Heat adds to challenge for disc golfers at Mid-America Open tournament

Saturday, July 7, 2012 | 9:53 p.m. CDT; updated 9:20 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 9, 2012

COLUMBIA — Players wind up and make their shots. Flying discs thump to the ground following the whooshing of air and scraping of shoes on concrete.

The goal is to hear the clanking of the chains on the stand that serves as the hole in disc golf. A player wants to get his or her disc there with the least amount of throws.

With temperatures exceeding 100 degrees, disc golfers at this weekend's 28th Mid-America Open Disc Golf Tournament at Indian Hills Park and Albert-Oakland Park had to deal with more than the usual obstacles of trees and branches.

For teammates Jaysin Smith of Branson and Mike Porter of Ozark, the heat can pose as both a physical and mental burden.

Smith said the heat can affect him because of a back injury that forced him to take a month off from the sport. He said the layover between rounds will cause his back to tighten up. He expects the fatigue to affect the way he throws, leading to more mental issues.

“If you have a couple bad shots and you’re hot and exhausted, you are liable to play twice as bad,” Smith said.

“Being out in the heat all day long mentally it can be a real challenge,” Porter said.

Smith and Porter were attending the Mid-America Open for the first time Saturday but have been playing disc golf since 2006. Smith began playing after being introduced to the game by a coworker. Porter began playing around the same time as Smith after seeing people playing in Kansas City.

Smith owns The Journey Post, a disc golf shop and website he opened this year in Branson. The team that Smith and Porter play for is named after the store.

“It’s about the journey we’re on, the journey we are going to send our disc on,” Porter said about the name. “And at every tee box there’s a post. At the post, there’s a story of the hole.”

“It’s also about the journey we’re on as disc golfers.”

Smith and Porter have known each other since high school where they both played baseball in Reed Springs. Now as adults, they have been playing disc golf together for the past four to five years. However, this year has provided more opportunities for the two to play together thanks to fewer conflicts because of work.

“This is the first year we’ve both been able to play whenever we want,” Smith said. “We can meet up and play every day, and play at tournaments.”

It is obvious that the two men are close friends.

“Tell me what you’re thinking,” Porter says.

“Haven’t thought yet,” Smith says.

Porter suggests the way Smith should throw the disc and stands back as he watches Smith’s throw hit a tree.

“Right shot. Just the execution,” Porter says.

As the course weaves through the woods, trees are the main obstacles that can change a player’s throw from good to bad.

“These short holes aren’t hard if you don’t hit a tree,” Smith said. “The problem is there’s about a hundred trees in there.”

Trees can also change a player’s entire day, as Porter found out early on Saturday. His disc didn’t clear a large tree, getting stuck in the top branches. He was unable to retrieve the disc by throwing a beer bottle. Then he tried a large stick and some rocks he found on the course. Eventually, when players were trying to finish at the hole on the other side of the tree, Porter was forced to move on, without what he called an “important disc.”

“It’s frustrating,” Porter said. “I would have used the disc for specific holes later on. It’s going to be tough to get it back.”

With the amount of discs in his backpack it appears it wouldn't be a problem. But Porter explains that each disc is different. Depending on the weight, and even the color, he says some discs fly more to the left and others fly more to the right, comparing that to the hook and slice in regular golf.

“They’re changing it (direction) with their swing,” Smith said. “We’re changing the disc.”

The last two holes of the round prove challenging for Porter without the disc he lost. After his throw wasn’t up to his liking, he expressed his disappointment.

“Bad, bad shot,” Porter said. “Hence why that other disc was so important.”

After completing the first of the day's two rounds, Porter characterized the pair's play as, “nothing special. Nothing fancy.”

“Mike is a better player than me,” Smith said. “He can throw better, putt better. But today I scored better. I hit less trees.”

The tournament, hosted by Columbia Disc Golf Club, continues on Sunday.

Supervising editor is Grant Hodder.

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