Friday, December 26, 2014

Highs and Lows... and Chili

Tournaments, man. Tournaments.

I love them even when I'm hating them.

This year's Steili with Chili tournament at Fort Steilacoom DGC was packed full with great people, somewhat decent weather and, for yours truly, a wide range of mental stages.

Here's what I learned.

When I head out to throw I'm usually alone. Since I'm alone I'm able to practice without throwing an entire round.

My routine usually involves stretching, putting, throwing in a field and then playing two or three different holes over and over.

The one aspect of disc golf I don't practice is the very situation I kept finding myself in during round one. I'm talking about the art of the scramble.

This tournament helped me realize that I'm horribly lacking creativity in my game. During practice I need to purposefully place myself in the thickest of shit and gracefully find my way out.

Mental Stage One: Happiness

Steilacoom, WA. is about an hour and a half away from me. In the past I've forced myself out of a warm bed and on to a dark road at an awful time in the freezing morning. The commute there isn't too bad, but the drive home is taxing.

I've had to call my wife before and have her talk to me so I didn't fall asleep on the road while making my way home through Seattle.

This year my lovely wife bought my entry fee and a hotel room for my birthday. We were going to stretch this experience out over two days.

We left Friday morning on December 5th and drove straight to the three-course complex. The plan was to play as much of the NW course as our three-year-old would allow and then practice a couple of holes on the SE course.

Surprisingly we were able to play most of the NW spread, even in the rain, before the baby girl's legs tired out. I think she loved the walk. It's such a beautiful scene.

I went on to practice the SE holes one and four a couple of times while the ladies kept warm and dry in the car. I would have played more, but I was getting hungry and I didn't want them to die of boredom.

My main goal on SE was to choose the right disc for hole four.

Imagine standing on a tee on top of a hill. Not a magnificent, top-of-the-world style hill, but more of a severe beer belly sized hill. There's an enormous mando tree straight ahead with a thousand fingers out-stretched and eagerly waiting to swat down any close attempt at passing on the left side. The basket is out in the boonies off to the right around 700 feet.

For a right-handed backhand player with a weak-sauce sidearm, this drive forces me to throw a high anny around the tree. Here's the tricky part though – I had to make sure my drive didn't flex back at the end.

Considering the basket was in the long position I would need a clear run-up space for my second drive. If my first shot flexed back I would be stuck in chest-high bush.

The Legacy Mongoose I have is more flipper than the dolphin. That thing turns hard and dives. It's a great roller and when launched high on an anny line it has no real glide, but I was OK with that as long as it landed in the open. After practicing a couple of times with that disc I knew it was the right choice for the tournament, or so I thought.

We left the complex in good spirits. I felt like I was ready to compete against the courses and I was also ready to fill my belly with something stacked with bacon.

Since our hotel was in Tacoma we searched for a hamburger joint near by.

Friesenburgers, man. Friesenburgers.

Holy double cheeseburger... with a fried egg!

You walk in to a small room and there's just a couple of folks behind the counter. There are plenty of items to choose from on the menu, but my eyes were immediately pulled toward the word "Friesenburger." It's two buns separated by two 1/4 pound beef patties, double the cheddar, a sizzling egg and a couple of thick, professional slices of bacon.

I can't wait to go back.

After lunch we made our way to our hotel, checked in and went for a peaceful walk to The Museum of Glass. For dinner we found a local pizza joint, Puget Sound Pizza, and discovered that something was up with Tacoma.

The pizza was crazy delicious. I think there was rosemary in the crust, or something. While we were waiting for our order I walked up the street and filled my Boundary Bay growler with Cigar Box IPA from Tacoma Brewing Co.

By the end of the night we were wondering if we should move to Tacoma. Out of four different places we visited, every one of them set a new standard for us to compare similar companies to.

Mental Stage two: Panic

This year's temperature of 40 something was more tolerable than last year's 20 something. I was dropped off early enough to get plenty of warm-up time in. My putting felt good, I three'd a couple of par fours and I stretched, but I felt a little foggy in the mind, like I wasn't fully awake yet, or hungover from bitchin' food and beer from the night before.

We were down one man when my card was ready to tee off. I worried about it a little, but figured there was nothing I could do. We were staring down hole one on the NW course and I was first to tee off.

You know those drives you want to immediately do over? Yep, I clipped a tree right off the tee and thought to myself, "Here we go."

I tried shaking off whatever it was holding me back, but by the time I started shooting well we were on hole 17.

The round was a complete nightmare. I couldn't catch a break. I found myself in the high rough among trees and bushes all round. I probably threw more sidearms, which I usually use to get out of trouble, than I have ever thrown before.

I just couldn't believe it.

I think par was 56. I finished with a 72. It is now, unofficially, the worst rated round (810) of my life. I spent the entire break between rounds wondering how I was going to get out of this disaster.

After eating my warm bowl of chili I started to putt again. I was furious and determined to redeem the day.

Mental Stage Three: Calmly Aggressive

During the break I thought I figured out what my deal was. In practice the day before and early that morning I was taking a second to visualize my line and then clearing my mind and going for it.

During my first round I continually tried to recreate and force similar shots from practice, but I was powering down like my drives were touch shots all of a sudden. I slowed down and became hesitant. I was trying to throw the perfect lines.

Since I failed miserably, I went in to the second round on the SE course with my old plan of attacking the course. I started off with a bunch of pars. I even got the par on hole four after watching my Mongoose flex back. I never thought I would see that happen, but it did and I was lucky enough to land in a semi-open area with just enough room for a small run up.

Hole six really change the day. It's an elevated hyzer shot through a gap in the trees and down to a basket roughly 270 feet away. I took my Legacy Ghost out of my bag, visualized my line, forgot about everything and threw. My horrible shaving cream dye swirled rapidly as I watched the disc pierce the gap and start diving toward the basket.

That Ghost must have hit every chain on the basket considering the sound of the ching, but it wasn't enough to stick.

Damn. There went my first tournament ace.

I found out later that nobody had aced all day and I could have walked with the ace pot. Oh well. I got the bird and moved on. While standing on the next tee I forgot all about it and just played.

I ended up shooting a 56. I believe par was 58. I had just shot the best, unofficial round (963) of my life.

It wasn't enough to push me anywhere near the cash, but it was enough to ease my mind.

I felt like I accomplished something and learned a lot about myself as a disc golfer.

Who shoots the worst sanctioned round and best sanctioned round of their lives in the same tournament?

I do.

I hope that's the last time.

After the first round I had the worst score in advanced. My second round was beat by only three other advanced players. They were all tied at 54. One other advanced player tied my 56. There were 26 of us.

What a pure mind beating. I was happy to be there though. The event was ran very well by Mark from Disc Golf Armory and he was helped out by a bunch of others. There were three pairs of Keens raffled off along with discs, we all received a voucher for $15 to use toward anything in the Armory and the chili was yummy.

I can't wait to play it again next year.