July 13, 2014

Disc golfers have “Experience” at Arlington stadium

Ten years ago, Dave Muntean grabbed a disc and headed to a nearby park with his teenage sons to play a sport he had learned about.

Ten years ago, Dave Muntean grabbed a disc and headed to a nearby park with his teenage sons to play a sport he had learned about.

That first round of disc golf turned into a hobby that has taken him around the country and to Japan to play in tournaments. On Saturday evening, Muntean found himself playing a round of disc golf in the most impressive venue of his career — AT&T Stadium.

“This is a dream come true,” said Muntean, 53, who lives in Tallahassee, Fla. “To be playing my favorite hobby in the best football stadium in the country is incredible. I am just soaking this all in.”

More than 500 athletes, amateurs to professionals, gathered in Arlington this weekend to play the 10-hole course set up on the field and in the tunnels of the Cowboys’ home stadium. Billed as the “Disc Golf Experience,” the tournament aimed to bring attention to the growing sport while giving players an unprecedented opportunity, said Jeremy Rusco, owner of Dynamic Discs, a Kansas-based disc golf retailer and manufacturer that sponsored the tournament.

Created in the 1970s, disc golf has grown exponentially in the past decade, Rusco said. More than 50 courses have popped up in North Texas, he said, mostly at neighborhood parks.

The sport involves throwing a spinning disc — similar to a Frisbee but heavier and more specialized — into a basket on a pole surrounded by chains. As in golf, the fewer throws, the better the score. A hole in one is called an ace, and players use different discs depending on the shot.

“Disc golf is enjoyable for everyone,” said Rusco. “All levels can play. You don’t have to be a stud athlete. It is inexpensive to play. There are no expensive tee times.”

While disc golf is typically played outdoors in parks, a representative of AT&T Stadium played disc golf in high school and saw an opportunity to bring the sport to Arlington. The representative, Harrison Clark, sent an email to Dynamic Discs, where it was initially assumed to be a hoax.

A disc golf group toured the stadium and decided it would be the perfect opportunity to get the sport more exposure. Eric McCabe, the 2010 World Champion, helped plan and lay out the course.

Players traveled from around the country to play, and many snapped photos of themselves on the field.

“We could not pass this up,” Rusco said. “This felt like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have this stadium to ourselves for a night.”

Chris Eads of Fort Smith, Ark., began playing disc golf as a teenager with his church group. He soon found a local club and began playing competitively.

“It’s a melting pot out here. You get people from all walks of life,” said Eads, 29. “We have older gentlemen who discovered the sport on accident to young guys who play in parks and even families who play together. I have seen a group of nuns playing at my neighborhood park.”

For Muntean, disc golf replaced another longtime hobby.

“I used to play golf every single weekend. Now I maybe play once a year,” he said. “This is less expensive to play, and more people can catch on. It’s not as intimidating.”

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