoe won. It felt, it still feels, really weird, but there it is. She deserved it. She earned it. She fought that course for it by excecuting every part of the game. Yes, her drives were monstrous thing of extraordinary pretty-prettiness, but then, her upshots were handled with a touch and finesse that even I (a self-proclaimed Queen of the Upshot) found myself lusting for, and her putting? Oh, it was just fine. Fine like a Calvin Klein underpants model from the mid-nineties!
Now, like I said, I have played the ORDGC all three of it's three years of existence and I must take the time to tell you that it was not just Zoe that was busing moves on this course that a woman has never busted before. It was each and every one of the three of us, myself, Zoe, and recent returner to Oregon, the most delightful and precious Sally West. A perfect illustration of this was hole 7 of Sunday's round. Bordered on the left by the park road (OB) and the right by a long, tall shule next to a dark and foreboding cooling pond, Zoe pumped out her signature huge hyzer bomb (p.s. she makes look effortless and easy... easy like Sunday morning... ). I followed in her footsteps with, quite possibly, the longest throw of my life. Creeping and crawling and skipping and skittering, taking every advantage of the short, dry, quick grass on the fairway to come to rest within just a few feet of Zoe's boomer. "Oh, my goodness!" I shouted (okay, I probably didn't say, "Oh, my goodness," but i'm trying to keep this clean for the kids), "Look how darn close I am to Zoe!" High fiving and bottom slapping ensued. Sally then sqared herself to the teepad and proceeded to simply crush the heck out of both of our drives. The turned to face us with jaw dropped open and then nonchalontly stated, "Hmmm. Looks like I just ca-rushed on Andyke." This was the story of the weekend. Playing the most amazing golf with two of the truly most wonderful people I know. Doing things I didn't know I could do. Capitalizing on the inspiration factor. Riding the waves of Zoe's glory train and getting to be a part of her finest tournament performance up to that point.
One other thing of note was the vibe and energy we created. We laughed a lot (because we happen to be very funny people), but we also played good, quick golf in which we focused on the golf and our shots and the play. And we were professional. All the water and all the OB necessitates a poop-ton of rules and discussion of the rules and sometimes, like when a person, for instance, throws their disc in the water three stupid times on one stupid hole and takes an 11ppp (that means "triple penalty," in case you were wondering), you might need some help keeping track of all those strokes and adding them up with certainty at the end of it all, and we were grateful to eachother for our extensive knowledge of the rules and the desire to play straight up PDGA disc golf with no questions or fudging or gray areas. It was as it should be.
And now is the time to make mention of a very good man who owns a kayak. His name is Stephen McMahan and I love him. And every time I threw my disc in the water on stupid hole 16 (it was three times, in case anyone forgot) Stephen got it back for me. Out of the eight times I put plastic in the drink, only one of them did Stephen not rescue. And maybe I got special treatment because he's married to another Flight Crew member, but I don't think so. He just rocks that much. Thank you, Stephen and you're welcome for mostly throwing 135g Blizzard Wraiths that float.
So, Zoe won. I got second. I played down each round only because of one or two holes wherein I just entirely blew up, as opposed to the Celebration where I played down for pretty much two entire rounds in all areas, drives were off, putts weren't confident and I couldn't park an uphot to save my life. Zoe, you can be sure, did not card any 11ppps or 9pps and that is what earns a person the title of Oregon State Champion.
Advanced Women's 1st & 2nd Place (Jackolyn Halstead & Erin Reichel) and Open Women's 2nd & 1st Place (Emma Hanley & Zoe Andyke)
P.S. Zoe went on the next weekend to play the US Women's Disc Golf Championships in Huntsville, AL with the big girls. No, she did not win, but that's not the point. She continued her incredible play and hung, every round, just a few strokes shy of those big girls. Just a few strokes shy of that elite level. Just shy of a touring pro. Yes, my friends, Oregon women's disc golf is on it's way up. And I think that that is very cool.
For the third and final leg of Disctember, we head to Corvallis for:
The Willamette Open
Disctember 22nd & 23rd, 2012
(aka "Still Sunny After All These Weeks")
About a week before the Willamette Open, I took a peek at the registration page, looking for some familiar names and hoping that maybe on the off-chance the Women's Pro card might fill up. Up to this point, it had been myself and Nate Sexton's step-mom, Toni Hoyman, only. Toni's got game and is one of the loveliest people you will run across, but she doesn't play as much as she used to and has told me that me and all these other young up and comers intimidate her a little (and she'd never even seen my ninja knee socks and samurai bandana!). What to my wondering eyes should appear on the reg. list but two rather exciting names: Melody King and Haley Conrad! Melo's a touring pro, sort of taking the summer off this year and trying to play more Oregon events, and Haley was the 2010 runner up for Rookie of the Year but moved away to Tennessee before I ever had the chance to play with her (pretty cute, really, since I was the runner up last year for Rookie of the Year... yes, yes I am bragging on myself).
