COLUMBIA — Keith Amerson, 36, lines up his shot. He is at his favorite hole at the Albert-Oakland disc golf course, and as he practices his throwing motion at the 11th hole tee box his heads bobs up and down slightly to the beat of an AC/DC song on his on his iPod.
"I like listening to some of the older and newer rock, sometimes heavy rap, something to get me pumped up," Amerson said.
He takes a few small steps before releasing the disc with as much force as he can muster. It soars over a creek, through a tunnel of trees engulfing the fairway and lands a few feet away from the hole, a metal basket extending above the ground.
Amerson, the president of the Columbia Disc Golf Club, is directing and competing in the 26th annual Mid-America Disc Golf Open, held this weekend at Albert-Oakland Park as well as Indian Hills.
Amerson birdied the par-three 11th. He, Brandon Victor, vice president of the CDGC, and Jerrad Chaney shared a scorecard Saturday in their first of four rounds in the tournament.
Competing in the Pro Division level, the threesome began its day at the back course of Albert-Oakland. The course, built in 1980, is the second oldest in Missouri behind White Birch Park in Hazelwood.
"It's my favorite course. It's pretty, with nice shots on it," Amerson said.
All three began playing disc golf at the age of 23. Before that, none of them knew much about the sport.
"I grew up here and didn't know anything about it until after I came back from college," Victor said. "I came out (to the course), and I was instantly hooked."
Victor, 28, used to throw side-armed, the opposite of a traditional flying disc throw. He felt more comfortable this way, after being a pitcher in junior high school baseball. He was forced to switch to the more common backhand throw after less than a year.
"When you're out throwing 40 shots a day, it'll wear you out," Victor said.
Chaney uses an even more unusual shot, the hammer, to clear tree lines reaching upwards of 50 feet that cut through the course. He holds the disc almost straight up and down and releases it by throwing his arm straight down.
Players carry cloth bags to hold their discs, and the inside of Chaney's looks like a rainbow, holding more than 20 discs organized by color. Although his favorite color to use is green, Chaney is not able to use it eight months out of the year with the risk of losing the discs in the woods. There are more than 60 types of discs. They fall into three categories, drivers, mid-range discs and putters.
On the 12th hole tee box, Chaney threw a white disc into a wide fir tree which blocked the hole.
"This is not what I was hoping for," Chaney said as he threw a water bottle at the trapped disc several times before making contact. The disc fell into his waiting hands, but the water bottle did not come down.
Chaney makes sacrifices to compete in disc golf tournaments, using his off days as a customer service rep for David Grigg's Flooring America to compete.
"They give me vacation time to be able to get out and play (tournaments) around here," Chaney said. "The local ones are important to me."
Tournaments like the Mid-America Open attract more than 160 players, some from as far away as Oklahoma and Kentucky.
Lars Nordgren travels the country to disc golf tournaments as the owner of LSDiscs merchandise. The Topeka, Kan., native said that Columbia is located between two "hotspots" for the sport, St. Louis and Kansas City.
"A lot of people think disc golf is an offbeat sport, but I've noticed the change to more mainstream," Nordgren said. "I've been to tournaments in Ohio and Arizona where there are thousands of golfers and fans who come out to see the event."