As the crow flies, so did a multitude of coloured discs in Taylor during the first annual Battle of the Peace Disc Golf tournament that carried many of its own unique characteristics.
As the first disc golf tournament in the region, almost 50 players played 36 holes of disc golf at Lone Wolf Golf Club in Taylor on Saturday, Sept. 3. It surpassed the turnout of one of Alberta’s biggest tournaments and was bigger than most tournaments any player had seen. It also sold out a second time after registration was closed weeks before the event.
“From the smiles I see around, people are having fun, and we’re doing something that hasn’t really been done here before. It’s an experiment that’s been working so far,” tournament co-director Clint Warkentin said before explaining how fast the tournament grew.
“We actually sold out twice. We had an initial cap of 44 people then we had to raise it to 52 and we sold that out too. We were thinking in the 20s would be acceptable. I hear the Alberta Open in Edmonton a couple weeks ago only managed 50. So, we’re on par with them, which is good.”
Competitors played on a golf course, a unique aspect because most courses are played in heavily treed areas, which there isn’t a huge abundance of at Lone Wolf. That meant some creative, but intriguing course design and shot making from tournament founders Warkentin and Daniel Martin.
“It’s challenging because it’s pretty open,” Warkentin said. “Usually disc golf is played in trees and hills and a lot more obstacles. Our challenge on this course is basically introducing distance. We have 700-foot holes, which are almost two to three times (the size) of Toboggan Hill; we have land and we’re trying to use it...I think we’ve done a good job with what we have.”
The huge draw also signalled the burst in popularity for the sport in the north and particularly Fort St. John, where more than half the registrants were from. That alone should help the case for a full-time permanent course in Fort St. John, according to Warkentin.
“Fort St. John has been super receptive,” he said, adding a few schools in the region have expressed interest in starting programs. “I never anticipated this much enthusiasm or energy into a sport that basically no one has played before. We have six to eight people who have never played disc golf before we opened the course seven weeks ago and now they are in the tournament. So, we’re not only getting people into the sport, but they’re actually participating in other ways.”
Adam Lionas was the top golfer in the novice division with a two round total of 144. Gabe Wiebe shot 127 for the win in the recreational division and Avery Haug won the intermediate division with 132.
A veteran of the sport, Ben Anderson, president of the Bulkley Valley Disc Golf Association, who won the advanced division with a score of 60 in the first round and 55 in the second, said both the challenge of the course set up and the turnout were awesome to see.
“The layout itself was challenging but fair… [for] people who have just started to play at this tournament and then people who have been playing for 10, 20, 25 years. I think it’s a challenge for all of the skill sets which is awesome,” Anderson said. “You can definitely make up some strokes if you place your shots right. Because it’s a golf course there’s the things we don’t have on normal disc golf courses like sand traps and greens which are OB (Out of Bounds). If you happen to find yourself in OB those scores can stack up really quickly.”
Anderson travelled a long way for the event, 859 kilometres to be exact, and don’t let that distance fool you, he’s totally committed to returning next year because of his experience this time around.
“This area, Dawson Creek, Fort St. John and Grande Prairie, the growth up here is ridiculous…right now disc golf is exploding up in the north which is awesome to see and I can definitely see myself coming up here and playing again,” Anderson said.