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Organizers 'Make Lemonade' Out Of National Collegiate Disc Golf Championship Changes

Tournament central at the National Collegiate Disc Golf Championships provides a birds-eye view. Photo: Dalton Slantis

When 270 student-athletes from 36 universities descend upon the Hippodrome Disc Golf Complex this week for the 2018 National Collegiate Disc Golf Championships, they’ll be met with changes. Only four of the South Carolina facility’s six courses will be in use for the event, with the most notable difference being that perennial championship course Old Glory has been shelved for the four-day, eight-round tournament.

The more things change, though, the more they stay the same: Still in high supply will be the energy, camaraderie, and competition that makes the NCDGC the most unique event on the PDGA Major calendar, with eight individual and team champions to be crowned Saturday afternoon.

“These students are playing for almost more than their personal pride,” Tournament Director John Baker said. “They’re playing for school pride, they’re playing for their university…That just adds another element beyond the game and the competition itself.”

Baker, himself an alumnus of the 2014 Georgia Regents University championship squad and a 2015 All-American, is now in his second year running the tournament. Unlike last year, though, this season brought challenges in the form of changes to the Hippodrome’s management structure. Those shifts led to the loss of Old Glory, much to the chagrin of Ferris State University co-captain Sam Mrdeza. A senior graphic design major, Mzdeza is making his fourth NCDGC trip – his Bulldogs are the defending champions – and he noticed the difference that came with this year’s planning.

“It just seemed like there was kind of a lot of miscommunication about what was happening,” Mrdeza said. “…I think the Old Glory course was the separator course, the championship course, and now we’re limited to kind of a shorter, technical, deuce-or-die [course at Moody Woods].”

Indeed, course schedules were only released in the last week, but Baker said the delay was necessary as the facility remained in flux.

“Normally we don’t like to hold back that long for schedules and stuff like that,” Baker admitted. “But with everything being as up in the air as it was, it was best for the event, and best for the players and best for the entire experience, for us to hold back…and do the best with what we had available.”

Still, PDGA Director of Operations Mike Downes put the situation into perspective. Most of the tournament’s action will now take place on one side of the complex instead of being split by Interstate 520, giving a more communal, cohesive feel. There is an observation deck at tournament central from which more than 50 holes of action can be seen.

“Sometimes, when life gives you lemons, as event organizers we need to make lemonade to create the most positive experience for all those who attend,” Downes said.

The sweetener to that recipe will be the spotlight placed on the venue’s Dunipace Dunes, Baker said. The 5,650-foot par 55 track may not be as long as its predecessor, but tournament staff have been shepherding it into maturity over the past several years by planting trees, building mounds, and adding elevated pins. With serious rollaway potential, the course presents plenty of challenge.



Dunipace Dunes features plenty of elevation, providing views of the surrounding region.

“We’ve built the Dunipace Dunes course, and it is time for it to be the flagship course,” Baker said. “Everything’s grown up out there beautifully… The beautiful thing about the courses we’re using this year is they really complement each other really well.”

Mrdeza also gave it his seal of approval: “I like Dunipace a lot. It’s the open course down here, so it’s definitely needed to be the open course with lots of OBs.”

No matter the venue, the most important part of the event is the teamwork and school spirit that permeates every inch of the facility. When teams walk out their university’s fight song during today’s opening ceremonies, waving flags and bumping chests in full uniform, it’s clear that the tournament is more than just another day on the calendar.

“It’s one of the things that everyone looks forward to each year because it is so unique and so special,” Mrdeza said. “It’s Nationals. Just to be invited to be at a national event, or qualify for one – it’s phenomenal. I think everyone looks forward to Nationals more than most other tournaments throughout the year.”




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Be sure to follow along with the PDGA’s Instagram stories, as well as our other social media channels, for action from the National Collegiate Disc Golf Championships all week.

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