Among the more than 60 disc golf enthusiasts slated to participate in the fifth annual Rim Country Open tomorrow, July 23 and July 24, are two Payson players, but then another longtime local entrant is conspicuous by his absence.
Chris Lombardo is entered in the advanced division and David Marinelli has registered for the Open category. Both played in last year’s Open.
Not entered for 2011 is Jerry Novack, who five years ago teamed with then-parks and recreation leader Mary McMullen to bring disc golf to the Rim Country. Novack has also been a leader in the effort to build an 18-hole disc golf course at Rumsey Park.
Because McMullen no longer works with parks and recreation and Novack is not involved in this year’s event, Town Trails and Outdoor Recreation leader Tasha McIntire is shouldering hosting duties.
In January, McIntire was hired on to replace McMullen, the town’s first trails and outdoor recreation employee.
In preparing for the upcoming tournament, McIntire sought advice from the sport’s experts.
“She has been working with the Arizona Disc Golf Club,” said town recreation leader Mary Wolf.
ADGC is affiliated with the Professional Disc Golf Association and hosts the Arizona Cactus Series events, which the Rim Country Open is a circuit stop.
The Open tees off tomorrow with the first round at 9 a.m. A second round will be played after lunch at a yet to be decided time. On Sunday, the third round beings at 9 a.m. and the final nine holes will be played in the afternoon hours.
An awards ceremony will follow tournament play.
For the event, players compete in classes including Open, Open Women, Masters, Advanced, Advanced Women, Advanced Master, Intermediate, Recreational and Junior Boys (under 16 years).
Registration fees run from $25 to $60.
The tournament will be played at Rumsey Park on the three permanent holes located just west of the south multipurpose field, six new holes near the Kiwanis baseball fields and nine temporary holes will be set up near the Rumsey Park ramadas.
For the tournament, players from around Arizona — including Lakeside, Scottsdale, Cottonwood, Chandler, Mesa, Pinetop, Kingman, Holbrook and Glendale — have pre-registered.
There are also entrants from San Diego, Calif. and Haltom City, Texas.
While many associate disc golf as a sport played in large parks in big cities, it has actually become quite popular in the Rim Country as evidenced by the past success of the tournaments that drew to Payson players of all ages and abilities.
In January of 2008, disc golfers left little doubt they are a dedicated bunch 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 Rim Country Open.
Following the event, McMullen — then the tournament director — praised the players as a dedicated and friendly group, anxious to share their love of the sport with others.
The success of the first two tournaments prompted officials to include a disc golf course in the parks and recreation’s master plan.
Building that course, however, has not come to fruition, mostly due to budget constraints.
Choosing Rumsey over GVP
Town officials have touted Rumsey as a better location than Green Valley Park for disc golf 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 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 sport was formalized in the 1970s and since its inception has grown by leaps and bounds partly because it requires inexpensive discs, instead of costly clubs and balls.
The strategy of the game, however, is not much different than regular golf — card the lowest score possible.
Over 18 holes, players target their throws at a metal basket with chains hanging over it.
Today, followers claim it is one of the fastest-growing sports in Arizona as evidenced by four new courses that 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.
The sport is not only growing in Arizona, but also around the world. At the last Olympics, it was held as an exhibition and today petitions are being circulated to make it an official Olympic sport.
For more information on the Rim Country Open, call tournament director Jeff Harris at (623) 252-1297.