Photo by Doug Gorman
The holes for disc golf, like this one above, look more like baskets.
By Doug Gorman
Who says professional golf is dead in the Southern Crescent ?
Even though the LPGA ended its long association with Eagle's Landing County Club in 2006, pro golf tournaments still exist in Henry County -- sort of.
Only it might look a little different than what the average golf fan is used to seeing.
Instead of pulling a club out of a bag, putting the ball on the tee and trying to hit it straight down the fairway, participants this weekend will grab a flying disc out of their bag and fling it as far as they can toward a chainlinked basket.
It's called disc golf, and it's one of the fast growing participatory sports in the country.
Starting Saturday, and running through Sunday, disc golfers will converge at J.P. Moseley Park in Stockbridge in the Atlanta Open presented by Remax.
The tournament will crown champions in both professional and amateur divisions. In addition to J.P. Moseley Park in Stockbridge, Flyboy Avaition in the Carroll County village of Whitesburg will help host the 144 player field.
On Saturday, professionals will play the course in Stockbridge, with amateurs beginning the tournament in Whitesburg. The two groups will flip flop for Sunday's final round.
"It's pretty cool to see these discs fly through the air," said Rand Eberhard, who serves as the tournament director. "We are expecting to have players from 15-20 states participating."
Clayton Nash, one of the tournament professionals, made the trek all the way from Mississippi in order to play in the event. Nash spent Friday getting ready for the two rounds of disc golf.
"I am just trying to get in some practice rounds before the rain," Nash said, as he reached into his basket of assorted colored discs on Friday during a practice round at J.P. Moseley Park. Nash was also planning to make the trek to Whitesburg on Friday to practice on that course.
Disc golf has many of the same characteristics of the traditional game, as players attempt to throw a disc into a basket in as few of attempts as possible on each "hole."
There is plenty at stake in this weekend's tournament, too. The Atlanta Open serves as a qualifier for the U.S. Open to be played later this year at Winthrop University in Rockhill, SC. That tournament has a purse of more than $80,000.
Serious disc golfers are given handicaps and ratings. Ratings of 950 or more designate the player as a professional.
Eberhard calls the two courses used for the Atlanta Open extremly challenging.
"Most courses are fairly short with mainly par 3s," he said. "These courses are a little longer with par 4s and 5s."
Disc golf has evolved over the years, with more serious players using as many as 15 different discs, depending on the type of shot they are striving to make.
Ken Climo, a 12-time USA PDGA World Champion, and five-time US Open champ, will be one of the participants expected to compete. Climo has won more money in the sport than any other player.
Dave Feldberg, another top pro, will also compete in the event too. Both players are considered among the best to play the game.
Saturday's round starts at 10 a.m. The tournament is free.
"We are looking forward to it, and encourage everybody to come out and check out this sport," Eberhard said.