Oregon is about to become the St. Andrews of disc golf, as the Professional Disc Golf Association men's and women's world championships are played here Saturday through Aug. 16.
The tournament will take place at five courses: Trojan Park, Milo McIver State Park, Pier Park, McCormick Park and Blue Lake Park.
The first four rounds will be 18 holes, with the finals at Blue Lake Park a nine-holer.
About 400 competitors are expected to take part, with some of the top players coming from the United States, Japan, South Korea, Scandinavia and other parts of Northern Europe.
The total purse of about $125,000 will be distributed by division and place.
Oregon has experience with top disc golf events.
"We have a long history of running well-regarded tournaments over the years," says tournament director Todd Andrews of Portland. "We've always had good attendance, going back to the 2000s. We built up the reputation of the local events; the Beaver State Fling is one of the higher-attended events in the nation, and it sells out almost immediately."
No tickets will be sold to the world championships; the only fee is the price to get into state parks. There will be a "vendor village" at Blue Lake Park.
A round of disc golf usually takes three to four hours, and spectators behave similarly to how they do at a golf tournament, which, by the way, disc golf people call "ball golf."
"It's just like watching ball golf," Andrews says. "You can follow a group, and you do a golf clap if they do something well and you try not to snicker behind your hand too much if they mess up. Players tee off with their drive, they assess where they land, they make their next shot and they hopefully putt in after that."
Just as in golf, disc golf fans are expected to be silent while watching players take their shots.
"You want to be respectful, just like you see on TV," Andrews says.
And, if you were thinking that you throw the Frisbee pretty well and therefore probably could compete with the world's best disc golfers, think again. Besides talent and skill, disc golfers also have specialized equipment.
"The equipment is more of an aerodynamic flying disc," Andrews says. "It's not like the Wham-O 165 that you see people playing Ultimate Frisbee with, or throwing on the beach. There are specific golf discs. Just like in ball golf, you have putters and midrange clubs and different types of drivers. There are also different aerodynamic qualities to these discs that make them do different things. The players have their bag, and they may have a caddy as well."
One player to watch is Paul McBeth, of Huntington Beach,
Calif., who has won the last two PDGA World Championships.
McBeth will have stiff competition, though.
"The amount of men who could win this is pretty vast," says Matt Gregoire, PDGA media manager. "A lot of guys are really, really close."
On the women's side, last year's world champion, Paige Pierce of Austin, Texas, is the favorite, but she is expected to be in a tight battle with Catrina Allen of Madison, Tenn.
"Paige has been on an absolute tear," Gregoire says. "She's won two championships and has been dominating the tour this year. She's been in a non-stop battle with Catrina."
A dark horse in the men's competition will be 39-year-old David Feldberg of Portland. He has 92 career wins and about $350,000 in earnings.
"He's a top 10, top five guy," Gregoire says. "He would be sort of the hometown hero if he brought the championship home. He's still competitive playing on the national level, which goes to show it's not about age, it's about skill and experience and being able to play well for five days. It's an endurance competition as much as it is a skill competition."