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Victoria has a reputation for its recreational sports and outdoor activities, and disc golf is no exception to the list. Riverside Park has been home to the Riverside Park Disc Golf course for over 21 years, which was started back in 1988, designed by then three-time world champion John Houck. (I was only four years old in 1988!). Here is the original article published by the Victoria Advocate in 1988 announcing its opening. I remember seeing those yellow baskets with chains hanging from them as a youngster when my parents took me to the park, wondering "what on earth could those be?" Well, now, I understand - I play at least once a week.
Disc golf is like regular golf, except there are no balls. Instead, the contestants throw weighted frisbees into a chain-linked covered basket suspended by a pole. Like regular golf, the players must navigate the length of the course (which is 21-holes in length at Riverside), which amounts to a lot of walking, and a lot of exercise.
Back when the Riverside course was first conceived in 1988, there were only 400 or so disc golf courses in use nationwide. Today, the sport is thriving, with over 3,000 courses all over the United States. Disc golf is still one of the nation's fastest growing sports, and is widely popular with both youth and adults.
Each Wednesday night at 5:30 p.m., the Riverside Disc Golf Club hosts "minis," or small tournaments. Members compete for money and number tags - these tags represent each member's current ranking within the club. I'm still stuck with my mediocre number 20, but I'm playing hard to win a lower number, my game is getting better each week. The club also hosts mini tournaments played Sunday mornings at 9:00, as well as professional tournaments and night tournaments announced throughout the year.
Tonight was a special experience for me. I was able to play a game of disc golf alongside 60-year-old Ron Engebretson, Senior Grand Master Amateur World Champion. At his age, Ron throws with the finesse and the skill of youngsters a quarter his age, but he remains humble and retains the sportsmanship any golfer expects.
"This is a great sport for people to get out and exercise and meet people," said Engebretson. "And it's inexpensive, too. We have a lot of fun, and I've gotten where I play pretty decent for my age, anyway"
Engebretson said he started playing disc golf when his two boys showed him the game several years back.
"I had played ball golf for 50 years," said Engebretson, "but this sport looked like so much fun, and my boys loved it. They got me into it, and they are pretty good themselves."
Engebretson, along with Riverside Disc Golf Club President Ryan DeSpain, say that they have really seen a great turn out from local residents and even tourists who come to play the course regularly. I, too, play disc golf regularly, and am a new member of the Riverside Disc Golf Club, having joined just last month. Already, I have met people from all different backgrounds, and of all ages, and am falling in love with the experience.
"Our relationship with the City of Victoria is very good. They are very supportive," said DeSpain.
In April, the club reported two stolen disc-golf baskets, valued at around $400 each, one of which has not yet been recovered. DeSpain said the city has been there to assist them in their search for the thieves, and that the city is also sponsoring a tournament in September.
"We really appreciate what all the City and the club members have done, especially with the tournaments. We love to see more people get involved," said DeSpain.
Tonight was also bittersweet. A good friend of mine, Jessie "Tito" Amador, who was diagnosed only weeks ago with Crohn's disease, moved back to Utah earlier this week with his wife Cheri to be close to her parents. Amador, a professional disc golfer and Victoria native, earned several victories at the Victoria Open, a Professional Disc Golf Association tournament held annually at the Riverside course. He is hoping to continue his run for a disc golf crown, despite his illness.
"Nothing can keep me from disc golf," said Amador. "Nothing."
Tito, as I call him, held the #1 tag for the Riverside Disc Golf Club for six straight weeks before retiring his local trophy after winning this Sunday's mini tournament. Amador says he is concerned about his health, but he is making it a point to keep active, and disc golf is his biggest cure.
"This setback has made me concentrate on everything. My life, my game, just everything. It makes me want to be a better person, and to work hard for the sport I love," said Amador. "My power is not 100%, but it makes me stronger. I have to work my finesse game, and it is making me a better player, and it's keeping me healthy" said Amador.
Amador achieved professional status in late 2009, and he says he's still ready to compete in tournaments at the pro level. Amador said he plans to compete in the upcoming Mt. Solitude Ski Resort tournament in August in Utah. You can view his PDGA professional stats here.
Ryan DeSpain (left) and Ron Engebretson (right) draw cards to determine teams for Wednesday's mini disc golf tournament.
Ryan keeps score during the round.
Close up of disc golf carrying bag and ranking tags
Reigning Senior Grand Master Amateur World Champion rips a shot on hole number four at Riverside Park Disc Golf Course Wednesday night.
Tito Amador (center) competes in the 2010 Victoria Open tournament.
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