Main Menu

Glass Blown Open Shatters Attendance Records


A packed house at the William L. White Auditorium made for a memorable GBO opening ceremony. Photo: The Flight Record

When Eric McCabe and Gabe Werly took the reins of the Emporia Open in 2003 and turned it into the Glass Blown Open, they did so with high ambitions. Fifteen years later, though, it’s safe to say the tournament’s growth has exceeded anything they could have dreamed up.

“We had the vision of bringing more people to town and really enjoying our community, but we never in a million years would have thought, ‘Hey, one day we’re gonna have 1,600 disc golfers coming to town and playing on 10 different courses,’” McCabe said. “That’s just mind-blowing to me.”

Those numbers have also blown away any records for participation in a PDGA event, making this year’s Dynamic Discs Glass Blown Open – a combined National Tour and A-Tier running Thursday through Saturday in Kansas – the largest disc golf tournament in history.

PDGA Disc Golf Event Attendance Records 1079 2017 1120 2016

Year Tournament Location Players
2018 Dynamic Discs Glass Blown Open Emporia, KS 1,602
2016 Dynamic Discs Glass Blown Open Emporia, KS 1,120
2012 PDGA Professional & Amateur Disc Golf World Championships Charlotte, NC 1,095
2017 Dynamic Discs Glass Blown Open Emporia, KS 1,079
2009 PDGA Professional & Amateur Disc Golf World Championships Kansas City, MO 922
2017 Ledgestone Insurance Open presented by Discraft Peoria, IL 914
2016 Ledgestone Insurance Open presented by Discraft Peoria, IL 898
2017 The Amateur Championship at Bowling Green Bowling Green, KY 839
2016 The Amateur Championship at Bowling Green Bowling Green, KY 830
2015 The Amateur Championship at Bowling Green Bowling Green, KY 755

Putting on that kind of show requires a year of planning and a 20-person team of course directors, Tournament Director Doug Bjerkaas said. And that doesn’t even begin to account for the 50 Dynamic Discs employees, plus an endless stream of volunteers, that help increase Emporia’s population for the week by 10 percent.

“I call it a perfect storm,” Bjerkaas said. “You’ve got a community that is the perfect size in that it has the infrastructure and the services and resources to support 2,000 people coming to town to spectate or play or volunteer, but it’s small enough to where that 2,000 people makes a huge economic impact.

“Denver would hardly notice,” Bjerkaas continued. “In Emporia, you notice.”

If all goes according to plan, that will be the only storm the tournament endures this weekend. Hampered in recent memory by unpredictable Midwestern weather – the 2016 GBO was a blustery, rain-soaked affair, while the final round of the 2017 iteration was canceled when thunder and lightning inundated the area – Bjerkaas said tournament organizers are well-prepared to finish the event under new PDGA guidelines for handling inclement conditions. But he also knows that the event is overdue for some sunshine, which appears to be in store for most of the weekend.

“I’m thinking that if we have major rain issues this year I’m gonna take it that it’s like Jonah jumping out of the boat [in the Bible] and I’m gonna find something else to do,” Bjerkaas joked. “And the last thing I wanna do is jump out of that boat.”

Why would he? The GBO continues to cement its status as one of North America’s premier events. In addition to the competition, which will find Open players tackling the Emporia Country Club for three rounds and the Open Women taking on a new course each day, the tournament boasts a bonfire, a block party, and a host of other activities that turns it into a truly unique experience. Admittedly, it’s one that finds the hosts running ragged, but they don’t seem to mind the sacrifice. Just a few days before executing on all of the goals he has set over the last year, Bjerkaas had no problem laughing at just how little sleep he’d get each night.

“Probably about my average score per golf hole, which is four,” he said. “If I were a better golfer maybe I could do it all on two…However, next Saturday night, next Sunday night, and next Monday I will sleep a whole lot longer than that.”

It’ll be a well-deserved slumber, to be followed in short order by more planning. After all, the 2019 GBO will be on the way, and McCabe alluded to it possibly surpassing its newly established attendance record.

“Things like that are just really amazing to us,” McCabe said. “It’s hard to even imagine not just what it’s at now, but what it could evolve to in the future.”

Dynamic Discs Glass Blown Open | PDGA National Tour

Dates

  • Thursday, April 26 – Saturday, April 28
  • One round per day

Location

  • Emporia, Kansas

Tee times and scoring

Media coverage

Courses

Emporia Country Club (Open, all rounds): Par 63, 10,317 feet

The crown jewel of Emporia disc golf, the Country Club has undergone some significant cosmetic changes for this year's GBO. It's gotten longer by 431 feet, and hole 1 is now a 1,135-foot behemoth that runs alongside W 18th St. (where hole 6 used to tee) instead of from the clubhouse's back patio. For course designer McCabe, the tweaks were part of making it feel, to him, like a true championship-caliber venue: "It makes you kinda think about every shot as opposed to you can kinda get lazy out there and still score well."

Even among the changes, though, the course still kept its personality. With two island greens and two par 4s in the last four holes -- including the signature hole 16, which McCabe said will feature borders on the green to limit skips into the water and entice more players to run it -- a hair-raising finish is always in play.

"You can see some changes [on the leaderboard] down the stretch," McCabe said. "And I'm not done…Every year I look at holes and see scores and see what I need to change."

 

Swope Park at Cottonwood Falls (Thursday, Open Women): Par 58, 6,147 feet

New to the GBO in 2018, Swope Park at Cottonwood Falls finds the Open Women trekking about 30 minutes outside Emporia to start play. Paige Bjerkaas, who joined PDGA Radio this week to chat about the event, said the course has a mix of shots, with an open front stretch ripe for birdies giving way to a wooded interior that provides more of a challenge. "You really have to take advantage of those birdies because there are some tough holes that are probably gonna eat your lunch," Bjerkaas said.

Plenty of out-of-bounds provides additional challenge, with Bjerkaas giving signature hole honors to the 300-foot, par 3 14th.

"The basket is set on top of this gigantic pyramid that sits pretty high off the ground, so even laying up is scary," Bjerkaas said. "You have to get your disc to stick on the pyramid if you even want to tap in."

 

Jones East Park (Friday, Open Women): Par 59, 7,531 feet

Classic park golf is in store for the Open Women on Friday, as they trek to one of the most well-established venues in town. OB is again the name of the game, while bombers like Paige Pierce and Jennifer Allen can flex their distance. Bjerkaas pointed to hole 9, a 726-foot par 4, as her favorite.

"That’s the one that Simon [Lizotte] eagled," Bjerkaas said. "If it was that easy I wouldn’t mind it, but I can't throw like Simon...The tee pad requires a lot of concentration, then your next shots you’ve gotta play smart, and I like smart golf…If you stay safe during that hole, you'll definitely gain some strokes on the field, I believe."

 
Peter Pan Park (Saturday, Open Women): Par 57, 6,468 ft.

"Good ol' Peter Pan," as Bjerkaas called it, wraps up the event with even more technicality and the signature Monkey Island hole, which actually housed primates in the 1960s.

"It does have plenty of birdie opportunities that really require you to make your putt, so I think putting is very important at Peter Pan, which is also a reason I love it," Bjerkaas said.

 

Comments

Submitted by BJammin555 on

This is so fantastic on so many levels. Congrats to Dynamic Discs, thanks to all the sponsors and VOLUNTEERS, as well as the pros for all the appearances and support. Amazing.

Submit a comment

Log in or register to post comments