Disc golfers take a different flight path

When it comes to disc golf, Fort Lauderdale’s Kriston Okuna said the strategy is simple.

“Play the fairways, make a three and walk away,” said Okuna, 50, who finished fourth in the Advanced Masters Division during the recent South Florida Open Disc Golf Tournament. “You can try the aggressive approach, but then you (are prone to) mistaking a mistake.”

Okuna, who shot a two-day, four-round 231 at Tradewinds Park in Coconut Creek and Okeeheelee Park in West Palm Beach, has been playing disc golf for the past 14 years.

In disc golf, the golfer flings the disc in an attempt to reach the elevated chain-link basket that replaces the hole in traditional golf.

“I like it a lot,” Okuna said. “There is good competition, and the community is awesome. There are new tournaments coming up, and in an event like this, we get to see the pros playing.”

Alison Heidegger captured the Recreational Women’s Division title with a 275 for the two days.

The 21-year-old from Parkland has only played disc golf for one year, but she is a big fan of the sport.

“Everybody who comes out here to play is so nice and helpful,” Heidegger said. “They want to help your skill get better and teach you things that you might not know.”

Heidegger used to play traditional golf and took up disc golf after a couple friends suggested she give it a try.

“I had no idea what it was,” said Heidegger, a 2011 graduate of Douglas High School. “You use discs just like you would a Frisbee, except that you are trying to have it land in a specific spot. Once you start to learn the game, you love it. Now the (golf) clubs are retired. I like this a lot better. Golf takes so much skill. In this, you can go out and play a fun round and be laid back.”

Wilton Manors’ Patti Joseph was introduced to disc golf two years ago when she went to watch some friends play at the world championships in Orlando.

“There were some people from Broward that I met there, and I got hooked on the game and have been playing ever since,” said Joseph, 57 and a former softball player. “It’s a great sport. I used to play golf, and I don’t do it anymore. Anyone can play it. It is a sport that is growing by leaps and bounds.”

Patrick Duncan served as tournament director for the fourth annual South Florida Open, which split its four rounds between Tradewinds and Okeeheelee. Duncan also runs a similar tournament in Lexington, Ky.

The tournament attracted not only amateurs, but also 20 professionals (17 male and three female). One of the pros, JohnE McCray, of Brandon, took runner-up in that division with a 12-under-par performance. McCray, who is ranked third in the world, has 128 career wins since 2001.

“The sport has grown unbelievably,” Duncan said. “In 2000, there were 1,000 courses in the U.S., and now there are 3,500. It has tripled in size. There is no other sport in the U.S. that has experienced that type of growth.”

Duncan said it will continue to grow as more young people become involved in the sport. He said that just like traditional golf, there are many “clubs” in a player’s bag.

“We have putters, midranges and fairway (discs), just like you would in ball golf,” Duncan said. Disc golfers will carry between 10 and 25 discs. “We have discs that will turn left, discs that will go straight and discs that will go right, and you use each one in an appropriate situation.”

The average length of a hole is 300 feet. There are several courses in Broward and Palm Beach counties.

For a listing, visit Discgolfcourses.org/florida.html.

Gary Curreri can be reached at SportsCom5@aol.com.

Copyright © 2014, Sun Sentinel

Article source: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/broward/parkland/fl-cnsp-centerbr-1026-20141026-story.html?track=rss

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