I have heard said several times this week that Hillcrest is the kind of course other disc golf courses dream of becoming. For us, this year's Canadian National Championships was the kind of week we have been dreaming about since our disc golf careers began. We had picture-perfect weather, an amazing assortment of players and human beings, world-class venues, and exceptional disc golf. If this was the payback for the 2019 hurricane year, then we will call the debt square!
It's so hard to put down into words how this week felt. I am certain many of the people reading this have been to a disc golf event before, so there is some context of what a well-run tournament is like. Standing on hole one, the first shot nerves are palpable. I might even venture to say that they are a little elevated at the thought that this event is being played to crown a National Champion. To the Canadians who make the voyage here, that is a cherished feat with special meaning, and the courses were up for the challenge. All four courses played almost exactly as you would hope during a national-level competition. Each round was a grind, both mentally and physically. This was the first time in my life (and from others I talked to) that it truly felt like we could recognize that Prince Edward Island is home to Canada's best disc golf. Even writing that sentence feels a little odd: we are so conditioned to think that everywhere else is better than us that when we do finally claim something of our own as the high water mark, it takes a while for it to fully sink in.
In the early days of disc golf in Maritimes, we had no context through which to understand how good Hillcrest really was. Slowly, though, as people started to make this course a destination, we knew we had something special. After a while, we got Huck-It, then Rose Valley, and now Kings Pine. Each one of them is unique and incredibly special. On the Monday after the tournment's conclusion, as I was cleaning up, a group of devoted traveling disc golfers stopped in to play Kings Pine before making the return voyage home. They happened to meet me on the road before they started their round, and so we took a few minutes to chat. The first thing they said was, "How the hell do you keep getting these amazing properties?" Until they mentioned it, I hadn't considered just how many other places in our country haven't prioritized disc golf enough to make these properties available. It made me doubly thankful to have access to these gems all over again.
Back to the feel. Every year at Nationals, there is a feeling you can't quite put your finger on. Mix in the warm, late summer, salt-laden air with a sense of both calm and anticipation. The red sand under your feet, and the ocean breeze in your face both put you in a mood that is hard to quantify with words. Each course is set on a piece of land that is a treasure in itself. The trees are majestic in their own right, and offer shade no matter what the weather. Each course owner worked their butts off to make their courses Nationals-ready. Every division was given deep thought, and every player's experience contributed toward the end goal that we were trying to create. Nothing is ever perfect, and we had plenty of things that didn't work, but overall, we did our best to show each player that they were valued. In order for us to better understand each player's experience, we sent out a survey that asked for feedback. This initiative is a major piece of how we get better: by hearing the things that you have to say.
Speaking of that survey, we have some early results from the first 100 responses. The primary thing that jumps out is that 95% of people who answered gave their overall experience a 8/10 or better. This is something we cherish and will make us work even harder for next year. The two big things that people said we can improve on are communication and players packs.
For communication, I agree completely. It wasn't until early in the week that we realized that not everyone was getting the emails we were sending out. That was a mistake by us. Due to the large recipients base on our email list, we had to come up with a new way of sending emails that actually got through to the players. Eventually, we got this sorted out, and, going forward next year, we have a communications manager who will stay on top of this.
As for the players packs, I can understand why some people felt that way. We did our best to blend the packs between disc golf and non-disc golf related items. The story of our players packs can be found here. I (and my team) made the decision to try and purchase everything from local vendors whenever possible, and to go for quality over quantity. Not everything worked out as planned. The bag was a free item donated so we used that, despite its less than ideal feel. It is important to remember that we pay all of our course owners for all three rounds, so, despite being an entry fee over $100, almost 25% of that goes directly to our courses. I don't want to make excuses, but it is worth noting that many of the items that we contracted to put in this players pack were not delivered to us on time, or at all. We also had food trucks that simply did not show up. I hear people's concerns on both of those items, and I can agree, but just know it was not for lack of trying. Same thing goes for spotters. We reached out to local sports teams/club/organizations, all with no response. In the post-Covid world, getting more spotters or volunteers proved to be an extremely hard thing to achieve at this time.
Also, if you did not receive a second disc in your players pack (as they showed up very late) please email email@example.com to arrange for one to be sent to you.
