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Arts, Sports & Culture

Disc Golf World Championship Underway In Southwestern PA

Disc golf is a very quiet sport, especially at the professional level.

On Tuesday morning at Moraine State Park, “Crazy” John Brooks, a disc golf legend in his own right, was holding a folded sheet of paper up to his mouth, to muffle his whispered commentary.

“Here’s that little sexy flick that she uses to get up close,” Brooks murmured into a wireless mic, to accompany live streaming video of the Professional Disc Golf Association Pro World Championship. “I wouldn’t say that that second shot was on target, but distance wise it was calculated. Just not quite finding her groove yet.”

Brooks was at the first round of women’s open division play, and that flick of the wrist he was talking about is one of the techniques honed by 2010 pro world champion Sarah Cunningham of Greenville, South Carolina, who’s tied for the lead after the first round.

“They told us last night that luck favors the brave, and that’s proved true so far,” she said.

Golfers have to be brave in Moraine, where narrow fairways run through thick woods. Some baskets sit precariously close to dry creekbeds which are marked as “out of bounds.”

“You can play smart and layup and safe, but I went for it because I thought that was more fun, got a little lucky, got over the out of bounds, and cleared the next out of bounds, and got a birdie,” Cunningham said, describing a risky throw from behind a tree that landed right in front of the basket.

PDGA media manager Matt Gregoire said a typical disc golf course might be par 54, with 18 par-three holes.

They told us last night that luck favors the brave, and that has proved true so far.

“This is a 66, so we have several par-fours, there are two par-fives. These are monstrous holes, we’re talking 800-900 feet.”

In Cunningham’s group was another top golfer: reigning world champion Catrina Allen. Other golfers in the group included Lori Merriman, president of the Pittsburgh Flying Disc Society and Malin Sturk of Eskilstuna, Sweden.

Over at Slippery Rock University, the men’s B-group was also underway. The course is a lot different from Moraine, with wide open fairways and few trees. But the obstacles there are much bigger.

Dallas Snow-Ramirez of San Diego managed to get one his discs stuck in the gutter of a residence hall on campus.

“So I’m probably going to take an 8 on a par 4. Threw (out of bounds) three times. Then I decided I’m going to throw into the forest, and then I have to lay up,” he said. “So that’s what happened me on this hole. Third hole of the tournament."

Snow-Ramirez laughed at his luck; he wasn’t taking himself too seriously.

The guys in the B group are the less experienced and less skilled half of the men’s division, and Gregoire said women such as Cunningham and Allen would likely beat their scores.

He said, unlike a lot of other sports, it’s not speed or strength or size that sets the champions apart from the rest of the field.

“It’s about your form and how you pull the disc through, and it really comes down to practice and figuring out exactly how your discs fly,” Gregoire said.

Discs will continue to fly as the golfers rotate through Slippery Rock, Moraine, Deer Lakes Park and Knob Hill Park.

The competition continues through Saturday, when just four golfers in each division will battle it out for the title of 2015 Pro World Champion.

Find updated standings at the PDGA website.

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