Disc golf

South Sioux City's Crystal Cove Park will be the scene of the second annual PDGA-sanctioned Disc Golf Tournament Saturday. South Sioux City elementary school teacher Tony McRae participated in the event's 2014 tournament.

Earl Horlyk, Sioux City Journal file

SOUTH SIOUX CITY | As a catheterization laboratory worker at Mercy Heart Center, Tyler Nolen is used to being on call all the time.

But how does the 23-year-old Sioux City native relax after a long day at the hospital?

"I disc golf every night I can," Nolen said. "My dad got me into the sport a few years ago and I've been addicted ever since."

He has even played in sanctioned Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) tournaments held across the Midwest.

On Saturday, Nolen will be one of the amateur participants at the second annual PDGA tournament at Crystal Cove Park's 18-hole disc golf course.

Registration for the tournament, which is two rounds of 18 holes, will take place at 8:30 a.m., with tee-off at 9:30 a.m.

"It's challenging," Nolen said. "But it's also a lot of fun."

So, is disc golf similar to, you know, regular golf? Well, kinda.

In both sports, drivers, putters and mid-rangers are used. Also, score is kept by a similar par system.

However, the two activities can be quite different.

Instead of using a club to knock a ball into a hole, a disc golfer tosses a disc (actually a specially weighted Frisbee) through the air and into a basket. The length of the toss is measured in feet, not yards.

Surprisingly, promoter Vey Thach compares disc golf to an entirely different sport.

"In basketball, players love to hear the swoosh a ball makes when it goes through the net," he said. "Similarly, disc golfers love the clang a disc makes when it hits a chain-metal basket."

A 1995 East High School graduate, Thach learned about disc golf from friends. Enamored by the game, he founded the Lincoln, Neb.-based Volo Disc Sports, a business dedicated to the sport.

"Over the past decade or so, disc golf has really moved into the mainstream," he said. "What was once a sport played by teenagers is now being played by dedicated athletes in tournaments across the country and around the world."

Thach said the game's popularity has even attracted the attention of sports cable TV networks like ESPN.

"When you've made it on ESPN, you know the sport is legit," he said.

Which doesn't surprise Nolen in the least.

"The great appeal of the sport is it's accessibility," he said. "It doesn't matter if you're a kid or a senior citizen, anyone can learn disc golf."

Thach agreed, adding that disc golf is much more economical than it's Scottish cousin.

"In regular golf, you need expensive equipment and club memberships," he said. "In disc golf, all you need are discs. You don't even need to book a time at a disc golf course."

Nolen said he isn't nervous about participating in the tournament. He merely wants to have enough time to practice.

A former baseball and football player in school, he prefers disc golf to more team-oriented sports.

"Unlike team sports, disc golf allows the individual player to be in charge," Nolen said. "That's a good feeling."

Playing an activity in a picturesque setting like Crystal Cove Park also has a few perks, right?

"Absolutely, this is a challenging game that allows me to get a little exercise and some fresh air," Nolen said. "There is nothing better than playing disc golf on a beautiful day in the summer."

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Food and Lifestyles reporter

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