The late afternoon sun is casting shafts of light through the dark pine forest on the North Western corner of Drysdale reserve; Martin Ryland Adair stands like a statue on the hole 12 tee-pad. Scattered amongst the trees in the dappled light and dark is a gallery of about thirty people. They look like a silent tribe about to melt back into the shadows.
Standing right behind Martin is the big frame of Dave Bandy, looming large. He’s being doing what he normally does, streaking home in the last few holes and whittling down a lead that was as much as much as 7 throws earlier in the day. Martin is just one throw up now and the ghosts of the Sydney Open last year, when Bandy ran him and Kurt Karlsson down in the final holes, must have been rising in his mind.
It was a fiendishly difficult hole too. Only 60m but the disc has to be threaded through a tight gap in the pine trees. Miscue and a ricochet could take you into all sorts of trouble, turning a regulation two into a four or worse, as had happened to plenty of good players over the weekend.
Martin does what he’s done millions of times over the last thirty years: a relaxed slightly bent-armed reach back, a snap of the hips and a slightly hyzered release. From my side-on stand-point I can’t see if he’s thrown it straight or not; but I can see the white Roc sailing between the trees. The tell-tale ‘thunk’ never comes and the forest rings with applause as the disc parks a few metres from the basket. Dave had thrown straight as well, but more than 10m past and his putt was obscured by a fallen tree. With one hole to play, everyone knew that there’d be no heading Martin from here.
It was the biggest moment of the tournament and Martin stared it down – a classic end to a great weekend. I asked him what was running through his mind on that crucial hole and his reply was a pragmatic as ever ‘I thought, oh well, if it hits a tree it hits a tree and I’ll just throw it up there’. He finished with a nice birdie on the last hole to seal the win.
23 interstate competitors had rolled out of hire cars and mini buses to join the locals on Saturday morning, making a field of 31 to start what is undoubtedly Australia’s most popular tournament outside the nationals. A combination of Victoria’s centrality for travel and the general consensus that Drysdale is the best tournament course in Australia were the main reasons for such good numbers. The black shirt army from WA can be relied upon to send at least a half dozen to most interstate tournaments but 10 is pretty good even by Perth standards and another indication of the tournaments popularity.
Martin Ryland-Adair said ‘I love this course because it really does ask for every throw, some of which I don’t possess.’ He’s not wrong. To get around Drysdale with a low score you need a long annie, long hyzer, dead straight short drives, good fairway placement, upshots from tricky positions, long approaches, uphill hyzer bombs, short and long downhill hyzers; the list goes on.
It was Martin who lead the way with a 55 for the first 18, Chris Finn with a 56 and a whole host of players on 57 and 58. Notable in the first round was Kurt Karlsson’s 61, but the big fella admitted to being a bit rusty, having not played much in the past months.
Yours truly had a good first round of 57 to squeak into the top card for the afternoons 18 holes. If nothing else it was a great position to report on the tournament from as opposed to hearing how the best guys faired second hand. Martin again dominated in as the rain squalls came in; his 54 one better than Richard Sampson’s 55 and at least 2 throws better than his nearest rivals. After playing the round with Martin, if I had to summarise his form, it would be by saying he hits gaps more regularly. Apart from a spectacular long drive on the 201m hole 14, which reminded Chris Finn that he and Kurt are not the only big arms in Australia, most of his shots were unremarkable apart from the fact he didn’t hit many trees, whereas Jonathon Jonas, Chris and myself all heard the dreaded ‘thunk’ from time to time.
The rain came down on Saturday afternoon in a couple of very heavy squalls which freaked a few of the West Aussies out as we walked around wondering what this wet stuff falling from the sky was and that maybe Fergie and Dr Greg had spiked the lunchtime rolls with magic mushrooms. Those experienced with wet switched to cheap, grippy plastic and dried their fingers with birdie bags – the rest of us watched a lot of drives slide left.