Not to be overly sensitive, but comments on pros dropping out, or the scheduling being poor for the time of the year, is WAY over our heads. We apply for dates as early as we can, and we were denied our ideal dates. Two pros had to drop because their air carriers rebooked them on flights that would have landed either after the tournament started or at 11:30 p.m. on the night before their first round. Simon (who would have loved to have been here) was getting married and several other pros just could not commit after playing Worlds the week before, and then having to go to back-to-back playoff events. Pros want to come here, but the people who make the schedule have not made that easy to do. Don't take this as throwing shade: it most certainly is not, but we wanted you to understand that each one of these decisions was agonized over and compromises were made where they had to be. We asked for the feedback and we will happily take it. It is part of my job to let people know that they are being heard.
It is not just the players that are being heard, but, for the first time in our history of hosting Nationals, the TDs were heard as well. To start with, we assembled an amazing staff this year that I can't possibly thank enough. We had TDs from all across the county who are collectively some of the best at what they do. The fact that they wanted to be here without being paid was itself and amazing feat. We also had representation directly from Discmania and Thought Space Athletics, and some senior members from both companies finally got to experience what it is that makes this event so wonderful. You can't get that feel from a desk 5000 km away: you have to stand on the shore to feel it, and to see hole 5 at Hillcrest to believe it. Both of these companies put their money where their mouths were, and that goes a long way to relationship-building in the future. We have no idea what the response to the Discmania Open will be next year, but you can rest assured that our entire team will work our asses off to make it the best event that it can be. When a company believes in you--really, truly believes--it makes us want to put our full hearts and souls into succeeding. This is where we are at with Discmania. They believe in us and we will return the leap of faith that they have taken with us in order to create the best possible event. The European Open is a world treasure in our sport, and we will do everything we can to make the Discmania Open live up to that standard. Believe me, the planning is already underway.
Our group did everything we could to make some side events happen to have people feel like they were at a disc golf vacation destination. Our flex starts were well attended and our players parties (both for check-in and for awards) were everything we hoped they would be. Both had a feel of togetherness and welcoming old friends back to your kitchen table. The "Throw with a Pro" event (put on by Island Disc Golf) was a smashing success. Same goes for the putting clinic put on by Disc Golf PEI. Each of these events took time to create and execute. Even if they weren't perfect, they made the week better.
Back to the main event. This year, we had players competing in 18 divisions. Each course crowned National Champions, and we would like to recognize every one of those winners, starting with our MJ18 junior division winner, Edouard Caron. Like many players who excel in their local area, Edouard often finds himself playing in Advanced or Open divisions. This year's National Championship win was the first big win of his young career.
In FA2, we had the first of three Maritimers crowned champion. Halifax's Heather Edgett was introduced to disc golf in the summer of 2018, when she was drawn in by the beautiful aspects of this self-challenging sport. A leisure activity in nature, where you can be your own competition and focus on personal improvement and skill development, was exactly what she was looking for. As Heather continued to build upon herself and her skillset, she naturally became more involved in the sport and community in which she is held in high regard. Heather began competing in local events in 2020, and also contributes to the community by helping organize events, such as the Halifax segment of the Women's Global Event in 2022. Heather decided it was time to register for her first "A" tier level tournament, and signed up for the FA2 division of FlickLine's 2022 Canadian National Disc Golf Championship where she became a National Champion and brought home her first win!
In our biggest division, MA2, our national champion came from St. Thomas, Ontario: one of the true starting spots for disc golf in our country. John Leitch shot a blistering -21 to win by 7 stokes. John started disc golfing in 2013/14 as a casual player out with friends for the first year or so. After learning about league around town, he started playing and enjoyed the disc golf community. Eventually, tournaments entered his radar during his search for competition play. He took the typical route of many disc golfers: he started to travel from course to course all over Ontario. Feeling the disc golf community vibe and meeting great people made it easy to be sign up for as many events as he could play. John always has a calm, cool, collected personality, and a great competitor attitude, and he was exceptional at handling pressure, never getting too emotionally sad or happy, even when everyone was clapping for him as he gathered his putt out of the final basket and claimed the 2022 Canadian National title. He is the kind of guy that helps with anything needed at local tournaments and has been known to toss in some nice prizes too. Every club needs a John!
