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First Gentleman’s Open a Big Success

October 31, 2010

Many thanks to all of the players, donors and volunteers who helped make the First Gentleman’s Disc Golf Open a great success.  The final fundraising figures will be released at a later date, but you would be hard pressed to see more smiles and happy faces at a disc golf tournament than there were at Cal State San Marcos yesterday.  Everybody left a winner – either because they played well or because they left knowing they had done something to help a great group of students – the ACE Scholars.

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ACE Scholars Services at Cal State San Marcos works with former foster youth – kids who have “aged out” of the state foster care system when they turn 18.  ACE helps these young people get into college, succeed in school, learn to live independently and become successful college graduates and adults.  Saturday’s collaboration of disc golf and a worthwhile charitable cause was the inspiration of Jim Mickelson, Director of ACE Scholars Services.  Jim is also the spouse of CSUSM President Karen Haynes, and has therefore picked up the moniker of “First Gentleman” of CSUSM.  He lent that title to the tournament, and played the part of host very well.

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The day started out rough – the band of rain that had been hanging out over the ocean decided to hit the McMahan House around 6:45am, just as the tournament supplies were being unloaded  and the course was being prepped.  As the players arrived, everyone huddled indoors, warily viewing the dark skies above.  Unfortunately, our new player clinic and putting contest were rained out.  A few participants even made quick trips across the street to CVS or Ralphs to purchase umbrellas to use while playing.

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But then a magical thing happened.  Just as the final scorecards was passed out to send groups out on to the course, the rain stopped.  And it didn’t return.  Fifty players headed out under cloudy skies that gradually opened up to a beautiful, sunny day – perfect for a round of disc golf.  Parts of the course were quite muddy and a few teepads were slick, but the course played fair and the clear skies provided some great views of surrounding San Marcos and the Discovery Valley.
There was definitely some good disc golf being played.  San Diego Aces President Jeff Nichols demonstrated the skill and steadiness that typify his game, taking the Grand Championship and winning the Open division with a two-round score of 86 (24 under par).  Jeff started Saturday one stroke behind Deano Porter and was 2 under after the first six holes on Saturday, but then strung together twelve consecutive birdies on the shorter upper holes at CSUSM for a five shot victory over A.J. Risley and Jim Herrick.

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In the Men’s Intermediate division, Alex Lawn also won with a five stroke margin, over Scott Bowers and Burbank’s Mike Bass.  In the Men’s Recreational division, Scott Dickson – PDGA #84 – won in a sudden-death CTP shootout over Armando Lopez of Off-Axis Designs.  Scott and Armando played a special CTP shot from atop the hill next to the McMahan House Conference Center down to basket #8, with Scott edging out Armando.  Michael Shaw and Vince Fox tied for third, one shot behind.  Rachelle Lopez was the lone “experienced” female disc golfer to play on Saturday, carding a 65 that would have made her very competitive among the Men’s division.

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There was a large contingent of first-time disc golfers on hand as well.  Playing in the Men’s and Ladies’ “Philanthropist” divisions, these folks came out to support the great work being done by ACE Scholars Services at CSU San Marcos and to try out the game of disc golf.  Charlie Arnold won the Men’s flight, skillfully applying mulligans on his way to a score of 56.  Steven Ferriera was second with a 58 and CSUSM Alumni Association President and first-time disc golfer Ken Green finished third at 59.  Second-time disc golfer and avid ball-golfer Sherryl Schwanhausser edged out Shari Leonard by one throw in the Ladies division, 81 to 82.  Sherryl remarked that she has now played in two charity disc golf events (she’s an Ice Bowl veteran), and both have had rain – she has challenged the disc golfers to provide dry weather in the future.  And in the competition for “most fun” (read, “most strokes”) Arthur Salazar and Pat Benson carried home bottles of Advil and muscle-relieving bath salts, to go with their big smiles.

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After the round of golf was over, players were treated to a tasty catered lunch at the McMahan House Conference Center under clear skies.  A selection of tasty beers from local Stone Brewing was available for 19th-hole embellishment as well.  A silent auction was part of the festivities, with prizes such as trips for two to San Francisco, lunch with CSUSM’s President Haynes or Escondido’s Mayor Lori Holt-Pfeiler, or a 1-hour airplane flight with San Marcos Mayor Jim Desmond going to the highest bidder.

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After lunch, First Gentleman Jim Mickelson made a moving presentation to the crowd, describing the difficulties faced by the ACE Scholars students and foster children in general.  Jim closed by expressing his appreciation to the assembled players and guests for their participation and generosity.  CSUSM President Karen Haynes also delivered a few words of welcome to those who had not visited the CSUSM campus before, as well as an invitation for them to return, either to play disc golf, see another on-campus event, or take a class.  The morning wrapped up with the awards presentation, and participants were left with the rest of a beautiful day to reflect on the fun they had experienced, and the good cause they had supported.

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Many disc golfers expressed their pleasure with the the First Gentleman’s Open – some saying that it was the best they had ever been treated at a disc golf tournament.  Keep your eyes open on the course for the blue-on-blue golf shirts with the distinctive “First Gentleman” logo that were part of the player pack.  Big thanks should go to Monica Watkins, of Watkins Synergized Solutions, who arranged and managed the event, translating the First Gentleman’s vision into a day full of fun and rewarding service for all who attended.

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If you didn’t make it this year, start planning right now for the 2nd Annual First Gentleman’s Disc Golf Open.  You will definitely not want to miss it!

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