So at the end of day 1 it was Martin leading by 4 throws from Chris Finn and Dave Bandy. Richard Sampson had a good afternoon to be in contention as well, with Paul Arden and Andrew Ferguson also in the mix. Oliver Pauli had a solid day to lead the Advanced over his arch rival Dr Greg Bowers with new player and outstanding talent, Niel Roberts from NSW and West Aussie by way of Louisiana – Jason Bourgeois, also in contention. My 57 in the morning had given me a handy lead in the masters from fellow West Aussie Glenn White and Kiwi Cunningham, while the newly created grand masters division was home to the most hotly contested play of the day, with Bruce McNaughton. Kim Holmes and Greg Sparksman only separated by one stroke. Kliff Killick’s sold 69 in the afternoon gave him good lead in the men’s rec while Emilie Cameron and Cassie Anderson were dominating women’s open and women’s rec respectively.
The player’s party was held in the West Aussie’s rented house on the water a few minutes from the course. Like all family reunions it was good to catch up with people that hadn’t been seen since the nationals and as usual people’s lives had moved on. Some had marriage break ups, others were pregnant (nice one Emilie and JJ) and a couple of new characters introduced to the smorgasbord of fringe dwelling eccentrics that is Disc Golf in Australia. Talk was manly of the nationals and the change of date, which has been accepted by most, especially if it means attracting a few more world class players.
Sunday morning was cloudy and cool but thankfully the worst of the rain stayed away. There was a stiff wind to contend with however, which made holes 15 and 8 particularly tricky. Martin had another excellent round, shooting a 52 which was only bettered on the morning by Kurt’s 51. Dave Bandy stayed in the hunt with a 54 while Chris Finn and Richard Sampson fell away with 58 and 61 respectively. Andrew Ferguson had a great morning on his home course with a 3rd best 53.
Jason Bourgeois, visiting WA from the US for six months while his wife studies veterinary science in Perth, was the big mover in the advanced division, shooting 3 better than Ollie and 2 better than Greg to steal the lead. Yours truly slipped a bit further away from Glenn White and Kiwi in the masters; while the big news in the grand masters was Greg Sparksman’s 68, which made him fall out of contention and leaving the final round to a battle between Kim Holmes and Bruce McNaughton. New WA player, Steve Lomax, was improving with each round and shaved a couple more strokes off the Kliff Killick’s lead. Emilie and Cass continued to dominate their divisions.
After another great lunch provided by our generous sponsors there was just one more round to play. The top nine for the masters, grand masters, ladies and rec. While the open and advanced played the bottom nine. Matrin had his first slightly off round of the weekend, losing a couple of throws to most of the main contenders, his lead over Dave bandy eroding to just five throws; leaving Kurt and Chris Finn to fill out the other places for the Open Final.
Jason Bourgeois continued his excellent run in the second half of the tournament to take the Men’s Advanced from the two locals, Greg Bowers and Oliver Pauli. Yours truly took out the masters from Glen White, while Bruce McNaughton survived a late scare to just hold out Kim Holmes by one stroke in the Grand Masters. It was a similar story in the men’s rec, with Kilff Killick just holding out Steve Lomax by one stroke. Emilie Cameron had a solid tournament to take out the ladies and Cassie Anderson won the women’s advanced.
The men’s final four was watched by the biggest gallery outside of the recent nationals in Perth that I’ve seen. The tension slowly ratcheted up as Martin dropped a couple of shots on hole 2, which had been one of his problem holes all tournament. Dave stole, then gave back, then stole another stroke of him before the key moment on hole 12 where Martin finished with two birdies for a well-deserved coast to coast win. Not the man for effusive displays of emotion, fist pumps or any other overt demonstrations of victory, Martin just acknowledged the applause and trotted up to collect his disc from the basket. But looking closely I could tell the win meant a lot. It was his first over Dave bandy in a couple of years and there is now some real interest in the race for the men’s ADG tour title this year.
So it’s interesting to ask disc golfers a telling question ‘apart from Nationals, which tournament in Australia would you travel to once a year?’ The answer is universally ‘Vic’. The reasons are many; as Dave Bandy says ‘the Vic boys are just good blokes to catch up with’. It’s also the most likely tournament for the NSW players and Tasweigens to travel to due to proximity, which guarantees a strong field. Throw in courses like Drysdale and it’s an unbeatable combination.
So the field gradually filed away to their homes or to hire cars for the dash to the airport. Until the next meeting of the tribe…..