MISSOULA — Pattee Canyon welcomed disc golf players from across the state over the weekend for the Montana State Championships.
With a limit on participants and strict tee times, the competition looked a little different than in years past. Once considered the unofficial sport of Missoula, disc golf is a go-to activity for amateurs and professionals alike.
"So many people play it. If you don't play it I guarantee you know someone that does play it," said Brian Bjortomt, the 2020 Montana State Disc Golf Championships Director, and the president of the Garden City Flyers.
You’ll almost never see one of the disc golf courses in Missoula without a group teeing up.
"People of all ages play. We have juniors in the tournament, starting at age nine and we have all the way through," said Bjortomt, "I think there's a 73-year-old playing in the tournament so it's really any age. Men, women everybody can play disc golf."
That being said, calling off the state disc golf championship due to COVID really didn't feel like an option for frisbee fanatics, but with players coming from across the state to compete, organizers knew they would have to get serious about protocol.
"We've been working with the Health Department, we submitted a proposal and worked with them to make sure everything was up to what they wanted to see," said Bjortomt.
And here were their requirements.
"First off, when they show up they have to go through our wellness check station. We're really stressing face coverings and masks. Everybody has been great about complying with that. We have smaller group sizes, we're spreading the groups out more so that there's less interaction," said Bjortomt.
Organizers even warned their participants that noncompliance or harassing tournament staff regarding the guidelines would disqualify them from the competition. But with the pure excitement of competing, players had no desire to question the rules. You could say the tournament was an ace!
"You know, these players come from all over the state, and year after year and you really build bonds and friendships with people and it's really great. Even though we can't do all the social things we've done in the past, it's great to still see some of the people," said Bjortomt, "Part of our frisbee family, each year so it's really satisfying to be able to bring everybody together even if things aren't the same as they normally would be."
Even with almost 100 participants, tournament officials said they didn't have any problems with compliance for the new rules. Event coordinators said they owe a huge thank you to the US Forest Service for allowing them to play their final day of competition at Pattee Canyon.