Thousands of fans lined up for beer, food, merchandise. The air was buzzing with excitement, strangers talking to strangers about who they think has the best chance, who looked good yesterday and who they think may sneak into the top spot today. As I sat in the bleachers with my son on a beautiful sunny Sunday, never in my wildest guesses would I have thought I’d be in Leicester, on a Christmas tree farm, watching some of the world’s best disc golf players.
Maple Hill Disc Golf Course is regarded as one of, if not the, top disc golf course in the world. It hosts the Disc Golf Pro Tour’s version of The Masters each year on Marshall St. in Leicester, MA not far from Hot Dog Annie’s and the local regional airport. It is on a giant piece of family land that is truly a cut your own Christmas Tree Farm. It was founded 20 years ago by Steve Dodge and Tom Southwick and has become the mecca for this burgeoning sport.
Talking to an avid disc golfer and Worcester resident, Kevin McCormack was relaying a story about a friend of his who lives on Marshall St. He said that this friend has two AirBnB residences on his property and that it is always full, not just for the MVP timeline, but year round from disc golfers making the trek to the holy land.
I attended years ago, always as a casual fan. My brother, Mark, is the real dischead here. When I went probably 4 years ago now, it was professional looking, but still had the charm of a DIY family wiffleball tournament. There is now so much money in the DGPT. With giant advertisers, like Barbasol, to a live streamed play-by-play television crew giving you all the action. There are official beers, jerky, discs, and cannabis of the DGPT and the MVP Open. There are disc golfers from around the world playing in this tournament. YouTube star of the group Dude Perfect, Brodie Smith competes, German expat and now Shrewsbury native Simon Lizotte is one of the faces of this league, teenagers are now hitting the circuit with the Women’s MVP champion being 18 year old Hailey King.
This tournament is definitely more fun and more unique than most professional sports event you will attend. With the beer, weed, grilled cheese, and BBQ it has more of an atmosphere of a Phish concert parking lot. Everyone has a giant smile on their face, there is a giant screen in front of the pro shop streaming the other hole throughout the course. At hole 8, a must attend for next year, there are jesters there to rile up the crowd with choreographed chants, cheers and dance moves. The hole itself is only 320 feet across, however 300 of that is a pond. The basket is on top of a decline so that if your disc lands incorrectly it could roll right back into the water. It is a stroke penalty, however your disc is not lost as they have a professional SCUBA diver, Matt, there to retrieve it for you. Andrew Marweade, who finished T-11th, had an ace that made the crowd go wild.
Attending the final round this year, the energy at the farm was thrilling. Twenty-two year veteran of the tour Matt Orum, or as he’s better known, Matty O shot an unbelievable 9 under par that day to come from the middle of the pack and win it. His first major championship. As I stood at the top of the hill, next to the vendors, right by the first tee. I watched the hundreds of fans still there descend around the pond, the main feature of that first hole. They all waited with their phones out ready to catch the winners of the women’s and men’s tournament jump in to celebrate, an honored tradition at this point. Central MA has a lot going for it and this tournament seems to be only getting bigger.