Champions of College Disc Golf Crowned
On the final day of the 2015 National Collegiate Disc Golf Championship, a PDGA Major, there was an air of excitement as the teams strode out on to the courses at the Hippodrome Disc Golf Complex. Saturday would be a day that carried with it unmeasurable amounts of emotion; the sensation of playing for something larger than one’s self is often inspiring and humbling. The teams at the top and in contention for the title would need to channel the utmost focus, drive and determination in order to see it through. And, just as they had the day before, each Final came down to the wire.
In the Women’s Team National Championship division, the Lady Otters of California State University-Monterey Bay (CSUMB) went into the finals with a seven stroke lead over Oregon University. Oregon would not let this slip away so easy, however, and after just a few holes, the gap had been narrowed significantly. These two teams had been battling all week and although they were both playing well, everyone knew that one little mistake could cause the crown to slip through their fingers.
As both teams approached the last hole, CSUMB held a one stroke lead, meaning Oregon would have to land their drive safely on the island in order to have any chance of winning. Neither team was able to do so, however, and after the Lady Ducks of Oregon missed their putt from the drop zone all CSUMB had to do was lay up for the overall Women’s Team National Championship.
After tapping in their final putt and while wearing the smiles that only Champions could sport, a roar erupted from the gallery of followers, mostly populated by the hordes of teammates that Team Captain Merle Witvoet #5175 brought out to North Augusta for the Collegiate experience. CSUMB had 4 teams in all; one in each division of the competition. The only other team to do that was Ferris State of Michigan.
In the Men’s Team National Championship division, Ferris State entered the final round just two shots back of the local favorite, Georgia Regents University-Augusta. University of Nevada-Reno was just one shot out, and the not-so-distant Wolfpack team of North Carolina State was in fourth. The finals promised to bring another exciting finish to the table, but no one expected what came next.
Ferris State went on a tear to start, birdieing four out of their first five holes while the Jaguars of GRU got out of the gates slow, carding pars. This erased the gap and put Ferris State in the lead, playing from the second group. With the giant Masters-like scoreboard just off the last green telling the story for the spectators, they played with confidence and smarts.
This team golf format puts an emphasis on making the right decisions for your team. Players need to know when to lay up and when to go for it, and Ferris State seemed to be making all the right moves. They cruised into the clubhouse with a smoking hot 35, eight under par on the 13 hole Finals layout to make them the new leaders.
GRU and Nevada-Reno were just three holes back, battling to make birdies and match the clubhouse leaders as they patiently waited alongside the last green. Standing on the last tee, Reno needed a birdie to tie Ferris.
The last hole provides plenty of drama. It’s an island green backed by a large pond, meaning if you land in the island but short, you will be faced with a death putt staring directly into the water backdrop. That is exactly what happened to Reno, and recently crowned Men’s Individual National Champion, James Proctor #34250, knew exactly what he had to do. He took a look over at the scoreboard, and seeing that Ferris was still one shot clear, he knew he had to make the tricky 33-footer if his team would have any chance of winning the title.
Proctor took one deep breath, wiped his brow, and then tossed his putter dead into the middle of the chains. As his team was celebrating the tie, Tournament Director Alan Kane #35901 was announcing to the spectators the first ever sudden death playoff at the NCDGC would start in 10 minutes.
As mentioned prior, Ferris State had 4 teams playing in the entire competition, and all those who were not a part of the playoff followed their team with flags and banners, singing school songs every time a putt flew in the basket. Nevada-Reno may not have had the same type of following, but there was still a strong contingency in the crowd.
After trading blows for the first few holes, the teams would step up to the very difficult hole known as “Treasure Island”. Another island green, this time with a pond in front, and neither team was able to find the green with their tee shots. This would mean a putt-off from the drop zone. 35 feet stood between these men and their final target.
Ferris State missed both of their putts, giving Nevada-Reno a chance to win the title. One of the two teammates set to putt was Proctor, who had been canning putts all week. As he let go of his throw, it gently grazed the front of the tray, lifted up into the chains only to fall back out of the basket and into the water. An inch short! The teams were both forced to take a bogey and move on to their fourth playoff hole.
The “Bull Pen” is a hole that literally has a bull pen around the green, protecting it from all sides. Land in the pen and it is almost a guaranteed birdie. Come up on the outside, and the team would have to make a lofted putt up and over, which was never easy and only exasperated by wind and adrenaline.
Ferris was on the tee first, and a spike hyzer up and over the heads of those in the gallery came down to tombstone in the soft ground just two feet from the basket. Knowing exactly what they had to do, Reno had one drive come up short, and the other wide right and long, leaving them with a 42-footer from outside of the pen to push it to another hole.
After both putts failed to find the chains, the immense following of the Ferris State Bulldogs erupted in applause as they watched their team tap in the short birdie for the win.
We would also like to congratulate our winners of the First Flight division, another team from Ferris State that won by a shocking 25 throws! In the Second Flight division…guess who? Ferris State would win there also, this time by 24 throws. If this tells us anything, it is that Ferris will be a force to be reckoned with in this event for years to come. They almost came through with a clean sweep in 2015, and as they walked toward the parking lot, team captain Bryan Murphy #57183 turned and said, “…there will be more of us next year!”
For most, the NCDGC has become defined by friendship. This College Disc Golf tournament is only half of the reason most teams travel to North Augusta each year. It is so neat to see these kids walk away with new friendships that will last a lifetime. One of the best parts about this sport is the people that play it, and that is clearly magnified at this event. From check-in to the Award Ceremony, smiles were the attire of choice for the competitors, playing the game the way it is meant to be played; fair and fun.
Congratulations to our 2015 winners of the National Collegiate Disc Golf Championship; the Lady Otters of CSUMB and the Bulldogs of Ferris State! Big thanks and safe travels to all of our competitors as they make their way back home. As this event is constantly changing to appease the massive number of schools that show interest in attending every year, we can hardly wait to come back in 2016 for the next NCDGC. Links to all the different division results can be found below and high-res photos from the entire event can be found on the PDGA Flickr page.
- Men's Team National Championship
- Women's Team National Championship
- Men's Individual National Championship
- Women's Individual National Championship
- First Flight – Team
- First Flight – Individual
- Second Flight – Team
- Second Flight – Individual
Last but not least, we wanted to give a quick congratulations as well to all the players with aces at this year’s competition.
|John Baker||54600||GRU||Old Glory||6||1|
|Reid Frescura||48338||Western Michigan||Old Glory||6||3|
|Matt Beattie||57655||Oregon||Old Glory||11||3|
|Thomas Palank||58424||West Virginia||Hogback||13||4|
|Kevin Barnes||58296||Arkansas||Old Glory||6||6|
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