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Circle Bar Golf and Old Mill Disc courses co-host Mountain Town Throwdown 2022

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A temporary disc basket is on display at the Circle Bar Golf Club’s clubhouse

By JOHN W. ROSS/for The Herald  —   Picture an eye-catching, full-sized billboard situated along the street leading to the opening of the 2004 Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) combined Pro-Am-Juniors World Championships in Des Moines, Iowa. A baseball, a basketball and a soccer ball hovered in outsized, full color, against a brilliant white background.

Just to the right, in wide, block letters, hung a quote from the revered “father” of disc golf, “Steady Ed” Headrick. Ed invented everything from the basket, pole hole targets to the discs for flying disc sports including Ultimate and disc golf.

A ball is just an orb that wishes it was a disc,” the billboard crowed.

It was a bit spooky because everyone knew “Steady Ed” had passed on two years earlier. But it was hard not to laugh right out loud at the idea that discs and disc golfers superseded every other ball sport and participants. And for five days of play over 11 courses within a 35-mile radius of Des Moines, it was hard to argue. Disc golf, obviously, had arrived. And we thought ourselves to be right along with it.

Everybody, it’s been said, looks good at the starting line. Spirits rode high as did ambitions.

Frequently labeled the “Best ‘Worlds’ ever,” Tournament Director Becky Zallek seamlessly melded twice daily rounds of professionals, amateurs and even juniors into an exposition of what was possible with 9-inch plastic spheres. Singularly impressive.

Last Saturday, April 23rd, Oakridge disc golf had its proportional moment, considering the population of Des Moines of 700,000 and Oakridge at 3,303—give or take.

Disc and ball golf come together

A lonely basket on the Circle Bar Golf Club’s deck wants its chains rattled. John Ross photo

But what made last weekend’s gloriously sun-favored day proportionally special was the collaboration between the “stick” or ball, and disc golf communities on the Circle Bar Golf Club’s course.

It had to confound spectating club members used to the puttering and whine of golf carts. Instead, the links fell eerily silent. Disc huckers strode about, lugging bags or backpacks or wheeling oddly short and boxy carts with flappy trapdoor seats for resting weary bones during three solid hours of play. They threaded from one temporary Astroturf tee pad to the next, stopping to crash basket chain sets—some farther and some closer—in as few throws as possible.

No beer while husking

Slightly over a hundred players assembled from nearby and as far away as Colorado, California, Washington and Utah. Hotel accommodations were solidly booked from Springfield to Cresent Lake.  Circle Bar Secretary Sharon Lose learned this during casual banter across her clubhouse refreshments counter. She expressed surprise that beers were neither bought nor consumed during play.

“These are golfers?” she had to wonder.

Sanctioned PDGA events like the Mountain Town Throwdown don’t permit it. Disqualification is the consequence as players well knew.  They could buy beers at the break between rounds, and when players swapped venues. Mirror Pond brews vanished quickly instead of the usual ball-golfer’s preferred domestic over craft beers.

Next time Sharon will be better prepared.

A well-received event by both golfers

And, judging from responses all around, there will likely be next times into the foreseeable, if unknown future. People from both sports liked what they saw and how they felt. Proving that—at heart—golfers are golfers, no matter the orb of their choosing.

Circle Bar Board President, Gerry Snyder, had concerns that newly conditioned greens might take some hits. They did not, due to carefully placed temporary baskets and the design of the temporary layout.

“I thought it was all great,” Snyder said, based on play he watched at the beginning. He said he was open to the possibility of two events annually, subject to minimizing interference with his members used to playing whenever they please and based on yearly dues.

Sharon Lose predicted some grumbling from long-term members. But the several clubhouse regulars on hand offered nothing but glowing assessments on how the day unfolded. No problem. Fun to watch with some very impressive throwing skills on display, even from the clubhouse deck.

The feedback was very positive

Oakridge Disc Golf Club President Jason Nehmer offered his approval as well. “It went very well,” he said, pointing to feedback from one woman golfer: “It is clear and evident that much work and heart were put into this event! I hope you consider it a huge success.”

Financially, it was not a runaway monetary locomotive in comparison to what Circle Bar would have realized from out-of-town green fees of $15-$25 for 9 and 18 holes of play, respectively. But the Throwdown did rent the upstairs space of the clubhouse for its awards ceremony. Plus, about 50 event players had preordered sack lunches prepared  by the Circle Bar folks, in addition to whatever beverages players bought.

Golfers are looking to the youth

Other revenue angles will certainly be on the table for future crossover discussions at Circle Bar.  The Club was once told it wouldn’t make it without twenty more memberships than it has now to keep the doors open. “It’s a very small town,” Snyder said “and we have been working on our marketing.” He noted that it will be tailored to younger members that have been the sustaining lifeblood for the nonprofit. “We would not be making it without them. Younger members are the future of the club and that’s true of the sport as well.”

Jasn Nehmer, Oakridge Disc Golf Club president presents awards to the winners inside the Circle Bar clubhouse. John Ross photo

Local disc golfer comes up shy of first place

Among local players Saturday, Disc Club Vice President Ed Mooneyhan came closest to winning his division—a stroke out of first place in the 40-and-over Master’s Division. He was, however, more than satisfied with his two-disc rewards.

“I was hoping for my first tournament win,” Moneyhan revealed. “But I was completely satisfied because I played, overall, very well.”

He revived his interest in the sport from a casual introduction in 1999 that got more serious when he moved back to Oakridge and connected with local enthusiasts three years ago. He pitched right in to help install, first, the short course at Osprey Park then the 18-hole courses at Old Mill and, finally, the just-opened Office Bridge Course in Westfir.

Ed Mooneyhan, Vice President of the Oakridge Disc Golf Club shows off a couple of his discs on the Circle Bar’s temporary disc golf course. John Ross photo

“We had a great time,” Moneyhan said of his experience Saturday. As with last summer, Moneyhan will again be teaching disc golf at Summer Adventures, which attracted over two hundred students last year.

Lots of work setting up the course for Circle Bar

Tournament co-director Leland O’ Driscol, who shepherded rounds at Old Mill, was equally impressed with what took place Saturday.

“It was a beautiful sight,” he said. “We were well prepared, and the players were in good spirits. Everybody got through pretty smoothly.” He had helped set up the temporary course on Friday and got to preview it. “Some folks wanted better tee boxes for the Circle Bar course,” he said. “But overall, they liked the variety and slopes and shape of the holes. They liked the long shots and the setting.”

O’ Driscoll also recounted that a group of recreational disc golfers, uninformed of the event, showed up to play Old Mill only to be turned away. But their disappointment turned to enthusiasm when they were redirected to the new course in Westfir.

“I think the club put its best forward and was seen as an amenable host.” O’ Driscoll concluded.

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