Some Tournament Lessons from an AM-2er

The group photo from Devens Fool on the Hill Tournament

This weekend was the Fools on the Hill tournament at Devens Disc Golf Course in Ayer, MA. I played in the AM-2 division, so don’t expect to be blown away with high-octane pointers and lessons. However, it seemed like a perfect chance to run through a few key moments, both good and bad that really stuck out to me this weekend.

First, starting with the positive- practice. I went out and actually played the course twice the month before the tournament by myself, making sure to take mental notes along the way. I didn’t necessarily spend all day out there throwing multiple shots, but it was a nice way to build confidence. Amateur players are often amateurs because they don’t take the game as serious as the pros. On my walk out to the starting hole, I chatted with and got to know another player on my card- he had never played the course before. Advantage: me. I had also spent a couple hours throwing very basic shots on my home course the night before and built up some confidence. Smooth Leopards and straight Wizards with very little power. On tournament day I ended up throwing drives off the tee with my Leopards that felt like I was channeling Barry Schultz. At the end of the day, I threw a personal best 59 (for this course) in the first round- which put me in second place and on the lead card for the second round. I wound up falling to 5th place in the afternoon- which brings me to some of the harder lessons I learned.

Actually the first tough lesson was on the first hole of the first round: jitters. I threw a great drive and gave myself a birdie putt from about 20-25 feet. I was totally out of sorts with nerves and missed it by a mile. I could feel the butterflies and knew stepping up that it was not going to just drop in easy. There’s no sure way to get rid of the jitters, because anyone can get nervous. However, looking back I wish I had used the time before the 2-minute-warning for practice putting. Even if I was throwing 10 footers, it would have helped me feel comfortable around the same basket I was about to drive to. The rules allow for you to practice up until the 2 minute warning, so you may as well take advantage. Before this weekend I had never given it a second thought, but from now on I will consider it a lesson learned.

Hindsight is 20/20- so it’s easy to look back and say “I should have done this and I shouldn’t have done that.” The hard part is stepping back and analyzing what you realistically had control over and how it went wrong. The most accessible yet hardest thing to change is your attitude. I can remember as a kid my dad would tell me, “Change your attitude!” …and it never worked. I would only get madder and more angry. As you’re playing disc golf, it’s important to remember you can’t throw all perfect shots- and feeding into any sort of downward spiral is only going to make things worse. Imagine another player coming up to you after a bad shot saying “Wow, that really sucked- you jerk.” It sounds dumb, but that’s mellow compared to the things we tell ourselves after bad shots. I’m convinced this is a skill you have to practice, and it isn’t easy for all of us. This weekend at Devens, I kept things low key and tried to relax, but I still wound up riding the birdie/bogey roller coaster in the second round. If I could play the round over again, keeping all the same drives off the tee- I’m convinced I could shave off some strokes just by telling myself my round was going fine, don’t worry. I threw three “5’s” in the second round, one of which was on a hole under 300 feet. The other two were on long difficult holes that had a lengthy back up.

This brings me to the next point- long back ups. I hate them. I always complain about them, which helps no one. But worse than that I tend to sit down and wait. We don’t have a choice but to wait, but in retrospect I wish I had stood up at least once between each throw and kept loose. Throwing a full power drive on a difficult hole will most likely be tricky if you’re not warmed up properly.

Lastly, a simple lesson in math. I mentioned it briefly already, but I had three holes of “5” in the afternoon round. 5’s are brutal, and are much harder to make up strokes for. At Devens, there can be super long roll-away’s, and 5’s are, at times, unavoidable. My particular 5’s were not due to roll away’s, rather they were due to playing sloppy on long downhill fairways. The shots required were meant to be strong, straight, and downhill. I threw errant drives with very little purpose. I doubt I could guarantee much improvement on these holes without more practice, but I could definitely have thrown a 4 if I had played it safe. On hole number 3, I actually threw a 5 in both rounds. That’s two strokes I basically donated to the course because I refused to lay up.

There we have it- another tournament played and another few lessons learned. The good news is I’m already past the point of learning thing like “Eat well the night before,” “Stay hydrated,” and “Don’t spaz out over nothing.”

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