HAYS — So far on Saturday morning for Trevor Wilkerson, of Hastings, Neb., hole No. 12 near the Main Street bridge had been the most difficult.
It was the start of the 35th Annual Frontier Open disc golf tournament in Frontier Park.
“You’ve got to throw underneath the bridge, it’s mandatory, and then you throw an up shot,” Wilkerson said, as he watched his buddies each take their turn at hole No. 13 in Frontier Park East, throwing through thick trees across Big Creek to the bank on the other side.
“You have to do it without getting in the water,” Wilkerson said. “I was the only one to get a par on that one.”
Waiting his turn at hole No. 13, Jake Lazzo said he’d driven four hours from Kansas City, Mo., to play in the annual event, “because this is the best course in Kansas,” he said.
“I like the trees, the creek, the variety, the character of the park, and the people,” Lazzo said. “It all makes this a great tournament.”
Diran Missack, of Omaha, Neb., said it’s his second year playing the Flying Bison Disc Golf Course, aptly named for the herd of bison that have inhabited the perimeter of the park for decades.
“It’s a beautiful course, it’s a tough course,” Missack said. “The first time I played it I just immediately fell in love with it. It’s a great tournament, and a lot of people here take great pride in putting it on.”
Tournament director Brett Straight, of Hays, said this year’s 180 registered players, with just one no-show, breaks last year’s record of 149. And there would have been more, but Straight had to put five players on a waiting list.
Sanctioned by the Professional Disc Golf Association, the tournament play Saturday was 18 holes on the east side of the 75-acre park, and 18 on the west, which officially allowed for 180 players.
“We actually had to turn a few people away, I can only have five people on each tee box,” said Straight, a PDGA certified director.
Given the growing popularity of the tournament each year, Straight is working with the Hays Park Department and Fort Hays State University to install more holes. Disc golfer Greg Hunt Farley, former dean of FHSU’s College of Science, Technology and Mathematics, and now a dean at Black Hills State University in South Dakota, has been a fan of the Flying Bison course, and continues as a tournament sponsor and someone interested in extending the course to the Fort Hays campus, Straight said.
“I hope that it can give us a little bit of an opportunity to maybe get some more courses installed,” said Straight. “I’ve worked with Dr. Farley and he has some money available for us to be able to get a course installed on campus.”
The course design is already drawn up, and Straight and others developing the course plan to walk it by the end of the month to work out any hiccups, he said.
With another 18 holes, Straight said he could register 270 players next year.
Every player approaches the Flying Bison course differently, said golfer Patrick Ryan, of Salina, including what discs they have in their bag.
“Some people carry five,” Ryan said, “some people carry 20 or more.”
The 36th Annual Frontier Open, like all the others before it, will be the first weekend after Labor Day 2020.