Players weigh in.
March 23, 2016 by Steve Hill in Analysis with 2 comments
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Upon its announcement last October, the Disc Golf World Tour was greeted with a level of anticipation reserved for only the largest events in the sport.
Tour director Jussi Meresmaa and team quickly upped the ante, trumpeting six-figure financial backing from Innova, securing the participation of the sport’s elite players, and releasing promotional materials touting a “new era” of disc golf. The resulting buzz quickly catapulted that initial anticipation into the realm of lofty expectations.
So with the tour’s first event, the La Mirada Open, now in the books, there is a fair question to ask: did it live up to the hype?
Like most questions of this nature, the answers lie with who you ask.
Most players at La Mirada ost had glowing reviews of the event, with many noting that they could feel the impact of the tour’s added emphasis on multimedia.
“I thought it was really really well done, a lot different than most events, or actually all events, in the States I’ve played before,” Simon Lizotte, the DGWT’s 8th-ranked player, said. “So many cameras out there, so much media presence. If you go on Facebook, everything is full of information and literally everything you want to know about this event you can find really easily, and that’s really the key to grow the sport. So I was really glad to see that happen.”
Will Schusterick, who tied for fifth place at La Mirada, said the polish on the event was a noticeable difference from other tournaments.
“The Disc Golf World Tour is more built on the professional side of it, with the one division, one champion type thing,” Schusterick said. “The media obviously is a lot more. [There were] a lot more pictures, videos, coverage, that type of thing. Honestly the money is not as big as some of the bigger National Tour events from the PDGA, but the professionalism makes up for that.”
Paul McBeth garnered $2,500 for his championship finish, which was less than all but one of 2015’s National Tour events and $1,500 less than the preceding week’s Memorial Championship presented by Discraft.
Philo Brathwaite, whose difficult third round dropped him to a 23rd place finish on the weekend, said before the event that he was “slightly disappointed” with the smaller purse.
“I’m not trying to talk down, but it seems like the structure is very similar to a National Tour, which I was I wouldn’t say expecting, but hoping, for better,” Brathwaite said. “When I looked at the payout – it’s already posted and it’s like $2,500 for first – it seems like more of the same in that regard.”
Meresmaa addressed comments like Brathwaite’s, as well as similar commentary on a podcast he heard, saying he could have added $25,000 more to the payout, but that he chose to spend the money on the event’s production as part of his vision for growing disc golf.
“I don´t believe that those extra $330 [down the payout board] would change that top-20 player’s life,” Meresmaa said in an email. “He would not buy an apartment or a better car for his touring. Paul McBeth is currently the only pro player to afford furniture, and I want to help this game to become a real sport where people don’t need to talk about hundreds [of dollars]. Every dollar put into the media creates an opportunity to grow the sport. Every dollar to put into the purses is restricting the opportunity to grow the sport.”
Still, Brathwaite acknowledged that the emphasis on greater coverage was an important development.
“I think just the hype and the media behind it has been ramped up, which is smart, you know what I mean?” he said. “It’s good, it’s not a bad thing that they’re pushing and trying new things. We need that, we need to keep pushing the envelope forward and not be complacent or satisfied with where we’re at. You’d just like to see the financial end rise up, and that seems very run-of-the-mill right now.”
Schusterick pointed out that the lower payout gives the tour room to grow, which is in line with the Tour’s stated goal of featuring the largest purses in the sport by 2020.
“The payout might get there in the future, this is the first one,” he said. “If you look back at the first National Tour that ever happened on the PDGA, the payout wasn’t there as well. But it’s not really a make or break [situation], and a lot people are here mostly because it’s kind of history in a way because it’s the first Disc Golf World Tour. In the future it could really turn into a lot of good things.”
That seemed to be the overriding sentiment among players: While it may not be there yet, the DGWT has tremendous potential to bring the sport to a new level of exposure.
“I’m happy that the players are involved and they see what we try to see for them and for the future of the sport,” Meresmaa said.
Even those who were underwhelmed by certain aspects of the event – fourth place finisher Dave Feldberg lamented what he saw as a low number of spectators before Saturday’s final round – gave credit where it was due.
“[Meresmaa]’s trying,” Feldberg said. “He’s trying, I give it to him. He’s giving it a good effort.”
And for second place finisher Bobby Musick, who grew up across the street from the course and has played there for 26 years, that effort harkened back to a time when disc golf was big business in the area.
“It’s good to have world class players to come and share my park with, you know?” Musick said. “And I love it, because this reminds me of back when it was big in the ‘90s, when Spuds McKenzie would get flown out and all that stuff. And now that Jussi and the tour are coming here, it’s bringing all the great players back.”