The Potter's Championship 2019 was the second year of an event played in Seagrove, NC. The event has captivated me for the past two years for a very significant reason, as well as it home to one of my more dubious disc golf distinctions. This year more intrigue was added to my own personal history with the event, all of which only solidifies me resolve to return next year and play it again.
The reason I signed up for the first event last year was simple - I wanted to win one of the trophies. Seagrove NC is world renowned for the pottery and artists that call the area home. The trophies for the event are handmade pieces ( this year beautiful wine chiller / utensil holders by local artist and Seagrove Mayor David Fernandez). In 2018 I was bound set and determined that my play was improving and that I would grab my first win and take one home. Honestly it was the first event that I was "pumped up" to win in my career - that's how badly I wanted to get my hands on one of those trophies.
Instead not only didn't I win, but it became one of my more dubious distinctions. The event in 2018 was home to my largest ever difference in two rounds finish, and so far it's a wider margin than any person I've asked. I shot 73 in the first round ( longs +18) and then 52 in the second ( shorts, -2) - a 20 stroke difference. ( If you have a larger than 20 point improvement in an event, drop it in the comments below.) I walked away feeling mad and stupid and disappointed- mad that I played so poorly in the morning, stupid because I was so preoccupied with winning a trophy that I let it influence me into pressing so hard - and disappointed because I really wanted one of those pottery pieces.
For this year, I had a plan. I had recently moved to MA40 - and for weeks the field was small - and judging by the PDGA pages of the few competitors I felt I had a real chance. Taking nothing for granted, I started mentally preparing to play "old man golf" and lecturing myself on smart shots, no chances and went so far as to ask someone not playing to caddy for me to keep me focused ( more later). I had thinned out my molds, brought only discs I trusted, and was bound and determined to take home one of these beautiful trophies on what would end up being my 50th PDGA tournament since I began playing events in 2017.
Friends - Part 1
The morning of the event was uneventful for travel. Slightly overcast and somewhere between just heavy air and a mist, the day felt like the perfect day for a disc golf tournament. I arrived just before 8:00 am and got busy setting up a "rallying point" for Team Fly Guy players and friends. I had just the day prior received two very professional and high quality event tents from Dynamic Discs. I set one up, put out chairs, arranged a cooler of cold water as well as water at ambient temps. It was a place we could be comfortable before the round and to spend lunch together as a team.
Signing in, I was the first or second person through the line. TD Drew Runnfeldt and staff had a great streamlined sign in table - with a prominent display of the 2019 Potter's Championship Trophies. I sent a picture to my wife - these are the trophies I want to win so badly. ( 50 events played and this is the only time I've ever done that.)
I returned to the Rally point just as Victoria and Geoffrey Griffiths arrived, followed closely by Chris Dimsdale, and Jacob Diaz. I had ran into Wade Benton at registration, along with his dad as well.
All mentioned were here to compete - except Geoffrey. He had accepted my request to be my mentor/caddy for the round. Having won some events this season and a better player than i am, I asked him to keep me focused, watch for flaws and in general help me not defeat myself.
I can't thank him enough, despite the eventual outcome. He could have played - in fact would have likely won his usual division - but he didn't. It meant a lot to me to have him by my side through the day.
I was also very happy to have Jacob around. The story with Jacob and Team Fly Guy is a funny one. When I initially had the application process, he applied - but I didn't see his application, overlooking it somehow. At the time it made me wonder and didn't hurt my feelings or anything, but I had expected to see him apply and when I thought he didn't it made me a bit sad. Later after the team was announced I asked him why he didn't apply, and he told me he had, and it was apparent that he may have felt slighted when I didn't select him. We had a bit if a laugh, and I told him I'd "add him next go around" - really planning to do it at that time - but the joke became a good one and, well, I didn't.
You know how in basketball the fans are referred to as " the sixth man"? For Team Fly Guy, in 2019, that distinction goes solidly to Jacob. Every event I've seen him at - he's wearing Fly Guy shirts. He's constantly supportive and been a great sport about it. I admit with the back and forth I've really enjoyed it and at one point selfishly thought that adding him to the team would take that interaction away. But what was fun before opened my eyes to what I needed to do - and with that I'd like to welcome Jacob to Team Fly Guy.
3 Disc Golf Shops, 3 Teams
One thing that really impressed me at the event was how the teams for the three predominate disc golf shops are shaping up in the local disc golf community. When I started playing, Todd Hodge and Discover Disc Golf were the only shop I knew. (Matter of fact when I first saw Todd's setup in 2017, I spent time with him getting to know him and eventually asking him to be the store for my event; he did so in both 2017 and 2018.) I later heard of Another Round Disc Golf in Charlotte NC, though I don't get that far west often; this year it was acquired by Kyle Deck.
