This was my first event in MA1. Despite my rating only being 914, I decided it was time for me to try an Advanced Division Event and what could be better than the best tournament I’ve ever played. The annual St. Patrick’s Classic is very well run with tee times and spotters. Information and scores are well communicated. There is always lunch on Saturday and Sunday. The lunch is always good – burritos and BBQ tri-tip this year. Pay-outs for amateurs are store credit so you can restock plastic you will actually use. I played in some really good groups. I met some good people. I learned a lot about myself and our sport of disc golf. I have been composing this blog in my head all weekend and it is time to share what I learned:
1. Drug use cannot be curtailed by our current methods. It never fails at a tournament, no matter how many posts there are online that say an event will be drug and alcohol free, they are not. No matter how adamant they are at the players meeting, there is always that question at the beginning of a round, “Does anyone mind if I smoke pot/have a beer?” My standard response is, “Until they start stroking me for what you do, I won’t tell, but sooner or later, this is going to have to change.” The officials at the St. Pat’s are serious about this but it still happens.
I had one guy in a group this weekend say that no one wants to be the guy to ruin it for everyone else. I question his definition of everyone. I do agree that the pressure on the average golfer to maintain the status quo is enormous. I’m also not sure any one golfer could change the atmosphere of disc golf without getting everyone disqualified. I think there are two ways to address this problem in our events – proactive and reactive.
The reactive course is to stroke or DQ everyone who is aware of violations of the policy within their group. This course, if followed, would result in 3/4 of all competitors being disqualified. This puts all of the responsibility on the players. Maybe this is the way a gentleman’s game should be handled.
The proactive course is to protect players from themselves. Station representatives throughout the course, hopefully on each hole. Communicate through every single outlet that any violation will result in DQ. Communicate this online, on the flyer, at the players meeting. Require a signed form for the player to acknowledge the policy that their entry and pay-out will be forfeit.
We could kill two birds with one stone and recruit neighbors to participate in this effort. They could see the genuine value and enjoyment of the game and protect the neighborhoods they live in. This is the course I suggest. The goal is to get more people playing, not to alienate players. Give the players fair warning and follow through.
2. Sandbaggers are a huge problem in Northern California. This one I just don’t understand. Why enter an event if you aren’t going to compete? In Arizona, everyone tried hard to get to MA1 and usually did before their rating required them to do so. In high school sports, everyone wants to be varsity. People don’t stay in the minor leagues in baseball unless they have to.
This is such an issue that the PDGA created a classification of withdrawal when it is because of ratings manipulation. It is an even bigger problem in NorCal golf than it is nationally. I spoke to a young man who intentionally waits to register with the PDGA until the last moment. This way he does not have a rating and can play anywhere he wants in this A-tier tournament. He said he does this because “(He) likes to win.” So it is exactly like a high school-er heading to the middle school so he can trounce the kids on the basketball court; good job big man.
I’m all for playing one’s rating but there are so many ways around the rating system it is close to pointless. Only A-Tiers require PDGA membership so in all other events a player can play in any ridiculously low division he or she wants. Take a random sampling of Recreational divisions in NorCal events and see how many winners had under par rounds.
I think the system needs an overhaul. All PDGA events should require membership. There should be a separate division for players without a rating yet. Just like at your local handicapped league, you have to play a few times to set your rating. There are plenty of unsanctioned events for the baggers to not compete in. Maintain the integrity of our organization and events – Stop Sandbaggers.
3. I play to the level of my competition and regardless of my rating, I will be MA1 from now one. I threw my highest rated round this weekend – 976. I am so happy I didn’t even mind that my performance dropped off a bit afterwards. My confidence was higher. My groups were more professional and supportive. I was more aggressive. I had more fun. I won more stuff. I was close enough to the top of my division there was a bit of a gallery on hole 18. They cheered each of our shots. They did the wave. I hadn’t felt that good about my athleticism since high school.
Day three was really windy and even though I kept disc-ing up to more stable plastic, my Back Hand has improved to the point that I need to start testing some new discs. I had been throwing Orcs for my stable BHs but I’m finally overpowering them. Not sure I’m quite ready to throw a Destroyer BH but going to try a Starfire and a Wraith. It’s an evolution.
I can’t wait to get out there and do it again. I’m going to volunteer during the pro-weekend. I’m also registered MA1 for the Steady Ed Memorial Masters Cup next month with my buddy Armando. I’ve decided to skip the events run by traditionally poor TD’s. Those events and communities are not deserving of my money or support. How I wish there was a well run A-Tier like the Patty’s tournament every weekend.