Disc golfers duke it outPublished 9:36am Monday, August 19, 2013
Tournament director also wins the title of state champion
The Minnesota State Disc Golf Championships drew some of the top players in the state to Bancroft Bay Park’s disc golf courses: Tall Grass and Oak Island.
“I really wanted to showcase these two courses,” tournament director Chris Meyer said. “They’re amazing.”
The Minnesota Frisbee Association typically holds its state championships at courses in the metro area. Meyer and others wanted to change that this time, and the two courses made Albert Lea a prime choice.
“That’s half the reason why I wanted to get people down here. Plus, I wanted to get the community involved and get some positive exposure,” he said.
Along with running the tournament, Meyer, 35, of Woodbury, also won the tournament. He competed in the open division, which is the pro class. (Final results were posted as of this morning. Look for them this week in the Scoreboard.)
Meyer has a special connection with C.P. Adams in Hastings, he said. In 1999, he aced Hole 7, but moments before he had received heart-wrenching news: His brother Justin died after a 22 1/2-year battle with kidney failure.
“Disc golf is therapy for me,” Meyer said. “It’s my escape.”
The Hastings Parks and Recreation Department heard what happened and gave Meyer the basket from his hole-in-one. The course was getting new baskets at the time.
The Minnesota State Championships is a B-tier tournament sanctioned by the Professional Disc Golf Association.
On Saturday, participants played one round at Oak Island and one at Tall Grass. However, Tall Grass was made more difficult with strings indicating out of bounds just about anywhere that the grass was tall. On Sunday, the disc golfers played a single round at Oak Island.
At that point, four players moved on for a showcase final nine. Spectators followed Meyer, Chris Hall, Mitch Privette and Ray Oberly Jr., who won the A-tier Cedar Creek Open in Fairmont three weeks ago.
John Gabrielli, 23, of Roseville competed in the amateur advanced division, which meant he was unable to compete with the professionals for the title in the final nine holes. Once a player becomes a professional, he or she is not allowed to compete in amateur events. Gabrielli said he played as an amateur because he plans to play at the Amateur Disc Golf World Championship.
Gabrielli started tossing discs at age 8.
“I grew up down the street from the Acorn Park disc golf park,” he said. “Some friends and I decided to try it out, and ever since then I’ve been playing.”
Not only did players from around the state compete, Albert Lea had several players who competed. The only one playing as a pro was Jared Johnson.
It took some misfortune for Johnson to take up the sport. When his house burned down, he lived in a motel for a month. During Johnson’s stay, he discovered a nearby disc golf course.
“I played there for an entire month and fell in love with it,” Johnson said. “I just like being able to be outside and watch Frisbees fly.”
Johnson, originally from Boise, Idaho, has played competitively since 2007. He said he played multiple courses in the Northwest, and the parks in Albert Lea are designed well.
“It has definitely helped all the players in town,” Johnson said. “I’ve seen improvement in all of our games, because it’s a technical course.”
Meyer said he was happy with the turnout of 59 players, and he’s hoping for 150 to 200 players next year.
Last year, the Minnesota State Disc Golf Championships was at Oakwood Park in Cottage Grove.
“I’d like to say thank you to Critter for running the tournament and to everyone who came out,” Johnson said. “It was a great weekend.”
Check the Tribune’s photos of the tournament in this gallery.