Tuesday, August 08, 2006

A Shot at Glory

I did it! Thanks to you (specifically those who responded to my earlier pleas), I had my shot at a spot on the Dutch national disc golf team last Saturday.

After two and a half weeks of on-line voting in the Lipton Ice Tea Summer Disc Golf Challenge, I actually ended up not just in the Top Five-hundred -- but actually in the Top Five of all contestants in the Netherlands! Thus, I was notified of my qualification by e-mail and voice-mail earlier in the week. And after returning from our family's camping trip to Fryslan, I had just enough time to unload the rental car, take a quick shower, and drive to a large recreational area in the Haarlemmermeer (between Hoofddorp and Haarlem -- about a forty minute drive south-west of where I live) for my start-time at one o'clock in the afternoon.

It was such a fun afternooon. Trying to figure out directions to the competition site, driving into the parking lot under the giant yellow banners that marked the event, walking into the main pavilion that hosted the registration tables -- I felt a bit nervous but also extremely excited by the opportunity to try out for the Dutch national disc golf team and actually simply the opportunity to throw around the frisbee again (since I haven't gotten to play disc golf so much since my departure from Bowling Green in 2002). When I checked in, I was given an envelope with information about the qualification competition, including when and where and with whom I was to be playing. I was also given a bunch of free stuff -- including vouchers for a free lunch and free drinks (Lipton Ice Tea, of course), a new mid-range disc (emblazoned with the Lipton logo), and a bright yellow Lipton-logoed polo shirt (which may not be my natural fashion choice but is still a neat token anyway).

Since I had a bit of time before my group was to start, I sat down to enjoy some lunch by the lake and read up on the orientation materials (helemaal in 't Nederlands, of course). After finishing lunch, I was able to take a casual stroll up to the competition area and take a look around to visually reinforce what I had read from the information packet. Each registrant was to play five holes of disc golf (a temporary course was set up for the occasion) as well as participating in four skills events (longest drive, best putting, best mid-range accuracy, and a consistency challenge). And partipating in Round number 3, together with registrants 17-21, I was to start at the first hole of the course.

At the appropriate time, I got to meet the other members of my group: Menno and Ronald, from the Rotterdam area, as well as Ivo from the Eindhoven area. Ronald and Ivo were basically beginners, just playing for the fun of it. But Menno was actually quite good, and we enjoyed getting to know each other through the course of the afternoon. He turned out to be a physical therapist (which I could easily relate to, since Marci is also an accomplished PT). He had lived in America (Louisiana) for about a year and a half. And he maintained an attitude that embraced disc golf not so much as a passion or a mission in life -- but more as a purely recreational pasttime to enjoy hanging out with friends and experience the out-of-doors (which is very much my take on the sport as well). Ronald and Ivo were also really nice guys that had a very easy-going attitude, so it made the afternoon very enjoyable.

Out of the people in our group, I did the best with the long-range-driving skills event (74 meters) and the consistency challenge (which is a bit difficult to describe). But Ivo surprised all of us (himself included) by taking the mid-range accuracy contest. And Menno consistently proved to be a better putter -- also beating me by one stroke over the five holes of regular play.

Unfortunately, I didn't exactly play my best on Saturday. So I didn't qualify for the Dutch national disc golf team. However, even if I would've played at the top of my game, I don't think I would have been an automatic lock for the top five (and thus a spot on the national team, assuming of course that they wouldn't have had any issues with my American citizenship -- which would have been a pretty big assumption, actually!).

More importantly, the experience on Saturday allowed me to tap into a subculture within the Netherlands. It turns out that there are about 40 to 50 guys in the Netherlands (and most of them are actually native Dutchmen) who play disc golf fairly regularly. They hold tournaments on temporary courses several times a year. One of the temporary courses that I visited a couple of years ago in Rotterdam is apparently now a permanent course. And another new course is just being built in Utrecht. I was introduced to a few websites for disc golfing in Holland. In general, things seem to be on the up-and-up for disc golf in the Netherlands. Menno also introduced me into the circle of "regulars," and we exchanged contact information so we can meet up for a round in Rotterdam sometime. So I'm excited for future possibilities in building friendships and relaxing on the disc golf course more often.

And if that's not a successful disc golfing experience, then I don't know what is.


At 9:56 PM, Blogger Emily said...

Sweet, man!!! Even though you didn't pull the big W you still had a great time from the sounds of things. Glad to hear that you'll have a continued connection with people in this sport...have fun.

At 10:36 PM, Blogger Bryan's Blog said...

Way to go Eric. Sounds like fun, we have been playing our fair share of disk golf here in BG as well. There was a big upset yesterday with the reigning champ going down hard. I think you know what I am talking about but I will protect his idenity!

At 4:15 AM, Blogger EP said...

That's some seriously exciting stuff! I get to play in a HAT tournament when I'm in Amsterdam with the Cruch people ; so I undertsand the love and excitment... it is probably in the top three highlights of my trip! :)

See you soon! Can't wait,


At 3:18 PM, Blogger Stef said...

so glad you got to try out

what a great experience!


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