Last weekend, I competed in the 2021 Falcon’s Flight disc golf tournament, a 3 day PDGA A-tier at the Aspen Meadows East & West disc golf courses near Sundre, Alberta, Canada. With 63 registered in the MPO division, and 240 players total, with a top prize of $2,000 to the top MPO, this was the biggest payout ever at a Canadian disc golf tournament.
I went in hoping to cash, which meant finishing in the top 40% of the MPO division. In a normal summer, I play a few rounds of disc golf a week and regularly practice putting. However, this year I have barely been able to get out for a weekly round, but have been putting in some good putting practice. I had competed in 3 disc golf tournaments already this year, not cashing in any of them, so I really wanted to have a good performance, especially since I love Aspen Meadows East, and had previously won the 2015 Night Owl by shooting a personal best on the East course.
In order to properly describe the weekend, I’m going to break it down into the Finite Game and the Infinite Game. The Finite Game is the competition itself, but only the throws. The Infinite Game is everything outside of the throws, both during the competition, and outside of the competition.
In order words, the Finite Game is how I perform, and the Infinite Game is how I behave both as a competitor and as a person. If you’re interested in learning more about this concept, check out The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek.
The tournament consisted of 3 rounds; 2 on the East course and 1 on the West course. The first day was a random pairing of 4 people, all from the MPO division, and rounds 2 and 3 were grouped based on how you played in the previous round. My goal going into the first round on the East course was to shoot close to even par, which I knew would keep me in the hunt.
A great quote is “you cannot win a tournament in the first round, but you can definitely lose it”. This means that even if you shoot great in the first round, there are still 2 rounds to go. But if you shoot poorly in the first round, not only is it tough to battle back, but mentally it can have an impact on your confidence and you start trying to make up strokes, which is never a good thing.
I had some great shots but also had some mediocre shots. I didn’t make too many mental mistakes in the first round, and other than taking a triple bogey 6 on the par-3 15th, I was pretty happy with my round. I missed some putts, but overall it wasn’t a bad start to my tournament, especially given the lack of practice I have gotten in this summer.
Going into the second round on the West course, my goal was to shoot under par, which I knew would move me up into the cash, and put me in a good spot going into the final round. I played the first 17 holes great – other than some missed putts and off line throws – I was one of only 2 players in the entire field to birdie the 1200 foot par-5 12th hole, which felt amazing. Going into the final hole on the West, I was fired up. Not only was my logo and slogan “Let the wind guide you” featured as the hole sponsor, but it was also a hole that gave me an advantage over most of the field, since it requires a big tee shot, being a 600 foot par-4. I was feeling good going into the hole, not even knowing my score, but knowing that I was playing to my goal, and so when it was my turn to throw, I was feeling confident. When I released the disc, it had great height, but I could tell right away that I hadn’t put enough edge on the disc, and that it was going to stall out and fall out of bounds. As soon as I got the red flag from the spotter (my friend Chris in fact), I didn’t hesitate and declared that I was going to re-tee, feeling the embarrassment and the rage bubbling up from having such a poor tee shot on one of my favourite holes on the course. Unfortunately my re-tee fell to the same fate, landing within about 10 feet of my first throw, this time leading to frustration, embarrassment, and anger at myself for such a stupid decision. I should have chosen to take the OB stroke, gone to where my disc went out of bounds, and throw my 3rd throw from the top of the hole, giving myself a chance for a par, or at worst, a bogey 5. However, when I opted to re-tee, that meant I was throwing 3 off the tee, and after taking the OB stroke, it meant I was throwing 5 from the top of the hill, setting myself up for a double bogey 6, or possibly a triple bogey 7. My upshot was on line, but skidded past the basket and left me with a tricky putt for a 6. I still hadn’t calmed down from my mental error off the tee and not only did I miss my putt to save a 6, but I also missed my putt for a 7. I dropped the disc into the basket for a quadruple bogey 8. Standing on the 18th tee, I was sitting at -2 for the round. Coming off the 18th green, I finished the round at +2, losing 4 strokes to par on one of my favourite holes.
