Disc golf tourney took years of preparationPublished 9:31am Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Column: Pothole Prairie, by Tim Engstrom
It was good to see the Minnesota State Disc Golf Championships in Albert Lea this weekend.
The tournament attracted 59 participants and crowned Chris “Critter” Meyer as the state champion. It drew some of the best disc golfers in Minnesota to Albert Lea from as far north as the Iron Range.
The tournament was the end result of a great deal of collaboration among many entities over the past six years.
It all started in 2008 when Shinefest built a disc golf course at the lower part of Bancroft Bay Park with funds raised from an array of local businesses. Companies such as Americana Insurance, Pro Manufacturing and Martin’s Cycling & Fitness donated money to get that grass-tee course into existence, and many Christians and ordinary disc golfers lent a hand to do the labor in 2009 of installing concrete the tee pads. I recall pouring and shaping concrete with Jeshua Erickson, Art Schorn, Jim Troe, Dan DeBoer, Dave Schultz and Dale Grotson, among others.
It was named Bancroft Bay Park Disc Golf Course. Today, that course is known as Tall Grass Disc Golf Course.
In 2010, local disc golfers led the charge to replace the baskets with ones that met the standards of the Professional Disc Golf Association so tournaments could come to town. The Statewide Health Improvement Program came through with grant funding, which allowed for the installation of Discraft Chainstar baskets. Disc golfers like Lars Tonding, Buck Monson, Derreck Walk, Nick Flores, Luke Boyer and Nik Johnsen, among others, helped to put in the new baskets and to move the older baskets to Riverland Community College. That effort brought together the city, the county, the state and local volunteers.
In 2011, a pro disc golfer named Ross Brandt moved to town and began shaking up the disc golf scene. In early 2012, he and Alden disc golfer Dave Sime had an idea to turn a nine-hole disc golf course built in 2004 with homemade baskets at the end of the road at Bancroft Bay Park into a championship-level 18-hole course. Brandt designed the course, then applied and acquired a grant from Pioneering Healthy Communities. By April 2012, with support from the Albert Lea City Council, he received permission to install the course, which came to be called Oak Island Disc Golf Course.
All last summer disc golfers did the labor to build the course. I remember working with Brandt, Sime, Monson, Erickson, Troe, Joe Beauseigneur, Ray Besco, Jared Johnson, Andy Richardson, Joel Erickson and a bunch of other disc golfers, several of whom came to love disc golf after having learned the game at the lower course. Also there doing work were Ann Austin of the United Way and several high school disc golfers from Austin. I am probably forgetting someone.
The course went through a public controversy in July and August, but it survived, as several disc golfers took the time to defend their efforts.
I remember one day this spring — the first beautiful day of T-shirt weather — seeing both parking lots for both courses packed. The work wasn’t just about tournaments; it also was about getting people off the couch and out to the city parks.
Albert Lea Parks and Recreation Department crews spruced up the two courses last week, and, at last, a company called TeeBoxx installed signs at Oak Island. Several local businesses again ponied up funds to sponsor the Oak Island course, and now they were getting their publicity.
Finally, Brandt and Meyer persuaded the Minnesota Frisbee Association to hold its state championship in Albert Lea, instead of in the metro, and Meyer took the role of tournament director. He had support from places such as America’s Best Value Inn, which gave a group rate to disc golfers who stayed overnight there. It was a two-day tournament, but there were Friday evening activities, which made it a three-day event.
By no means was it the first tournament to take place in Albert Lea’s disc golf courses — there have been many — but it was the biggest so far in terms of stature. I have no doubt the courses will keep attracting outside attention.
Our next hope is to build concrete tee pads at Riverland and bring that course up to par.
Tribune Managing Editor Tim Engstrom’s column appears every Tuesday.