I drove down early Saturday morning (it's about 2 hours from the Shack, which is in the foothills of the Coast Range, so I left at about 5:00 am) on back roads and then HWY 99 and it was just perfect and totally gorgeous. I love me some rural highway drivin', that is for sure. And after my first cup of coffee, and on the way to a tournament, early morning driving is when my brain works best. I spent the morning planning my potty breaks mostly, but also reflecting on the summer season, what my goals had been and the progress I had made. My singular goal had been to see my player rating break 900 (this is a magic number that the PDGA guidelines give for the low end rating for an average woman pro golfer). Well, after the first half of the season being recorded and the last rating's update (each tournament round you play is rated out of 1000... other than that it's essentially magic, I do believe, as far as the rest of the calculations go) I am sitting at my highest rating ever... 897... three points shy of that elusive 900 mark. I know I am a better putter than I used to be, I know I have more tournament experience, I know I throw my drives further, I know I have better control of my head game thanks to the hardwork of my coach (dad) and the concentrated effort we put into developing a system for a preshot routine that I can work on every shot to enable me to maintain my focus, I've played some great events and shot some great rounds this year... but... I mostly feel as though I have played down. I take two hours to tell myself I absolutely will not be playing down again. I get to play Melo! I will play UP to her! I will hang and shoot 3 900+ rated rounds! Yes, I will! I will hit all my putts and put all my drives in the fairway and park every upshot as I know is well within my abilities to do and who cares if I win or not so long as I just play my best golf!
Ah, the best laid plans.
I did have an incredible time in Corvallis. Saturday we played two rounds at Adair, which has had some really great work done on it over the course of the last year (thank you, Nate Sexton) that has improved two holes signifigantly and made one hole... well, much more interesting and super stupid crazy hard so that when I got the par on the second round I felt like the Queen of the World! I enjoyed the company of my fellow golfers during lunch and especially over the weekend enjoyed getting to know Melo and Haley (and I do wish Haley hadn't moved to Tennessee because she's delightful and seems like the quintessential Oregonian, just with a southern accent) and maybe the high light of Saturday, was when this totally adorable disc golf boy (who shall remain nameless to avoid embarrassing him too much) introduced me to his buddy as his "disc golf girlfriend." Which, truly, is about all the girlfriend I can handle being... plus,
did I mention how cute this guy is???
I stayed with some buddies who live in a lovely little place on the outskirts of Corvallis (beautiful drives to and from both parks that allowed me to totally avoid Corvallis) and who hosted me in grandiose fashion with a fridge stocked with my favorite beer and an amazing home cooked meal, a comfy guest room and a really cute little black dog named "Licorice" (okay, I'll be honest... they're actually my parents' friends... that's right I spent my Saturday night hangin' out with my parents' friends!).
Sunday dawned as glorious as Saturday, and boy, was it nice to have just a 10 minute drive to Willamette Park. And I really do love Willamette, even though it favors the lefty or forehand or anhyzer... none of which are very strong suits of mine. Especially the lefty part. I made sure, though, to get some focused practice in before the round started to get myself feeling as confident as I could with my anhyzer. It was Melody King, after all, 3 years ago, the first time I ever played against her who told me, in response to my remark that I didn't have a big anhyzer, "Well, you gonna have to work on that, girl." And I really have. And I credit my biggish anhyzer drive and inspiration to Melo, for sure, so it was very satisfying to get to show off in front of her. Oh, yeah... and it was really satisfying to play well and shoot the hot round on the card!
Melo still beat me, by a pretty good margin, but at least I got a good round in at one of my favorite parks. And at least the awards ceremony was at the Calapooia Brewery so I could drown my sorrows (actually, I had so much fun that weekend, I really wasn't too sorrowful) in Chile Beer (damn right, I said "Chile Beer") and tots.
I now have the winter to sit and reflect upon why, when I know I am a better golfer than I used to be, am I playing lower rated rounds? Because even though I'm sitting at 897 right now... Disctember's tournaments have yet to be counted in an update... and, well... I've done the math and it doesn't look good for that 900, folks. However, I am a person! Not a rating! And I did accomplish something very important, which was to figure out exactly what it means to me to be a professional disc golfer and exactly how that looks on the course. I am not Sarah Hokom and I am not Valarie Jenkins, but I am a professional in my own right (and my mantra is jovial momentum! And I have my own personal disc golf bubble and I can't let anyone else in. And I have a system! And if I stick to my systems... well, I just need to stick to my damn systems). And I also know that all I need to do in order to play the kind of rounds I want is to go in with that certain confidence and just play nice and easy. All I have to do is to figure out exactly how to access that... without having to wear my ninja knee socks every time.
Mediocre finish to the season not withstanding, this disc golfing adventure has truly been the Greatest Adventure of my little life, and I love every moment and what it teaches me about myself and what I am capable of. And it has introduced to me to a community of people that I am humbled to be a part of.