For those of us with a decent internet connection, and a healthy obsession with the professional disc golf tour, this past four day span was a rare chance to see live tournament coverage. The Memorial kicked off the 2012 season in Arizona at a pair of wide open Phoenix area courses (Vista del Camino and Fountain Hills). Without huge corporate sponsors, and with the advancement in web based technology, this is the logical alternative to trying to buy television time on any network. Of course the quality of footage and production were below what one might expect for a sporting event, but one needs to temper their expectations when it comes to an event being run by mostly unpaid volunteers. The sentiment for most folks watching last week was just being happy to get the chance to watch live disc golf- no matter the presentation.
The story of the weekend was the high quality of play from the top players. Paul McBeth pretty much dominated the competition, a lot like last year’s tournament. He didn’t “run away” with it, but he played confident, and had the lead for the majority of the weekend regardless of which course. I was impressed with the high ratings of the weekend (a few over 1100), but to me this didn’t mean much more than a general increased accuracy at greater distances; this has been happening for the past 20 years. The courses in Arizona are very open, and are ripe for the picking for players with good distance. They aren’t easy necessarily, but when a player (Feldberg) is able to birdie all but two holes- the course isn’t exactly putting up a fight either. On the third day, the winds picked up and made things more difficult; causing a lot of OB’s and some sloppy play. This was the pivotal example of what was happening at the Memorial; as the two best rounds put up on this windy day were from Ken Climo and Avery Jenkins. These are two veteran players with very different styles, yet they managed to put up impressive scores and gain a lot of ground on the rest of the group. To me, this showed the weakness in the games of the younger players. Of course the young guys (McBeth, Shusterick, Locastro, etc…) didn’t wilt and play terrible- they are talented, and they held on. However, their third day’s scores did show a slight down-turn.
On a side note, I found some humor in the chat box below the video screen on the DiscGolfPlanet website. Human nature always rears it’s ugly head when we’re given anonymity, right? Many of them were kids, but I still had to chuckle at the useless banter put in there. I won’t waste my time in repeating any of it, but they ended up having to moderate it at one point because it was just out of control. Which for some reason, despite the vulgarity and hate, still made me laugh.
Another semi-small lo-light of the weekend was when the commentator, David Greenwell, caught up with the last two holes of the Men’s Master’s division. He insisted on asking everyone on the lead card what the score was, despite getting the cold shoulder from most of the players (they didn’t want to know the score, for the sake of their mental game). Once he learned who was leading in that group, the cameras followed them as they finished up on hole 18. Unfortunately as they finished up, it was assumed that the lead-card’s leader was the winner. An interview followed their finish, and Tony Shirley was given a chance to thank his family and even get a tad emotional for the camera. …unfortunately Phil Arthur absolutely crushed his final round on the second card (a 1084 rated 45!) and had actually won the Master’s division by six strokes. Greenwell later apologized, and Tony took it quite well. It was probably a good thing that it happened to the Master’s division because they tend to be a bit more level headed at the end of the day. In all reality, it was an honest mistake, and it was only made because any live broadcast production is so frantic. You can’t give Greenwell more than half the blame, since it’s literally his job to verbally “present” what we’re all seeing on camera. There should have been someone in his ear giving better direction. It’s no big deal in the end, but I thought it was worth a mention- as I literally cringed when I had realized what had occurred.
Why can’t every National Tour event have a live broadcast? It’s wishful thinking right now, but video coverage of these tournaments is always in demand. The Memorial has been broadcast the last few years, and the Vibram Open in Massachusetts is another example of a live broadcast disc golf event. These are two very huge tournaments though, even compared to other NT events. So as things grow, and the money put into these events grows, we’ll likely see an increase in live-streamed broadcasts. Until then, all we can do is wait- it was a good four days though!
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