Disc golfers are a superstitious bunch. Each one holds his or her disc differently, colorful socks are pulled up high and every professional has a lucky putter in their bag.
Saturday, all of that magic found its way into Lincoln for the largest sanctioned disc golf event in Nebraska history.
Roper Park was the site of the 29th annual Star City Shootout, with a record 146 disc golfers from Nebraska, Iowa, Colorado, South Dakota, Kansas and Missouri.
Both of the park's 18-hole disc courses were filled to the brim with disc golfers throwing s-curve bombs and catching up with each other, reinforcing the kind of local sports community that tournament director Ben Langley is hoping to foster in Lincoln.
"It’s really rewarding to see something get better than it was," he said. "Disc golf is blossoming."
The tournament was designated by the Professional Disc Golfers Association as a B-tier event, requiring a 100% net entry fee payout, plus an added $750 to the purse across all pro divisions and 100% net entry fee payout to the amateur purse in the form of prizes and player packs. PDGA membership was not required to compete.
The tournament featured professional, amateur and junior divisions. They included 14 subdivisions, separating competitors by age and sex. In addition to the 113 amateurs slinging discs, the tournament had 33 professional players.
The junior divisions had competitors as young as 12, while the masters divisions, designated for older players, had golfers in their 60s.
On top of the $1,500 pro payout and $750 vouchers to Dynamic Discs for amateurs, the winner of each division received a trophy, as did the overall winner and the man and woman with the lowest scores.
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Much of the fundraising for the event was done through partnerships with 45 local businesses. Each business sponsored holes and tee pads.
The large turnout came as a surprise to first-time organizers Langley and assistant tournament director Jake Hedden. The two only had experience promoting disc golf events and spreading the sport through their promotion group Disc Gauntlet.
“We were going to be happy with 115 and 120 people showing up,” Hedden said. “Disc Gauntlet shows love to smaller courses that people don’t play. Along the way we picked up a following and just met a lot of really good people. I don’t think we expected to fill the tournament, but I’m happy we did.”
Vey Thach, a 10-year disc golf veteran in Lincoln, competed in his first tournament in months Saturday after coming back from a deployment to Iraq. A fellow promoter and tournament organizer, he said he was happy to take a break from organizing and just focus on the game.
"It feels great to be back. There's a lot about home, like disc golf, that you take for granted overseas," he said. "And I'm not running around doing all the stuff you have to do like counting scorecards and keeping track of everything. I'm just here to chill and throw."
Langley said the four months of stress and work it took to put the tournament together and get the support he’s received was worth it when all the golfers headed into the park to start lobbing their discs.
Hedden described the experience as stumbling into a somersault and miraculously landing upright, though he said there may be a little superstition in the hard work that went into maintaining the courses and getting them ready for tournament play.
"I think as more people get the itch, you play around and get hooked. You can’t expect too much, but the people we do have bust their tails,” he said. “Disc golfers believe in karma, so we put in a lot of course work and so surely the disc gods can bless us with a good tournament.”