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Santa Maria Sun / Sports Lead

The following article was posted on April 25th, 2017, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 18, Issue 8 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 18, Issue 8

Driven to disc: The Santa Maria Showdown welcomes disc golfers of all ages to compete at Waller Park

By EMILY HOLLAND

A plastic disc zips through the air and clinks into the metal chains of a disc golf basket at Waller Park. Score! People play disc golf there daily, but on April 29, the second annual Santa Maria Showdown will take over the park.

The tournament, sponsored by Legacy Discs, is part of the CenCal series that includes disc golf tournaments from North Bakersfield all the way up to Lodi. Nine temporary holes will be added to the back of Waller Park, so the players will be able to play two rounds of 18 holes each, tournament director Jarrett Bussacco said.


DISC GOLF EQUIPMENT
The tools to play disc golf are few. Players only need a disc and some baskets to shoot into. The baskets, or “pins” as disc golf players call them, are surrounded by beautiful scenery at Waller Park.
PHOTO COURTESY OF DAVID CORBIN

An awards ceremony and raffle follows the tournament, he explained. The money raised will go toward the Friends of Waller Park’s disc golf fund.

“We just try to make it the most fun it can possibly be,” Bussacco said. “At the end of the day, the tournament isn’t for personal gain for anyone, it’s really to raise money to donate to the nonprofit that will improve our parks and improve our course.”

Bussacco became “addicted” to disc golf in high school and now owns more than 500 discs he plays with and collects. Disc golf is relatively inexpensive compared to other sports, he said, with new discs ranging from $10 to $25.

His perception of disc golf has changed over the years as the sport has gained popularity. When the sport started in the ’70s, people didn’t know much about it, and it didn’t hold much prestige, he said.

“It’s always been viewed as a total hippie sport,” Bussacco said. “I don’t really blame those people, because when I started disc golf you always played with a beer in one hand and a disc in the other.”

When he registered with the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) in 2006, there were only 30,000 members. Now, there are more than 100,000. With the rise in popularity, tournaments are starting to fill up quickly, he said.

As disc golf expands, players and fans become more diverse. While traditional golf courses are usually reserved for the “rich elite,” Bussacco said, there’s more of a melting pot at a disc golf course. The cohesive feeling is mutual among many disc golf players, said player Robert Arzate, who’s participating in the tournament.


HE SHOOTS, HE SCORES
Blake Bolterman, a disc golf player, shoots a disc at one of the wooded holes at Waller Park. The Santa Maria Showdown on April 29 will see dozens of disc golfers competing at the park.
PHOTO COURTESY OF BRENT LIEBERMAN

“I’ve met a lot of new people from all over, and every new player ends up becoming part of the disc golf family,” he said. “Every weekend you meet someone new and everyone’s pretty down to earth.”

With more participants come more regulations. All equipment must be up to code based on PDGA rules, including the discs and baskets. The discs come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and weights varying between 150 to 175 grams customized for the various styles of shots players make in competition.

“A bunch of companies make different kinds of discs, and some have funny names,” Bussacco said. “Some are named after animals, like ‘Cheetah’ or ‘Leopard,’ while other ones have more intense names like ‘The Destroyer.’”

The baskets or “pins” at the park also need regulating. Baskets must have identical dimensions throughout the course, but differing styles or brands are allowed, Bussacco said. Eighteen new pins made by the company Innova were recently installed at the park. The county and Friends of Waller split the cost of the baskets, and have used the same supplier for the last 20 years, he said.

Waller Park attracts disc golfers from all around. The natural landscape there makes it a special place to play, he said. The towering Monterey pines crowd the course and add a level of complexity to each shot. A particularly difficult move called a “tunnel shot” forces players to shoot their disc through a sort of imaginary tunnel through the trees, Bussacco said.

Compete or observe
The Santa Maria Showdown by Legacy Discs welcomes disc golfers of all ages to compete on April 29 with player check-in at 8 a.m. at Waller Park, Santa Maria. Registration costs vary. More info: discgolfscene.com.

There are also areas of the course that are both sandy and wooded, in addition to varying lengths of each hole, which range from 225 feet to more than 700 feet. According to Arzate, there is a lot of greenery and differing terrain, so the course moves from smooth, flat grass to rolling, wooded hills.

“There’s a little mixture of a bunch of different environments, which is different from other courses,” he said. “Waller Park is one of the best courses I’ve played at around here.”

Aside from the unique location, the players will also make the tournament memorable. Competitors vary in ages, Bussacco said, from a teenage girl to a 96-year-old man. Within the tournament there are 14 different divisions, separate for men and women.

“The Central Coast has become a pretty cool mecca for disc golf,” Bussacco said.

Intern Emily Holland wrote this week’s sports story. Reach her through Managing Editor Joe Payne at jpayne@santamariasun.com.




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