I’ll talk more about my reaction and the mental side in the Infinite Game, but competition wise, that dropped me even further down, putting myself about 5 strokes out of the cash position. Had I taken a par on 18, I would have moved up and given myself a great shot at top 10.
However, going into the third round on the East course, I now would have to shoot well above my rating for a hope at cashing, something that would be difficult given how I had played the first two rounds, and how I had handled pressure so far.
My goal for the third round was to play aggressive, but not dumb, and the round started off great. After 6 holes, I was sitting at -3, going into a stretch of some tough holes mixed with some very birdieable holes. I then went on a stretch of 5/6 holes with a bogey, which included missing the landing zone on hole #8 and missing the island on hole #12. I was able to finish pretty clean, closing out the round at +2.
As expected, I missed cash by 4 strokes, which hurt even more knowing that I gave away 4, maybe 5 strokes on hole #18 West the previous day. Overall through the 3 rounds, I averaged my rating which speaks to the amount of practice I’ve gotten this year and the performance it’s lead to. It was a tough tournament competition wise and definitely a ego hit. As I’ve learned, no one except me truly cares about how I played, so I’m very aware how hard I am on myself. It doesn’t hurt any less, but it helps put things into perspective.
Before I dig into the Infinite Game, I will say that overall, the weekend was a success. The friendships, both old and new, the lessons learned, the memories both during the tournament and outside, made this weekend truly one to remember.
Something I try to always keep in mind are what I did well and what I did poorly. I try to really focus on the big highlights because if I can have more of those moments, then they will lead to truly special performances and results in the long run.
Hole 8 East – Round 1
This is a tough hole, with a stroke & distance rule off the drive, meaning that if you land OB off the tee, then you must shoot from the drop zone (AM tee pad). This meant that most players would play safe off the tee, setting themselves up for an up shot to give them a birdie putt. However, if you go for the narrow fairway leading towards the green, you give yourself a chance at an eagle 2, and guaranteed strokes on the field. Since I had already bled a few strokes thanks in large part to some missed putts, I decided to go for it, and landed my drive well along the narrow tongue of the fairway, leaving myself with a jump putt for the 2. I came up just short, and gave myself a tap in 3 for the birdie. I’m not sure how many players went for it and made it, but I would guess that number was less than 5, possibly less than 3 total.
Hole 12 East – Round 1
When we got to the 12th hole, there was a bit of a backup, which caused the group behind us, the featured card being filmed by CentralCoastDiscGolf (CCDG) to catch up to us. My buddy Casey Hanemeyer, one of the top disc golfers in Canada, asked me if I was going to go for the island, and when I told him “Yup!” he grabbed my shoulders and pumped me up with excitement.
I had a perfect drive, with the disc flexing just right, ace running the basket, and just going a bit long. As first the spotter gave me the green flag, which caused everyone gathered around the tee to cheer and give me high fives. Not long after, he then gave us the “X” with the red & green flags crossed, which meant that he was unsure. When I got up to the green, unfortunately I had slid out of bounds by 1 inch – that close to having an amazing drive, and possibly the only 2 of the entire tournament on that hole.
Hole 12 West – Round 2
This is a monster hole – 1200 feet, and a par 5 with tight landing zones, thousands of trees, and OB about 40 feet behind the basket, which slopes downhill. I had never birdied this hole in a tournament but had hit the birdie in my practice round on Friday so I knew I could do it.
Just before we were to tee off, the wind picked up and was pretty swirly so I was contemplating throwing a big backhand turnover, but instead opted to trust myself and stick with the game plan – a sidearm off the tee to try and hit the landing zone. I caught the throw pure and ended up with my best drive I’ve ever had on the hole. That set me up for a big anhyzer on my second shot, and although I got it up a bit high, I still got it well over 500 feet, putting myself in a great position for a relatively open up shot for an eagle. I opted for a putter and it landed just past the basket, sliding to just inside the circle, about 28 feet away. I hit the putt dead center, and carded one of only 2 birdies in the entire MPO division!