David Finlay won the small but competitive MA70 division--a division that we were honoured to offer--and David was a worthy recipient. Hailing from Kingston, Ontario, David has found great joy in the game of disc golf. He is one of the lucky people who is both a grandparent and a National Champion. Each accomplishment is a worthy lifelong goal. Personally, one of my only regrets from this event is that I didn't get to spend more time meeting new wonderful people like David.
In FA60, from Brampton, Ontario, we had one of our all-time favourite people claim victory in one Jane Anderson-Renton. Jane is the kindest, sweetest person you could hope to meet. Her hugs are authentic and comforting and make me miss my grandma. Jane is now the current World and Canadian Champion in her division, and an all-around inspirational human. She played her first ever event in 2018 at one of our National flex starts, and has returned every year since to be a part of it. For me personally, Jane is one of the people I think of most when I am up early lugging rope to a course, getting it ready for this event. If I can put a smile on her face, then I know all the work is worth it.
In yet another winner from Canada's largest province, let us introduce you to Dr. Laurie Dotto. Laure claimed victory in the MA60 division and is another human being worth celebrating. Laurie has been playing disc golf since the 1970s, and has been an influence all over the world. You can find some very interesting stuff here about his background in the sport. We also hear he is a big fan of the Vibram plastic, so if you have any of that laying around, he is your man!
In FA50, we have a true advocate for women and someone who is willing to do what it takes to see more inclusion in the game of disc golf. Melinda (Mindy) Myall can be found generally making this game better in all the ways that she can, be it running a wonderful female-only drop-in at Nationals, or through a wide array of women's centred experiences in Ontario as a part of the Discy Chicks. Her road-ready van houses everything she and her man need to play disc golf from coast to coast in comfort, and her dedication to the sport is nothing short of amazing.
In MA50, we had our first ever Newfoundland winner in Mr. Darrell Chipp. If you are a regular reader of our website (which you should be), then you will know that last year we predicted this win. Darrell loves the game with a deep passion which is evident by his over 540 rounds logged on UDisc last year. It is obvious that Darrell has a deep love for the game but what people might not see is just how much Darrell has done to grow the game organically. He has worked with Special Olympians, with people with disabilities, and with any able-bodied person who has shown an interest in the game. He has been a fierce advocate for having proper disc golf facilities in his home town of Stephenville. Now, as a National Champion, his influence is certain to grow.
In our FA40 division we had a playoff to crown a National Champ in Jane Logan. Jane hails from Etobicoke, Ontario, and is another one of those wonderful people who make Canada what it is. Jane won that playoff on a long clutch putt in the most dramatic victory of the week.
In MA40, we had our first BC winner in what was certainly the most tightly contested division out there. Rocky Gould took home a one-stroke victory over two other competitors to claim his first ever PDGA win. It was an amazing week for Rocky who had two outstanding shots captured on film in our first ever "Throw with the Pros" event.
Hannah Starzynski claimed an impressive victory in the FA1 division to earn the title of National Champion. Hannah is an MSc student in Earth Sciences, and an outdoor enthusiast originally from Ottawa, Ontario. She deeply enjoys spending time outdoors going hiking, camping, and canoeing, as well as playing disc golf. Before disc golf, she previously played a bit of Ultimate Frisbee, and also used to play in the National Ringette League.
Dylan Goudey was the MA1 overall winner. There are so many things that we could say about this young man, but we will do our best to keep it short and sweet. You can read about him here, but the general sense is that Dylan is an exceptional young man who has a deep and quiet passion for the sport. He has a maturity well beyond his years, one that shows up every time he faces adversity on the course. His quiet and unassuming demeanor masks his killer instinct for play, and his form is picture perfect. I don't know of a single player in all of Atlantic Canada that isn't rooting for Dylan now as he progresses towards what we all hope will be a long and decorated career. No matter what happens from here on out, he is a National Champion and that is something to take pride in.
From Branford, Ontario, Dr Rob Martinek claimed a one shot victory on the last hole for the MP60 title! The sometimes-Maritimer has fallen in love with PEI and has pushed himself to perfect his play at these courses. Dr. Rob is a great competitor, and, despite lingering injuries, soldiers on to keep succeeding at the highest level. It is such a pleasure to have him chose to spend his time here and play our courses that for many of us it felt like a local claiming this title.
