New course makes debut at Flying Eagle Open disc golf tournament
GYPSUM — If Golden Tee was for disc golf, then the courses in the Flying Eagle Open would have to be unlocked with an extra special cheat code.
Indeed, the more than 200 disc golfers who participated in the Eagle River Valley’s most prestigious disc golf tournament over the weekend felt like they were playing on legendary mode.
With an extremely rare opportunity to play disc golf on a “ball golf course”, and an even more unique chance to witness the debut of a brand new course created just for this tournament, the 2017 Flying Eagle Open, by all accounts, impressed the most discerning of players.
“The expectations are so high when I come to this tournament now, and the expectations are blown away for the third year in a row,” said Tom Carrillo, who won the men’s pro masters division of the tournament on Sunday, Sept. 24.
NOT YOUR FATHER’S FROLF
Carrillo has been playing disc golf in Eagle County since the original Eagle Open, a small tournament that attracted players to the area before the sport of disc golf saw the explosion in popularity it’s currently enjoying.
Now a regular at the next generation of that tournament, the Flying Eagle Open, Carrillo said he enjoyed the evolution of disc golf in Eagle County since first playing in Eagle in the ’90s.
“It’s great to see the second generation of folks around here carrying on the tradition,” Carrillo told organizers on Sunday. “You guys are taking it to the next level.”
The Flying Eagle Open is put on by the Flying Eagle Disc Society, who named the new tournament as a nod to the original Eagle Open. President Steve Klehfoth said it felt good to see that acknowledged on Sunday.
“Those guys were the original disc golfers of Eagle County,” Klehfoth said. “That’s who put the first baskets in at the fairgrounds; they brought the sport of competitive disc golf to Eagle County.”
The original Eagle Open is of a bygone era, Klehfoth said, where 30 to 40 people would gather and play in a casual and relaxed setting. Today, events such as the Flying Eagle Open can be an extremely serious endeavor.
“Now, with the game of disc golf in general, tournaments have grown in popularity and demand,” Klehfoth said. “The expectation level is so high, and you have to be on top of it from the moment you start your tournament. You can’t be laid back and expect things to work themselves out.”
Men’s pro division winner Joe Rovere, 40, said as his career winds down, he’s happy to see where the sport is headed with the Flying Eagle Open being a prime example of that.
“It’s amazing how much work they put into this,” Rovere said.
RECREATION AND THE RANCH
When the Flying Eagle Disc Society brought disc golf to the public golf course at Gypsum Creek in 2015, it was a development in the sport that excited players around the state.
Indeed, it spurred a bit of a culture change around the club. Teaching professional Blake Scott started calling his sport “ball golf,” so there was no confusion.
It was hard to imagine the club doing anything that could top the advent of disc golf at the ball golf venue. But the whole affair had Scott thinking long and hard.
“At the time I was thinking a lot about how to keep my ranch more self-sufficient,” he said.
Scott comes from a family of cattle ranchers who have been operating in the Cross Creek area near Gypsum for nearly 40 years. Like the world of disc golf, the cattle business in Colorado is not what it once was. Cattle ranching in the Castle Rock area, where the other half of the Scott’s cattle business operated, is simply not feasible anymore.
“We’re surrounded by 45,000 homes,” he said.
So like many ranchers in the West, the Scotts started looking to see if the recreational opportunities their properties offer could help sustain what’s left of their ranching operations.
“Is cattle the future of what we’ve been doing for 152 years in my family, or is it something else?” Scott said.
The Flying Eagle Disc Society has helped Scott give some of his ranch a facelift over the last few months and on Saturday, Sept. 23, and Sunday, Sept. 24, the property made its debut as a private, event-only disc golf course, to rave reviews. At the Flying Eagle Open awards ceremony on Sunday, many of the disc golfers gave speeches thanking the Scotts for helping the club improve on what was already a great event. Blake Scott said it was a win-win.
“You couldn’t even walk through the woods in the back part of my property before, with all the deadfall that was there, but now I have trails everywhere and it’s like a little town park up there,” Scott said. “It’s amazing what it did to the land.”
Scott said he’s currently undertaking the process of making the course a private, members-only disc golf course.
“There’s a ways to go, but our goal is to have 36 holes in a private course model where you could be a member or where we could invite clubs like Flying Eagle or Steamboat to come host tournaments,” Scott said.