Disc golfers brave weather for tourney

Staff photo: Kevin Wilson Jonathan Pena of Clovis takes a shot during the Tex-Mex Tossup disc golf tournament Saturday at Ned Houk Park.

Staff photo: Kevin Wilson
Jonathan Pena of Clovis takes a shot during the Tex-Mex Tossup disc golf tournament Saturday at Ned Houk Park.

By Kevin Wilson
Managing Editor

By most accounts, cold and rainy conditions made Saturday a miserable day to be outside — particularly at a wide-open city park.

But a few dozen people braving the elements at Ned Houk Park would tell you a bad day throwing a disc is better than a good day doing almost anything else.

Friendly conversation, and discs, populated the atmosphere for the first day of the fifth annual Tex-Mex Tossup.

“Despite the weather, I think it’s gone really well,” said tournament director and Tex-Mex Disc Golf Club President Sam Smith during a late-afternoon lightning delay. “The turnout is great. Everybody seems to be happy with everything. We’ll be able to get it finished tomorrow. We have one more round.”

The field — around 50 to 55 in previous years — included 77 people, and about two-thirds of them coming from outside of Clovis.

The tournament uses the Patchwork Place portion of Ned Houk Park — a parcel of land just past Mile Marker 8 on NM 209, but still city property due to an annexation linked to a failed golf course effort — with a modification of the 11-year-old disc golf course.

The normal nine-hole course — sponsored by the Noonday Kiwanis Club and created in 2005 as Cory Young’s Eagle Scout project — has been 18 holes for the last month in preparation for the tournament. Smith said nine portable baskets were borrowed from Portales and added so players had time for practice rounds. A tournament needs at least 18 holes to operate, and can add holes in multiples of nine. Smith said he’s never seen a tournament go more than 54, and even that is a grueling amount to play.

Instead of hitting a golf ball with a club, disc golf players use as few throws as possible to get a disc into a metal basket that includes chains to stop a disc’s flight. Instead of changing clubs to adjust for distance and surroundings, they alter their discs. Players have no limit on the number they can carry, and players find a balance between unnecessary weight and having the right disc.

“Each disc has a job to do,” Chris Conner of Dalhart said before throwing on No. 11. “Certain conditions (matter). And you have backups; it’s always good to have backups.”

The discs are typically 8 to 9 inches in diameter, and must weigh less than 200 grams under Professional Disc Golf Association rules. Discs have slightly different molds, depending on if they’re drivers, midrange or putting discs.

There are also slight variances in brand. Conner said he largely sticks with Innova and Discmania, while Teddy Guevara isn’t as brand-loyal.

“Whatever feels good to me,” Guevara said. “I don’t care what brand.”

The tournament landed Dynamic Discs as a sponsor. Smith said anybody who entered the recreational division with the $35 entry fee got $41 in merchandise between a disc, a tournament T-shirt and other promotional items.

The tournament had professional divisions where cash will go to the top 45 percent of finishers, and the recreational divisions where top finishers win equipment and vouchers for various disc golf companies.

Jonathan Pena, 14, has been playing the sport on and off since he was a little kid, and was playing in his final year in the junior division. Though he didn’t plan to use it, he still carried the disc which won him the closest to the pin competition last year.

“It’s just really peaceful,” Pena said of playing the sport. “You get to come out here, play and just have fun.”

But not everybody got to toss the disc around. This is the first year Smith has run the tournament without participating — a situation he admits is bittersweet.

“Running the tournament adds stress,” Smith said. “When I’m stressed out, I play bad, and when I play bad it adds to the stress. I’d always rather be out there playing with my friends, but it’s a lot easier to run the tournament when I’m not.”