Collegiate disc golf is back, and it’s bigger than ever.
The eighth annual National Collegiate Disc Golf Championships begins today at the Hippodrome Disc Golf Complex in North Augusta and will feature its largest field yet.
Admission is free today-Friday and $10 for the Saturday finals. Ages 12 and under get in free.
The championships debuted in 2007 with six teams, most of which hailed from the Southeast. This year’s tournament features 95 teams from more than 60 schools from across the country, NCDGC General Manager Alan Kane said. It’s classified as a major by the Professional Disc Golf Association.
About 15 percent of the teams are from Colorado or farther west. The teams earned their way to the event by competing in one of 17 qualifying events held around the country throughout the year.
“We tweaked the format this year to include 100 teams and we immediately grew another 50 percent,” he said, adding that 60 teams will compete for the men’s team title and eight will compete for the women’s crown.
The format wasn’t all that went to the chopping block, Kane said. The Hippodrome’s four courses have undergone extensive facelifts in advance of this year’s tournament.
“We like to keep it fresh,” Kane said. “We don’t want to favor the local teams who get to come out and practice. This year, we’ve done the most work we’ve ever done on a couple of the courses.”
One of the courses, Headrick Hills, is almost unrecognizable from a year ago, Kane said. The course is mostly open-aired and on one of the highest points in the area.
“It’s almost always windy out there, so when the championship rolls around it usually gets a little crazy,” he said.
Last year, Tennessee Tech held on for a one-stroke win over Colorado State and Mississppi State to claim the men’s team championship. The Mississippi State women’s team claimed their second title in as many years with a dominant showing over Oregon State.
Alex Callis, one of four players returning from Tennessee Tech’s championship team, said he’s confident that the Golden Eagles can repeat this year. The team finished second in the SouthEast Collegiate Open held this past September at Wildwood Park.
“I’d be lying if I told you that I didn’t think we weren’t going to win it,” Callis said. “I know there’s some great competition, but I like our chances.”
Among the competition will be Georgia Regents, which returns the tournament’s only four-time All-American in senior Jason Lynn. The tournament allows up to six years of eligibility for college-enrolled students.
Though the Jaguars finished sixth last year and won the championship in 2010, Lynn doesn’t buy into the notion of home-field advantage.
“I think we have a good enough team to win and it definitely helps that it’s our home course,” said Lynn, who won an individual title in 2011. “I don’t think that gives us a huge edge because at the end of the day you’ve got to make the putts.”
After making their collegiate disc golf debut at last year’s tournament, USC Aiken looks to make the most of its second opportunity. Walton Satcher, team captain and 2013 second team All-American, said the tournament is one he looks forward to all year.
“It makes it more fun when you’re playing for other people,” he said. “We got in and we’re hoping to take full advantage of it.”