More than 300 of the world's finest disc golf professionals will converge in Augusta next summer when the area hosts the 2006 PDGA Professional Disc Golf World Championships.
"We're expecting about 90 percent of those golfers to be from the USA, with others coming from six to 10 other countries," said Brian Hoeniger, executive director of the Professional Disc Golf Association, which relocated last year to Columbia County from Toronto.
Hoeniger and other association officials announced the world tournament Friday at Julian Smith Casino.
Tentative dates for the event are Aug. 8-13, with singles competition spread among three courses: Lake Olmstead in Augusta, Riverview Park in North Augusta and a temporary course that will be established at the Hippodrome, also in North Augusta.
Disc golf is played like traditional golf, but players use a flying disc instead of a ball and clubs. The sport's popularity has mushroomed in recent years, with an estimated 500,000 people playing regularly, according to the association.
Augusta's first disc golf course opened in 1989 at Pendleton King Park, with the Augusta Disc Golf Association formed a year later.
Since then, several courses have opened in Richmond and Columbia counties, and several major tournaments have been held here.
The area's disc golf history, coupled with evolving plans to create a 2,700-square-foot national PDGA headquarters at Columbia County's Wildwood Park, make Augusta the perfect place for the world championships, said Brian Graham, chairman of the National Disc Golf Center Committee.
"We started out with just 10 people," he said. "Now Augusta is the epicenter of disc golf nationwide."
The 2005 World Championships were held in July in the Allentown/Lehigh Valley area of Pennsylvania, Hoeniger said.
After the 2006 event in Augusta, the tentative plan is to hold the world championships in Virginia Beach, Va. in 2007 before moving to a venue somewhere in Japan for 2008, he said.
Augusta's event could attract as many as 500 spectators, Hoeniger said.
"Most of the people who come out to watch are those who also play the sport," he said. "But we have a lot of amateurs and casual players here and I think a good awareness campaign here in the community could get us 500 spectators."
Tammy Stout, executive director of the Greater Augusta Sports Council - which worked to help bring the event here - said that while it is too early to measure the economic impact of such a tournament, its presence here can only benefit the community.
"In many ways, we're at the beginning of a long road with many of these great events," she said, adding that - in her opinion - disc golf will rank among the successful equestrian, rowing and soccer events that also help bring visitors and positive economic impact to the Augusta area.
Reach Rob Pavey at 868-1222, ext. 119 or firstname.lastname@example.org.