2011 CAC Preview
Charlotte Am Championship Nears
by Todd Harrell
Charlotte breeds amateur champions. And, after two days of gripping disc golf action at the Charlotte Amateur Championship, June 25-26, even more top amateurs will be revealed.
With registration already at 193 competitors by Friday morning -- 31 more than last year's inaugural event -- the A-Tier tournament has quickly caught on with amateurs serious about testing their game. Before the sign-up deadline (June 20 before 7 p.m.), tournament officials expect the attendance to exceed 200.
The next PDGA Amateur World Champion might be among them.
In recent years, competitors from North Carolina and in particularly Charlotte - have had their fair share of success at amateur disc golfer's biggest stage. Charlotte resident Jeremy Koling, now a touring pro, won the PDGA Amateur World Championship in 2008. The following year Matt Keatts, also of Charlotte, won it. Then in 2010, David Wiggins Jr., who lives two hours north of Charlotte, took home the biggest amateur disc golf title.
See a pattern emerging?
Charlotte Amateur Championship tournament director Paul Bergey does. Bergey, who also coordinates the USDGC staff, believes there's a definite link between the Charlotte courses and top flight players.
“The courses really challenge the amateurs. And, the courses are the reason why we have so many amateur world champions,” said Bergey.
After August the Charlotte metro will have 13 courses. With so much variety every shot imaginable is tested.
All of the courses featured at the CAC including Nevin, Eastway, and the fabled Renaissance and Hornet's Nest courses will also be on the roster for the 2012 Pro/Am World Championships in Charlotte.
Four tough courses in two days will be a challenge, but, as always there will be plenty of competitors able to navigate the fairways. Those expected to do well include David Gebhardt, who won the advanced masters division at the Bowling Green Amateur Championships; Carolina Clash advanced winner Paul Priest; and Nevin Park course co-designer Mark Huether.
Last year, David Wiggins Jr., of High Point, N.C., was on top of the amateur disc golf world. Not only did he win the Charlotte Amateur Championship by 13 strokes, but he also brought home wins from the Amateur World Championships, The United States Amateur Disc Golf Championships, and The Bowling Green Amateur Championships. Call it the Wiggins Slam.
With all of those major accolades, Wiggins said the CAC win was still a memorable one.
“It was right up there with them. The competition was good. The field was good. The courses were right up there with the rest of them,” said Wiggins.
Although Wiggins only comes down to Charlotte for tournaments, he has still developed an appreciation for the Queen City's courses. He said Charlotte is one of the best places to practice your game because of the course diversity and their close proximity.
“It's amazing how many people are moving there,” he added.
Bergey and the Charlotte Disc Golf Club created the CAC after seeing a void in large annual amateur events in the area.
“We wanted to promote more of the grassroots portion of disc golf,” said Bergey.
Bergey said registration has run smoother this year with Disc Golf United's online registration system. New features make it easier to manage player information and link-up to the PDGA. Plus, he's able to use email blasts to send out messages to the entire field.
He's also pleased with the amount of fund raising his team was able to pull off. The local Play It Again Sports is donating more than 250 new discs.
Bergey said it was a challenge to manage several courses at once, but he called last year's effort a success.
“The biggest thing is communication with the players. Letting them know where they need to be and make sure they have a good time,” said Bergey.
By the end of June there will be lots of disc golfers in Charlotte parks. The Charlotte Disc Golf Club hopes there will be even more in coming years. Who knows, maybe in a few years the CAC field will rival Bowling Green's – Charlotte definitely has the resources to cover it, says Bergey.
Photo: Mark Huether taken by Austin Eason