With a win in MP50, Pender Island's Graham Garlick more than doubled his career earnings. For those of you who know a little something about geography and disc golf in Canada, you know that Pender is somewhat infamous in our country. It is a small island off of the coast of Vancouver where it never snows and has one of the most unique courses you could ever hope to play, and most likely claims the title for biggest attendance for their (non-PDGA) event. Although Graham is a new face to us, his is one we hope to see back many times!
Our MP40 winner is another Canadian titan in the game of disc golf. Steward McIsack is a course designer and a part of Canada's WFDF bronze medal team. He is one part of the duo that designed the amazing Raptors Knoll course and has been a competitive player on the West Coast for quite some time. If this is the first time you are hearing his name, rest assured it will not be the last!
The FPO title has now been claimed by another truly great human being in one Ella Hansen. Ella is true competitor in every sense of the word, and her power throws are a thing of beauty. Her drive on the right side of hole 5 this year was the longest drive on the hole, regardless of division. When she is not smashing disc on the course, you can find her playing any game she can get her hands on.
The final prize of MPO Canadian National Champion went to Canada's own Thomas Gilbert. There are very few people in the world that I enjoy seeing succeed more than Thomas. He is a kind, gentle, and sweet human who makes us all proud to be Canadian. At this point, I think it is fair to say every disc golfer in the country looks up to Thomas (both physically and emotionally). He leads by example in this world, coming out as gay earlier in the year on a quest to be his authentic self. There were lots of great storylines in this National Championship, but for many of us, seeing Thomas crowned champ was at the top of the list. On the last day, when the last shot had been thrown, it was Thomas who stood there victorious, and it was one of those rare moments in life that everything seemed to fall into place. There were loads of other Canadians that made us all proud, so to celebrate Thomas is not to diminish their accomplishments, but rather to be thankful for the place at which Canadian disc golf has finally arrived.
When the red dust finally settled on our event, the main thing I think of is just how thankful and grateful we (myself, and my entire team) are with this event, with the people that came, and with damn near everything about Canadian disc golf. There are too many people to thank personally for fear of leaving someone out, but every hand that contributed to this event made the work light. If you attended this year, I hope you leave with a memory, with one tiny feeling that for a single solitary point that the powers that be smiled with us and gave us the gift of time and space. All the course owners took a leap of faith in building these gems and all of the players' time and investment in the game was rewarded with a beautiful week of Canadian disc golf. We know not everything was perfect, and it may never be, but more than one person came to PEI, experienced what we have built, and left here a better person than when they arrived; iff that isn't the measure of success, then I don't know what is. Somewhere around the winter of 2015, on the coldest day of the year, we hatched a plan to host a National Championship: now, seven years and three championships later, it's our time to pass the torch. All we have left to say is, "Thank you!"
Just because we are not the site for Nationals next year doesn't mean we are going away! In fact, we have an amazing event to announce: The Discmania Open! It will be North America's signature Discmania Event.
A special thanks goes out to all of our sponsors. If you feel so inclined, we have included a link to send them a message of thanks whenever possible:
Play It Again Sports St John's
Hillcrest Farms Disc Golf Course
Kings Pine DiscGolfPark Course
Disc Golf Dummies
A special thanks to our two official photographers:
Don Chevarie and Greg Bradley Designs
A couple of things before you go. We have a limited amount of Nationals stamped discs left over. If you are interested in purchasing one, they are $25 each and they include free shipping anywhere in Canada. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Chain Reaction.
Also: we would like to share our full budget for everyone to understand the workings of our event. $10,000 was added to the pro payout which was split between all Open divisions. Below is the budget for our event:
$75380.41 Players Fee
$22,000 Provincial Grant
Total Income 113,380.41
$16,150 Tournament Discs
$13,900 Course Fees
$10,175 Handmade Mugs
$2,325 Mini Discs
$954 Free Cookies
$3,180 Handmade Candles
$2,325 Maple Syrup
$1,800 PDGA fee
$1,400 Portable bathrooms
$150 Whiskers / Nails
$1,500 Players Party Entertainment
$1,000 Ad signs
$40 Misc Expense
$32,415.60 Payout (Including $10,000 added cash)
Total Income Total Expense