After outperforming the competition in a local doubles qualifier, two local disc golfers will be representing Missouri in the U.S. Match Play Doubles Championship Bracket in Emporia, Kansas in September.
Al Kennon and Seth Wood finished first in the local qualifier that was held in Engler Park, competing against teams from Missouri, Illinois and Arkansas.
Kennon said his disc golf career began four years ago, while his partner’s began as a child in Florida.
“About four years ago, a couple of buddies of mine challenged me to go out and throw a Frisbee at baskets,” Kennon said. “Well, I got the pants beat off me. They killed me. That fired up my competitive nature, and I secretly practiced a little bit and re-challenged them. I beat them, and that kind of started the whole thing.
“My partner, Seth Wood, he’s pretty much had a disc in his hand since he was four. He has about 17 years of experience. His dad is an avid disc golfer from Florida, so Seth’s had a disc in his hand pretty much since he could walk.”
While he started playing recreationally, Kennon said his mantra has always been that to improve, you have to play against people who are better than you.
“I lucked out about two and a half years ago and finished well in the open division, which is the pro division,” he said. “I took some cash and at that point, the PDGA (Professional Disc Golf Association) automatically changes you from an amateur status to professional status. Since then, I spent two years just getting beat until I finaly got my first professional win this year, three or four months ago at the park at Fort Zumwalt.”
Having played as far away as Boca Raton, Florida and in tournaments that boast 1,800 participants or more, Wood and Kennon’s weekend qualification will allow them to compete in the inaugural year of the United States Amateur Match Play Championships, hosted by Dynamic Disc in Emporia, Kansas.
“Dynamic Disc created it to kind of create another tournament atmosphere,” Kennon said. “Usually, it’s all singles events. Dynamic Disc did the match play championship for singles, which Seth won for the St. Louis area, and then they did a doubles event.
“There are 61 qualifiers around the United States and two provinces in Canada. Seth and I will be one team from Missouri playing against 60 other teams coming from all over. Dynamic Disc is hosting that in Emporia, Kansas, and we’ll be making that trip at the end of September.”
The first place winner of the tournament will take home $4,000 in dynamicdiscs.com credit, second place will earn $2,000 in online credit, third place will win $1,000 in online credit and fourth place will win $500 in online credit.
Kennon said he and Wood will get their first look at the tournament bracket a week before the competition begins. The format will be “match play sudden death,” meaning that more so than counting total strokes, the tournament will be played on a hole-by-hole basis.
“So even if you beat someone on one hole by six strokes, the score is only one to nothing,” he said. “The idea is to hopefully eliminate your competition as early as possible. So, if you get a four-hole lead and you get to hole fifteen, you’re done. We have to fight our way through a 61-team bracket that way over three days.”
Playing two to three 18-round matches per day, Kennon said he and Wood will have to stay hydrated, eat well and maintain focus to stay competitive over the course of the tournament.
“Hopefully, we’ll go out there, win the $4,000 and come home with a smile on our faces,” he said.
As disc golf grows across the country and region, local disc golfers are seeing more and more first-timers and beginners trying their hand at the sport. Kennon said for those interested in getting started at throwing plastic, practice is the most important component.
“You’re not just going to come out and be great,” he said. “With disc golf, it looks like it’s close, but it’s really difficult for anyone at any level to throw a Frisbee in from 200 feet. So work hard, keep it simple and start with putters.
“Once you learn to throw with putters, work your way up to a distance driver so you’re building the proper mechanics and form. That’s the biggest thing—keep practicing. It took us all a while to learn.”