Memorial Tournament next week, new club forms

Memorial Tournament next week, new club forms – Local Sports.

Joe Bill and David Taylor Jr

The Memorial Championship, presented by Discraft and the Professional Disc Golf Association, comes to town next week, offering four days of professional and amateur disc golf action from Wednesday, Feb. 26, through Saturday, March 1.

The event will be hosted out of the Fountain Park disc golf course, as well as Vista del Camino in Scottsdale.

As in years past, this event will kick off the PDGA 2014 season, offering a purse of more than $50,000 and bringing in athletes from all over the world.

In total, 220 professional disc golfers will be joined by another 220 amateurs throughout the four-day event.

The final round for the pros will begin at noon Saturday, March 1, at Fountain Park. Admission to this event, as always, is free.

A disc golf clinic will be conducted next Tuesday, Feb. 25, at 4:30 p.m. at Vista del Camino Park for those who want to learn about the sport from the pros. This event is also free.

Fountain Hills local David Taylor Jr. will be one of the 220 professionals taking part in the big event. He, along with Joe Bill, are pretty excited for the festivities to get under way.

Both guys are also members of the recently established Fountain Hills Disc Golf Club, a group dedicated to playing, teaching and advocating for the sport in Fountain Hills.

Disc golf
For the uninitiated, or those who are just curious what, exactly, those big metal baskets surrounding Fountain Park are used for, disc golf is a lot like conventional golf, only played with specially made discs rather than a club and ball.

The object of the game is to land a disc in a designated basket in as few throws as possible.

Bill said he got into disc golf back in 1981 in Rochester, Minn., when it was still called Frisbee golf.

“I took an even greater interest in the sport after moving to Fountain Hills because of this course,” Bill explained.

“Another friend of mine moved here from Florida just to be by this course. He was a world champion at 70 and playing with him has helped keep me really into the game.”

Taylor, on the other hand, said he was born and raised in Tucson and had to drive quite a distance just to play when he was younger.

“My youth pastor in seventh grade introduced me to the game, but the closest course was 25 miles away,” he said.

“It wasn’t until 2003 that a course went in a mile away from my home and I was really able to get into the game.”

Taylor has taken his love of the sport to the pros, actually winning the amateur Memorial Tournament back in 2008.

The guys had just finished walking the local course to look at possible layouts for a shorter course option for new players; the idea being that shorter distances and holes set away from the water would be more encouraging to those just starting out in the sport.

Taylor and Bill said they enjoy how the sport allows the player to walk and socialize with their fellow players, as well as the depth that’s available for those who choose to jump in head-first.

“There are a lot of nuances that people who don’t play the game perhaps don’t appreciate,” Taylor said.

“They might not understand the different discs that you use, the flight patterns, and wind…All of that makes the game very interesting and challenging to me.”

Conversely, Bill stated that “if you can throw a Frisbee, you can play disc golf,” meaning it’s a sport that’s well geared at newcomers too and, being free (save the cost of discs), it’s a lot cheaper than, say, traditional golf.

Local club
Taylor is the local disc golf club’s president and Bill is in charge of handling media relations for the group. It’s only about a month into its existence and already the guys have some big plans for the group.

“We’re new, we’re all enthused about it and membership is growing fast,” Bill said.

The club plans to eventually put together play dates and tournaments once everything is up and running, as well as hosting special events for locals who want to come out and learn more about the sport.

The guys encourage anyone interested in learning more about the club or joining up to visit Annual membership is $10 and comes with a local bag tag to show off while playing. Dues can be paid directly on the site through PayPal.

New baskets
Next week’s tournament is expected to draw several thousand to Fountain Hills over the course of the four-day event, as golfers will be joined by fans, friends, family members and enthusiasts from all over the world.

Taylor and Bill are especially excited for players to get to see the newly installed DGA Mach X baskets that are being used at the local course, the latest baskets provided by the PDGA and Memorial Tournament staff.

The event will serve as a launch for the new baskets and will remain on the course afterward.

“It’s always a huge event,” Taylor said.

“I call the Fountain Hills course the Pebble Beach of disc golf. It’s very iconic. People from all over the world know this course.”