WACO, Texas — Golf in Central Texas. Not the kind with a club, but a disc. Athletes from all over the country have made their way to Brazos Park East to show their skills at the Waco Annual Charity Open.
"I teed off today at 11:30. I lit it up on the first half, I played solid," Zachary Nash, a 19-year-old athlete who started playing in 2017, said. "I was five down through the front 9 and then the wind got me on the back nine."
What started as a local tournament has earned a spot in the big leagues and is now part of the Disc Golf Pro Tour.
"We are one of 10 or 15 events that you have to go to if you're a professional disc golf player," Ryan Draper, tournament director, said. "There's a points race and a tour series and this is one of the stops that you must go to and do well here in order to get enough points to finish out the season where you want to be."
With 168 competitors, the tournament is home to the best of the best; even a six-time disc golf world champion.
"It's such a challenging game and such a mentally challenging game. It's not such a reaction sport. That really intrigued me early on and then just knowing how hard it was," Paul McBeth, a six-time disc golf world champion and pro since 2008, said. "I love that challenge of getting out there and finding a way to put the disc in the basket."
McBeth is a veteran competitor and has showcased his talents all over the world.
"The best part of getting into professional disc golf is seeing how many courses there are and seeing different courses and parts of the world," McBeth said. "Seeing different cultures and terrain, really. I just love that uniqueness. Everything's one of a kind."
With hundreds of spectators making their way to the course, it's a uniqueness that is only growing.
"PDGA has grown four times since the start of COVID. The explosion has just been exciting, to see all these people enjoying the tournament and what we're actually bringing to Waco and the disc golf community," Draper said.
It's a difficult sport that takes time, practice and dedication.
Day three of the Waco Annual Charity Open wraps up on March 12, when a winner will be crowned. Next up, the tour heads to Austin for The Open at Austin from March 17-19.
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