Outside of those 3 major highlights, I had some great shots, some decent shots, some mediocre shots, and some awful shots. I was pretty happy with how I handled myself except for hole #18 west. After I dropped in the disc for an 8, I went back to the van and proceeded to slam my stool against the ground, letting all of my frustration, anger, embarrassment, and exhaustion out. I knew that it was a stupid decision driven mostly by my ego, but it took me a few days to get over that moment. In fact, it wasn’t until I was home and told my girlfriend about what happened that I broke down and sobbed in her arms. It’s been a tough 18 months since Covid shut down my school bookings, my competitions, and my travel plans. I finally let it all out and it felt incredible to not hold onto it anymore.
Outside of the competition, I had so much fun playing practice rounds with my buddies Elijah, Bogdan, Chad, and Joey, and playing the doubles event, which ran on the opposite course to our competition rounds, with my long time ultimate frisbee buddy Thomas. Although we didn’t win any cash, we had so much fun playing with Dave, Tyler, Julien, and Ryan. It was the perfect contrast to my competition rounds, and helped round out the weekend beautifully.
I also got some time with Julien Quenneville, who is currently touring Canada, and has some big plans for the future. I filmed an interview with him, so stay tuned for that to be posted!
A huge highlight was on the Sunday evening, when we had a big group of guys on the hole #18 west tee, and we were all throwing distance shots over the hill, where about 30 people had gathered to watch the sunset. We couldn’t see the flight so the only way we knew if it was good/bad was based on if they cheered/booed. That was so much fun and such a huge relief from the serious competition.
I got to meet some new players, catch up with some old friends, spend some time with my cousin & her husband, and soak in the tranquil nature that comes from being out of cell phone coverage, surrounded by hundreds of people who are all there because they love watching and making discs fly. It was a truly special weekend.
Karma Campervans Partnership
The final piece which really made the weekend special was that I had a campervan thanks to my partnership with Karma Campervans. Lots of professional disc golfers are on the road full time, in custom built campervans, so I was very aware that it’s become more popular, but it was my first time being up close and personal, let alone getting to spend the weekend sleeping and living in one.
I was pretty nervous leading up to picking up the van since I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was well prepared food wise, having pre-cooked all of my protein, packed enough food for ever single meal, stocked up at the grocery store on the way out of town. However, I wasn’t sure what the fridge would be like (which came included) and if I’d be able to use my coffee maker, or what the cooking capabilities were like.
I adapted pretty quickly, and aside from drinking coffee from one of the vans in our camping area, I had everything I needed.
It got pretty chilly at night, so I ran the heater until it got so hot that I had to shut it off. I didn’t have to worry about the van running out of power since the battery charged during the day through the solar panels on the roof, which also meant that I could charge my phone and not worry about running out of power during the day (phones are crucial for scorecards in tournaments).
The queen sized bed was super comfy, which made all the difference in the morning. To not worry about getting a rested sleep was huge, and made sure that I was refreshed and ready to start the day full of energy and without sore muscles from all the throwing during the previous day.
The van was bigger than I expected (22 feet long) but other than having to be careful when parking, the van didn’t move the entire time and became my place to escape from the heat, the wasps, and the non stop socializing. Having my own space is super important for my mental health, so I’m so very grateful to Karma for their support and look forward to more campervan adventures in the future!
All of this would not have been possible were it not for Rudy. I’ve known Rudy for 9 years and have had the honour to play golf as Aspen Meadows pretty much every year since we first met. They are truly two of the best courses I have ever played, and it takes a community to maintain the high quality that everyone is used to. There is no question that they are all there because of Rudy. It’s an honour to call him a friend and have the privilege to be a part of this incredible event every year.
Rudy, thank you for all you do and letting us all share the weekend with you.