Living a Disc Golf Fantasy

The Fantasy Park Open February 11, 2023

Fight me on this but I reckon Fantasy Park is not only the toughest park course in WA, perhaps Australia, but it also has best name for a Disc Golf Course anywhere, aside from maybe Angry Beaver in Charlotte. It’s a perfectly apt name too; because if you go back to the days when there was just one course in town, the idea that there would be five courses on the road between where I live now, and Rob Hancock Memorial, I would have said you were smoking some of that stuff that I’m pretty sure you can buy within a block or two of Fantasy Park. 

On that subject, the tough reputation of the suburbs south of Rockingham is probably a bit underserved. People like to exaggerate these things to infer street cred onto themselves. Plus, that drive by shooting the other side of Read Street a year or so back was just young folks letting off a bit of steam. Having said that, the gang related theme of the early editions of this tournament, which was once called ‘The Rocky Rumble’ was probably a bit much. TD Paul Noesen and the Perth Disc Golf Club decided to go with ‘Fantasy Park Open’ to shed some of that old karma. Just after the winning putt had dropped last Saturday, when I saw the PDGC gazebo cartwheeling in the wind down Rand Avenue, before doing a little drive-by of its own, it seemed that karma was not completely shed. Some sort of cleansing ritual before next year is clearly called for. 

It’s still early season in Perth and many folks are knocking of the post-nationals and Christmas period rust so there were a few usual suspects missing.  51 brave souls braved the drive to Waikiki though. On the modified 9-basket 18-teepad layout that’d been stretched to an 11-basket, 21 tee course, it was almost a full-house that necessitated plenty of groups of 5 to fit everyone in. Notable was the return of Corey Bandy. The Perth Open winner and Perth Disc Golf Club OG has been quietly working his way back into the game over the last few months and decided to resume tournament play on the course that’s only a few streets from his house. Chris Finn had also returned from an extended European trip and decided to downshift into an age protected division. He and Corey Bandy gave the MP40 lead card the look of the Perth Open circa 2009, all that was missing was the other Bandy and the Wild Thing. We were also graced with the presence of Peta Cole, a Perth girl who has spent the last 30 years or so in Leadville Colorado and who is looking to make the move back to Perth. She’ll be a welcome addition to the women’s scene here in Perth should that happen. 

The show got underway on a beautiful still, cool morning that was only kept from being perfect by one tiny fluffy white cloud in the sky off towards Safety Bay. We all knew the wind was coming though. A 20-30 knot southwester had been forecast, but most people suspected it’d get stronger than that. 

Damon Williams had decided to step up into MPO this year and kicked off his career with a bang, shooting an eight-under-par, 984 rated, 59, to share the lead with Connor Donnelly. One throw back was Paul Noesen with Alex Kynaston one throw adrift of him. The other pre-tournament threat, Blake Houston, had eight bogies to go with his six birdies to be well back at 2-under par. Chris Finn used a streak of four birdies in a row towards end of the first lap of the park as the springboard to launch a five throw lead from Corey Bandy in MP40, with Ken Summers and Chris Van Maanen well off the pace. MA1 was a good battle between newcomer Mark Shepherd at five under and local Brendon Bennet at three under, while Thomas Manders and Jonathan Munnikhuis were duking it out in MA2. Three throws separated the top four of Del Batey, Scott Caldwell, Kim Holmes and Dave Kynaston in MA50, while Kris Kohout had a two-throw lead over Jason Gill in MA40. Sue Summers had the FA1 division to herself but still shot a very credible five-over, while Peta Cole (FA40). Julie O’Donoghue (FA2), and Claudine Baker (FA4) also had their divisions to themselves. David Robertson and Joey Darbyshire headed up MA3 and MA4 respectively. 

“I got off to a slow start,” said Damon Williams. “The putter was a bit shaky, but the discs were coming out clean and I stayed out of trouble. Didn’t feel like anything special. It felt like a bit of pressure-off in MPO because in the lower divisions I felt like I had the pressure to win whereas now I’m just trying to not come last. But the wind out here can be ferocious and that’s going to be the separator this afternoon. “

The wind had already started to pick up. By late morning gusts of 40kph and more were ripping through the carpark, rattling people’s nerves and probing the defences the club gazebo. By the middle of round two it had started to wreak havoc. Only 11 players scored better in the afternoon. 

Paul Noesen went on a charge in the first lap, erasing the one-throw deficit and then clearing away by four throws from Damon after a two-throw swing on hole seven. 

“I thought I was out of it by the middle of the round,” said Damon. “Then I hit a couple of outside circle putts: on 10 for birdie and 11 for par. That was probably the turning point for me – hitting a couple of long putts in the wind kinda got me back in to it. “ 

Two throw swings on hole 9 and hole 14 plus that birdie on 10 gave Damon the one throw lead back with six holes to play and he held his nerve all the way to the final hole. Those nerves were tested as he was lining up the short drive to the guarded basket though. The small, but inexperienced, gallery took a while to stop moving in the background before the lead card could settle and throw their drives. Both Damon and Paul over-cooked their drives slightly and they came into the green low and fast. Damon’s drive hit one of the guardian trees and dropped close, while Pauls slid about 8m past the basket. It was a not-so-simple matter of Damon dropping his 4m putt (“I did miss from that distance last year”), to claim his maiden MPO win in his maiden MPO tournament.

“I thought I might have juiced it a little bit,” Damon said afterwards. “I was asking for that tree and I got it. That’s just how it goes sometimes. It’s a game of inches.” 

It was a popular win. Damon was mobbed by friends and Disc Golf Warehouse team mates afterwards. There was some emotion in the moment too. He hid his face in his cap after the winning putt dropped and took a few moments to compose himself. It was clear that the win had meant a great deal. 

“When I started disc golf it was a bit of a hard time for me” Damon said during the presentations. “And in this community, I found some good mates and some much needed encouragement.”

In MP40, Chris Finn shot the hot round for the afternoon on his way to equalling the MPO winning score and a nine throw winning margin over Corey Bandy. Kris Kohout and Jason Gill needed a playoff to decide MA40, with Jason taking the win after one playoff hole. Scott Caldwell came through for a two throw win over Kim Holmes in the MA40 after the wind had it’s way with round one leader Del Batey. Brendon Bennet stayed solid to hold off Sean Dobbs by four throws in MA1. Jonathan Munnikhuis flipped the script on Thomas Manders in the afternoon to take out MA2 by one throw. David Roberston stretched his lead by one over Will Atkinson in MA3 and Joey Darbyshire cruised to a 17 throw win over Gethin Barden in MA4. The women all cruised to easy wins in their respective divisions but of particular note was Sue Summers, who shot a very respectable 847-rated seven over par in the afternoon round. 

The after party/presentations were again held at the King Road Brewery which is on the way back to the city for most people. It’s the perfect venue for such a shindig and the ring of fire putting competition in the beer garden in front of hundreds of other curious patrons is probably one of the best awareness raising promotions you could do for disc golf. Good socialising to go along with the disc golf is something that the Perth Disc Golf club has always done well. The late afternoon drinks shared on tables under the trees was a good way to ease the pain of discs and gazebos being carried off by the wind. I think it’s everyone’s fantasy that next year will be calm.  

Words & photos by Kingsley Flett