This weekend’s Flying Eagle Open Disc Golf Tournament is at Gypsum Creek Golf Course | VailDaily.com

This weekend’s Flying Eagle Open Disc Golf Tournament is at Gypsum Creek Golf Course

EAGLE — Last year, the Flying Eagle Open Disc Golf tournament at Gypsum Creek Golf Course filled its registration 14 hours after it opened.

Steve and Jessie Klehfoth with the local Flying Eagle Disc Society did their best to put on a premium event, with the hope that by going over the top in their first year, they would encourage competitors to return for year two.

Eagle McMahon, the men's winner in 2015 and an international disc golf competitor, said the event was as good as any other tournament he has played.

"I don't want to miss any of (the Flying Eagle Disc Society) events in the future," he said.

In order to get in on this year's event, McMahon had to be by his computer as registration opened. The second year event, scheduled for this weekend, sold out in 34 minutes. That means one of the 140 open spots filled every 15 seconds.

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"With the way that this sport is growing and the way that tournaments continue to improve on a yearly basis, you can't rest on your laurels," Steve Klehfoth said. "You really have to put out a good product, you have to communicate effectively with your players and you have to have a complete experience for the people who come sometimes a significant distance just to play in your event."

Last year, Santos Montoya came from Colorado Springs to play the tournament. He rented a hotel room in Eagle and scoped out the grounds.

"It was the best ever," Montoya said. "The best course, the best sponsors, food, crew, everything that they do to make this possible, not just on the course, but off the course, it's all been the best."

GYPSUM CREEK PLAY EXPANDED

When the idea to play at Gypsum Creek came about, it may have seemed like a long shot.

"We had no knowledge or understanding of his whole world of disc golf," Tom Buzbee, Gypsum Creek general manager, said of Klehfoth's event. "But we've also had to look at alternative uses for the golf course. Your 250 acres can't just sit there empty in non-peak times."

Issues affecting the sport at large, as well as oversupply issues in our area, were reaching a tipping point as Klehfoth had his idea to bring disc golf to a regular golf course.

"We are seeing a decline in participation in ball golf," Buzbee said. "So as an industry, we finally realized it and admitted it."

Seven years ago, when the Cotton Ranch development went bankrupt, the town of Gypsum was able to scoop up the Pete Dye-designed course for a relative steal at $2 million.

"The initial opinion was 'Oh my gosh, why is the town buying a golf course? That's not for us in Gypsum,'" Buzbee said. "But after we added all these kids programs, and we had a nice restaurant come in that's been a comfortable place for people, the non-golfers in the town now see this as a good thing."

Gypsum Creek has hosted car shows, movie nights, music concerts and art exhibits and last weekend, hosted a high school cross country running event. When they agreed to host the first Flying Eagle Open in September of 2015, it was the first professionally-sanctioned disc golf event to take place on a regular golf course in Colorado.

The trend caught on, and this year there have already been a couple of other disc golf tournaments held on regular golf courses in Colorado.

"We're not breaking the mold, but we are following a fledgling trend in disc golf, to use facilities like that," Klehfoth said. "Not just because it's cool, but because it actually lends itself to a fantastic layout, it's in a beautiful setting, and they have the facilities there to accommodate a large group of people over the course of an entire weekend."

The back nine holes of the course will accommodate the full 18-hole disc golf course, so regular golfers can still play on the front nine.

This year, instead of one round of disc golf being played at Gypsum Creek, participants will get a chance to play the course twice. They will also get to use golf carts. It was Gypsum Creek's idea to expand the offerings for disc golfers.

"They have a great time, and it's a good revenue event for us, and we were happy to welcome them back, and happy to have them for a second day," Buzbee said. "These disc golfers are every bit as courteous as anybody we have out here all year."

Moving forward, Buzbee is talking about expanding the disc golf opportunities at Gypsum Creek even further, offering weekly or monthly play, "or even a second tournament," Buzbee said, speculating about a spring event.

PLAYER'S PARTY OPEN TO ALL

Bonfire Brewing in Eagle has once again signed on as the title sponsor of the Flying Eagle Open. The brewpub will host a players' party and fundraiser on Saturday, open to the public, with a portion of the proceeds of all beer sales going to the tournament.

"So even if you didn't want to come to the event, you can contribute just by getting a beer at Bonfire on Saturday," Klehfoth said.

The town of Eagle also contributed $4,000 to the event, a donation Klehfoth says allowed organizers to hire a professional video staff to provide coverage of the event this year.

"We're really excited to be able to provide high quality tournament footage for all of our players this year," Klehfoth said.

The second annual Flying Eagle Open takes place Saturday and Sunday at the Hole in the Sky Disc Golf Course in Eagle and the Gypsum Creek Golf Course in Gypsum. For more information, please visit www.flyingeagledisc.com.