Several years ago, Jerry Novak surprised many by predicting disc golf, a sport normally played in larger metropolitan areas with huge parks, would someday become a popular recreational offering in the Rim Country.
It appears that Novak was correct.
Since his prediction, two Rim Country Open tournaments have been held successfully and the third annual event is set for tomorrow, Saturday, June 20 at Rumsey Park.
Proof that disc golfers are a dedicated bunch surfaced in January of 2008, when 56 entrants — many of whom hailed from the White Mountains, Flagstaff, the Valley and Payson — braved windy, rainy, cold conditions to compete in the second annual Payson Open.
Following the event, town recreation leader Mary McMullen praised the players as a dedicated and friendly group, anxious to share their love of the sport with others.
At the time, a disc golf course was to be included in the parks and recreation’s master plan.
Novak said he hoped the course would be completed within two years.
Today, three permanent baskets have been set up near the south multipurpose field at Rumsey and 15 other portables will be brought in for tomorrow’s tournament.
Town officials tout the event as a way to learn the new and exciting sport in a festive atmosphere.
Late registration and check-in will begin at 8:30 a.m. at ramada 1. Fees range from $15 for the novice player to $40 for the open division.
Novak says early registration has been slow, but he expects 80 percent to 90 percent of the players to sign up on the morning of the tournament.
Novak and town officials tout Rumsey as a better location than Green Valley Park because there is less foot traffic at the midtown park, which means less interference with the players.
Unlike regular golf, most disc golf courses are located in public parks and are are free to play, although some courses require a small fee.
Ideal play areas combine open and wooded terrains, as well as a variety of flatlands and hills.
The strategy of the game is not much different than regular golf — card the lowest score possible.
“The object of the game is to play a course from beginning to end in the fewest number of throws of the disc,” Novak said.
Disc golf was formalized in the 1970s, according to the Professional Disc Golf Association’s Web site at www.pdga.com.
The sport has grown by leaps and bounds partly because it requires inexpensive discs, instead of costly clubs and balls.
The modern disc golf player targets his throw at a metal basket with chains hanging over it.
At the last Olympics, the sport was held as an exhibition.
“There is a petition being passed to make disc golf an official Olympic sport,” Novak said. “It is the fastest-growing sport in the country and four new courses have just gone up around the state.”
Some of the more popular of Arizona’s courses are located near Stoneman Lake in Flagstaff, Scottsdale’s Vista del Camino and at the El Conquistador in Tucson.
To pre-register for tomorrow’s Payson Open visit P&R offices at Green Valley Park or log on to www.paysonparks.com.