I've said before and I believe it -disc golf sets a large table, and there is room for everyone to eat. I like that there are multiple shops - I like that disc golfers and TDs as customers have options and variety. A monopoly on product or service serves only the owner of the monopoly - a healthy competitive atmosphere, when served with respect and professionalism benefits everyone.
We have that. I got hugs from both guys. We talk shop, we ask each other about the business. We're learning, growing.
What I like most of all is all three shops are fielding teams among players. We may offer different benefits or programs - but in the end, I see that it is the shop returning respect to players and making the game and events stronger wit support. And to see all three groups well represented in the event and during awards was really cool.
I'd love to see an organic healthy competition between the three teams grow. I have a few ideas and will soon try to get Kyle and Todd to a table about future promotion and maybe even a team event.
Mentioned before, this was my 50th event. I did something I have never done in the previous events, carding a birdie on the first hole of both rounds. This year the format was flipped from last year and we played shorts first, then longs. Round one I played a solid (for me) round against a much stronger field than I anticipated. (I arrived thinking there would be 4 in our division, and the rating differential less than 75 points. Changes and adds since I last looked at registration found me the lowest rated player of 9, with a differential of 124.)
Round one I ended up 56 (+2). I honestly should have carded a 52. I can think of 4 solid strokes that were avoidable yet taken either out of haste or poor execution. But all in all, I was happy. I had kept within 10 strokes of eventual winner Eric Clayton (rated 949 to my 824) - actually dead even though the first 4 holes until I had an unfortunate experience on T18 . I took only on OB penalty this round, due to forcing s hot when I had a much simpler option. Lesson learned. Geoffrey really helped me in this round, a few times offering line advice and disc selection and I learned a bit of how he looks at a hole.
Round two was in the longs - again I played "good for me" - but starting 8th in the 9-man field, I was playing this round for pride. I had the same starting hole, and through 11 holes was on pace with the same finish (despite an OB into water on a weird tree hit), despite the longer baskets - but then slipped a bit. I took an OB in a parking lot, and then duffed a putt. Picked up a birdie, played a hole par - and only had 2 holes to go. My 17th hole featured a Mando - which I cleared - but ended up in a jungle of briers and bushes. Miraculously I was able to get out and within 12 feet of the basket. I lined up my putt, gave it a confident strong throw at the middle pole - which it sailed over by 2 feet, leaving we with a comeback putt that I basket hit, dropping in for a 5. By the end of the round I carded a 61 (+5), to end the event +7 on the day, in 8th place of 9.
I am happy with my day. My bag of Dynamic Discs and Westside Swords served me well, and I played 2 rounds above my rating - continuing my streak now to 7 rounds in a row of improvement versus that metric.
I played a much stronger field of competitors than I am used to, and held my own, albeit at the bottom of the spectrum.
I compared my final to that of the MA3 field - and would have tied for 5th and received payout. I'm fine that I didn't. I think that what I proved to myself means more than getting a disc or two would have.
It was, for my 50th event, a damned good day.
Friends, Part 2
After the event, I went to the water hole and retrieved a few discs I could see with my DD Golden Retriever. Returning them to their owners, I then went to the truck and put up the tent and chairs and my bag. I sat there for a few minutes and honestly probed into my feelings about the day. I was good with it. Grabbing a soda from my cooler, I went to awards and enjoyed hearing the names called. It was well done. When the ceremony settled and most folks left, I stayed and talked more with Todd, Payne and Chris with Discover Disc Golf, event trying (jokingly) to sell folks some of their discs for "half price - cash only", haha. Offered to help them load up, and then I went to my truck to leave.
I texted my wife I didn't win one of the trophies - that I'd try it again next year. Then I started up the truck and left.
I got maybe 10 miles down the road when I realized my passenger seat (always a mess) didn't look right. Why was the seat belt buckled? Rummaging around under a shirt - I found one of the trophies- Victoria's - in my seat.
She knew I had wanted one - and she gave hers to me.
I can’t tell you how that felt. I'm always trying to make my team's experience better, to find ways to provide things, support, friendship - and I don't do it with any personal expectation of return. To selflessly give me her trophy, and Geoffrey who selflessly gave up a chance to play to coach me - well - I think, in the end, it is coming from friends, it meant even more to me.
So, I'm keeping it - not as a trophy for an event I didn't win - but as a memento from friends who made my 50th event special- and as a personal reminder to keep doing what I am doing, to keep pushing, to keep growing.
Thank you to everyone associated with the event. I had a wonderful time.