Article By Kingsley Flett
Photos Courtesy of madhousephotography.com.au
I’m sure those looking across the line of scrimmage in college football wouldn’t have thought of him as friendly, but one can’t spend time in the company of Jay Reading and not think of him as a big amiable bear. In the 2011 Australian Disc Golf Championships, held near Hobart, Tasmania this week, the enduring sight for most locals will be of Reading walking down the steep hole 15 fairway, looking like a giant, surrounded by a small tribe of kids. Talking and laughing with them all the way. This wasn’t a coaching clinic, it was the second of a nine hole playoff in Australia’s major tournament; yet Reading still had the time to do what he and wife Desiree had been doing all week, spreading the love for our game.
Reading had started the weekend brightly, throwing a course record 47. His renowned putting turning half chances into birdies as he opened a one throw lead on Finland’s Juho Rantalaiho, with compatriot Jussi Meresma three throws back and British legend Derek Robbins five throws off the pace with a 52.
Situated on steep slopes high above a bend in the Derwent River; the Poimena course experiences radical changes in weather most of the year; each time changing its personality. So visitors don’t need to prepare for one course, they need to prepare for several as the wind that swirls around the mountain can have you lofting your turnover driver in the morning, then banging one of your super stable flying bricks into the headwind on the same hole later that day.
Nevertheless, as the forecast showed rain for the weekend one consistent prediction was made – you won’t need an umbrella for Poimena. If it rains, the rain is coming in sideways anyway so there’s no point. But the course that defies prediction did just that – a steady, consistent, almost tropical rain came down for the rest of the afternoon, soaking socks, shoes bags, discs and tee-pads. The people with umbrellas looked a little smug.
Reading continued his good form in the afternoon, taking another 4 throws off Rantalaiho but only one off Meresma, who moved into second place at the end of the day. The top four was already set with Robbins five throws back and the best of the locals, Josh Smith, an Australian based New Zealander, more than ten throws off the lead.
The rain bearing depression continued to do its work overnight but thankfully had blown itself out by Sunday morning; and day 2 was played in mostly fine weather. Big Jay had a few drives go astray and watched his 4 throw lead evaporate as Jusi and Juho (or ‘Juicy and Slow-Ho’ as the locals tagged them – the Slow-Ho tag coming from Rantalaiho’s effort in the previous evenings pie eating competition) made their charge. Their matching 50’s moved them to level with Reading and one throw back respectively.
So with one throw separating the first three for the open final; to be played on a modified ‘safari’ nine holes; we were set for high drama. It wasn’t Jussi or Juho’s fault – it’s just that every second Hollywood villain speaks with a European accent; and in choosing between the neatly dressed, cool, methodical Europeans and Jay Reading, most of the locals opted to barrack* for the big friendly giant (*’Rooting’ means something completely different in Australia).
Meresma dropped two throws back early in the final. One from having a drive flip into the bush and wedge itself into a very tricky lie. Playing back up the hill with two extra-long holes did create some controversy as it was seen to play into the hands of the two longer armed Finn’s. On the first of these the top three all scored a five. The second of the long holes proved decisive as Meresma threw a brilliant drive off the tee and followed it up with a parked fairway drive to gain another stroke off Reading. Rantalaiho threw out of bounds on the same hole, taking himself out of contention. Then on the final hole, Readings fabled putting finally let him down when his 12m putt for victory floated high and to the right, allowing Meresma to pull level and after 63 regular holes – we had a sudden death playoff.
The first playoff hole failed to separate the two but then finally, right in front of the temporary clubhouse and with the most people watching, the decisive moment came. Throwing across a ‘road that is a river’, Reading slid his drive slightly to the left and the crowd groaned as the disc caught a high branch and rolled out of bounds onto the tarmac. Meresma’s drive landed on the fairway and he played safe from then on, laying up short and putting to victory.
The normally stoic Finn cracked his first smile for the weekend.
"It was a good victory for me because when I fell two throws back early in the final I had to fight hard to get back in contention. It was pleasing to throw two birdies and pull back under this sort of pressure" he said.
In the other divisions, Des Reading easily won the ladies from local champ Emilie Cameron. New Zealand legend Bob Gentil took out the masters while Bruce McNaughton took the grand masters. Greg Bowers won the amateur division.
Meresma, Reading and Derek Robbins all echoed the comments made by Nate Doss and Valerie Jenkins when they visited Tasmania last year – that Poimena stands among the best courses in the world. The tight finish and big gallery combined with the sweeping views in all direction and lovely bushland setting to make this a tournament that all who attended will remember for a long time.
For more information about the Australian Disc Golf Championships please visit adgc.com.au.