More than 100 teams to descend upon South Carolina’s Hippodrome Disc Golf Complex for this week’s National Collegiate Disc Golf Championships
Some of the team names are familiar – Auburn, Kansas, Purdue, and the like – and boast storied athletic histories.
And still others – Liberty University and George Fox University, for example – represent private institutions built on small student populations.
Regardless of stature or pedigree, these teams have all traveled to South Carolina this week with a singular goal: to bring home a victory at the National Collegiate Disc Golf Championships (NCDGC).
Now in its ninth year, the NCDGC is a four-day tournament featuring more than 100 teams that have qualified from six regions around the country. Governed by College Disc Golf and sanctioned as a PDGA Major, the event will play at six courses at Augusta’s Hippodrome Disc Golf Complex.
And while College Disc Golf general manager and NCDGC tournament director Alan Kane oversees an event that is now a far cry from the six-team affair of 2007’s inaugural offering, he knows there is more on the horizon.
“It just keeps growing, and there’s so much more room for growth,” Kane said. “We’re still in the infancy stage.”
NCDGC festivities begin with today’s “Rivalry Day,” in which Kane and his staff can set card pairings based on regional adversaries. Sixty-two men’s teams and 18 women’s teams will battle for supremacy in the top-tier National Championship flights, which include singles play – in which the three best scores from a four-player team are taken to create a total – and team doubles play, which uses an odd/even best shot format.
Teams will play two rounds per day, culminating in singles finals on Friday and doubles finals on Saturday.
Additionally, schools with larger contingents can have multiple four-person teams participate via the First and Second Flight Championships, which Kane said gives more players the opportunity to experience the NCDGC.
“I think CSUMB (California State University-Monterey Bay) has 40 kids in their disc golf club at the school, and to only send four would not be good,” Kane said. “We allow them to put up to two teams in the First Flight and two teams in the Second Flight, but always just one in the Championship.”
Due to almost all of the teams being run as club sports at their campuses – that is, they are not funded by deep-pocketed athletics departments, but instead by small percentages of tuition fees – the amount of fundraising and coordination required to make the NCDGC trip is no small feat.
The University of Oregon Disc Golf Club, for example, sent 16 people to the tournament. With a mere $1,000 supplied by the school, the team spent much of the season not only competing, but also raising money.
“The short answer is that it takes a ton of work,” said Paul Fraser (#56366), a third year law student from Oregon’s Championship flight team. “We do most of our fundraising by selling discs. We were fortunate enough to have the opportunity this winter to be the scrip vendor for a local winter series of tournaments.”
Once the teams get to Augusta, though, the focus shifts to the task at hand: chasing the championship.
“We are going to go out and play the best golf we can. The results will take care of themselves,” said Fraser, who is also the team’s secretary and co-coordinator. “Our goal is to play well, stay focused, and above all else, have fun. We think we are capable of reaching great heights if we play to our potential.”
That potential is just one reason College Disc Golf has been attractive to one of its main sponsors, Innova Disc Golf.
Innova team manager Jonathan Poole said the company considers the NCDGC to be one of the most important events of the year and one that can open doors to a new crop of players.
“I like the idea of the next young generation of movers and shakers playing disc golf,” Poole said. “It’s nice to be able to bring that kind of crowd to a place where we can all learn together and fuel their passion for disc golf. And then if they go on to whatever they’re going to do in their lives after school, to know that they’ve had a taste of top level disc golf and a really good experience, hopefully that’s just going to create opportunities.
“This just seems like a great place, a great week to be able to help develop what are some potentially great roots for disc golf.”
The commitment and sacrifices players make to help set down these roots are not lost on Kane.
“It’s amazing how much work they do to get here, and what our philosophy is is we try and equal the output,” Kane said. “They do all this work all year to be here to play in our event. So me and my team try to equal the same amount of work that they do to give them the experience of a lifetime once they get there.”
With more than 100 teams vying to make a name for themselves at the NCDGC, Kane and Fraser gave us the skinny on who to know.
Current Ranking: No. 1 / 2014 Finish: No. 1
“Well, Georgia Regents are the local boys,” Fraser said. “They know these courses like the back of their hand since they have year-round access. Not to mention, they have some very solid golfers.”
Current Ranking: No. 6 / 2014 Finish: No. 6
“Nevada-Reno has James Proctor (#34250), the highest rated player in the event,” Kane said. “They definitely have a good team.”
“University of Nevada-Reno are a very talented team,” he said. “We have gone back and forth with them over the course of the last few years.”
Current Ranking: No. 2 / 2014 Finish: No. 2
“Ferris State is back, last year they got second,” Kane said. “They were in it all the way up to the semifinals, really. During the semifinal round, that’s when Georgia Regents took the lead away from Ferris and went into the finals with a six stroke lead. So Ferris State is definitely in there.”
Current Ranking: No. 4 / 2014 Finish: No. 20
“I haven’t met any of them, we haven’t seen much of them,” Kane said. “But they won one of our qualifier events and bumped their ranking all the way up to number four in the country.”
Current Ranking (Alabama): No. 15 / 2014 Finish: No. 9
Current Ranking (Arkansas): No. 8 / 2014 Finish: No. 29
“It used to be Oregon and Georgia Regents,” Kane said. “When they were both at their best it was pretty heated. Cordially heated, but it definitely got pretty intense.
“I don’t know that there are any that are that intense right now,” he continued. “Arkansas and Alabama are always a fun crowd. They come to the Southeast Collegiate Open every year, they play in a couple other events. They’re not necessarily the greatest teams, but they both have some good players and they have a good time. The back and forth, the rivalry feel is probably the best between Alabama and Arkansas.”
Connect with College Disc Golf for a full list of qualified teams or to keep up on the week’s action:
Steve Hill is a Southern California-based disc golfer who doesn’t throw very far. Follow him on Twitter @NoodleArmDG.