Disc golfers brave cold to raise funds

2011-02-19T16:00:00Z 2014-08-25T15:31:46Z Disc golfers brave cold to raise fundsBy ZACH BENOIT Of The Gazette Staff The Billings Gazette

On Saturday morning, a parking lot next to the Zimmerman Center at Pioneer Park filled with the sound of something similar to 30 basketballs bouncing on hardwood.

That sound was the clapping of the leather-padded gloves of more than two dozen disc golfers gathered there during the frigid morning hours to compete in a winter tournament to benefit disc golf in the park.

They were applauding Jim Rott's announcement that Cloud Peak Energy donated $5,000 to support disc golf at Pioneer Park and that Air Fairways, a local group that supports the sport in Billings, received a $500 grant from the Professional Disc Golf Association.

"All this money's going to go into the park," Rott said of the donations and money raised during Saturday's tournament.

The Winter ThrowDown Tournament drew disc golfers from around Eastern and central Montana who braved single-digit temperatures to play at the park's winter course.

Last year, the popular sport was nearly banned at Pioneer Park. The topic was heavily debated during City Council sessions. After vocal objections from disc golfers and other community members, the council reversed its decision.

The council asked disc golfers to make an effort to open other courses at city parks to take pressure off of Pioneer, which sees heavy traffic. They were also asked to help repair damage to the park in areas where disc golf is played.

Saturday's tournament is part of those efforts. It was played on a temporary winter course, which runs along the park's southwestern side. The old course was on the northwestern side.

"This is definitely a start," said Jeremiah Harris, an Air Fairways member playing in the tournament. "We've changed up that course and we're going to change the holes. We're looking at other opportunities for parks, too."

About a half-dozen of the players came from outside the Billings area. Rott said players came from Helena, Butte and Bozeman, among other places.

Brian Kruse came from Gardiner for the chilly Saturday contest.

"I think the turnout is really good, and that says people are willing to do it," he said. "If you don't have a course that's designated, they're going to play anyway, so this is good."

Participants in three categories — open, amateur and recreational — teed off at 10 a.m. and played two 18-hole rounds and finished up in the afternoon.

Air Fairways is working with the city Parks and Recreation Department to provide places around town to play disc golf while maintaining the parks.

Rott, an Air Fairways member, said they will move to a newly designed north course at Pioneer in the spring and will lay down concrete tee boxes for each hole once the ground thaws.

Liz Welch doesn't play much disc golf but is an active supporter of it and is on the Air Fairways board. She said there's work to be done, but that support has been great.

"These people are ready to jump out and start playing," she said. "We've been so impressed by the support we've gotten."

For Micheal Bright of Billings, the tournament was for a good cause, but he was mostly focused on staying warm while playing.

"It's a lot of fun, but I just hope I still have all my toes at the end," he said.

Contact Zach Benoit at zbenoit@billingsgazette.com or 657-1357.


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