The SAU Disc Golf team capped its 2017-2018 season by competing in the 2018 National Collegiate Disc Golf Championships in North Augusta, South Carolina, April 11-14. Ethan Bolick, captain, said the “A” team finished in 31st place over all, 97 strokes out of first place, with the “B” team placing 18th and the girls’ team placing second in the nation.
Madison Chitwood, a junior nursing major from Van Buren, Arkansas, qualified as an All-American.
The Championships are held each April in North Augusta, following the Masters Golf tournament. Teams from 35 universities qualified to compete, with more than 270 players taking to the courses. Though Arkansas State University qualified, its team was unable to attend, making SAU the only team from Arkansas to compete.
The SAU team is the largest in Arkansas, with 13 members, including Bolick, Chitwood, Allen Dudley, Ethan Edwards, Brad Ellis, Clarke Henson, Jeremy Hunter, Christian Hunter, Allysia Hurt, Austin Mesick, Abby Morrow, Nicole Penny, and Geoffrey Vaughn. All participated in the Championships, with the “A” or Advanced team comprised mostly of seniors.
Bolick, a senior math major from Maud, Texas, said the team qualified to compete nationally at an event in November held in Jonesboro, Arkansas.
“Our A-team qualified our entire team to go,” he said. “We actually played against Mississippi State, which is now the national champion.”
“It’s completely disc golf,” Bolick said of the venue in North Augusta. “There are six courses on either side of an interstate. We were playing on different sides of the interstate at the same time. Each round lasted about three hours, and we played on four courses, all about 5,500-5,700 feet long.”
He said the courses were wooded, narrow and challenging. “The ones we play here are a little more open,” Bolick said.
Mesick, a freshman criminal justice major from Blossom, Texas, said he and other members of the team battled allergies from the moment they arrived.
“The weather was different, so we had sore throats,” he said. “We had to play through it.”
Bolick, who graduates from SAU on May 4, said the disc golf team is only in its second year and has already sent 13 members to the national championship. “I’d say it’s a good start,” he said. “We were one of the biggest teams there. I think there’s inspiration to do it again next year. It was not far out of the girls’ reach to win, and they easily could have, with just a little more time. It was a good learning experience.”
“I had an amazing time at Nationals,” said Chitwood. In the Round One of the Singles division, she didn’t do as well as she had hoped and was ranked fifth overall, one spot away from the All-American team. “I was discouraged a little but determined to come back in the second round,” she said.
She played “much better my second round but still made a couple of mistakes that discouraged me a little bit. I was one stroke away from having the best score of that round, however, which brought me up to fourth place to qualify for the All-American team.”
Chitwood was surprised and happy about the team’s progress this year. “We knew we had a shot going into Nationals to place well, but we were still so happy about the end result,” she said. “Our team captain helped me out so much this year with form and even just logic to use on the course. Having him and several others from the team walk around with me during the finals single round motivated me even more and I don’t think I could have performed as well as I did without the support of the whole team. I’m so proud of them.”
Mesick said he anticipated playing on the team through his senior year. “For us, moving forward, this was a stepping stone for us. I feel like we can grow and bring more people into the team next year.”
The SAU Disc Golf Course is open to all students. Discs are available for checkout at the Mulerider Activities Center with presentation of student ID. Sarah Adcox, MAC director, said disc golf is a great stress-reliever and provides students a means of getting out of their rooms and meeting other people.
Bolick thanked Dr. Andy Peeks, team sponsor, Dr. Trey Berry, SAU president, Dr. Donna Allen, vice president for student affairs, Adcox, and others for their support of the team.