North Wins!!!!!! (Finally…)
The unbelievable is now believable, the unthinkable can be thought, the underdogs are the victors (if only by the skin of their teeth) and the upstarts are on top. Yes, that’s right…the North Team finally won a North/South Challenge.
In the four previous contests between North County and South County members of the San Diego Aces Disc Golf Club, the South had always prevailed. In 2008, the South won with 31 wins, 24 losses and 5 ties. 2009 was the closest match to date, with the South winning 29-25-6. The South won 37-29 in 2010 and 32-17-10 in 2011 (yes, I know some of the math is off, but that’s what the records say…). And in 2012, the South was expecting another win over the less-experienced North. It’s not surprising, as South County has had disc golf at Morley Field since the mid-1970′s, so there’s a long history of the sport and the player base has had time to fully develop. North County didn’t have disc golf baskets installed until the mid-2000′s, when Fly-18 installed the oft-maligned Dr. Fred baskets at Emerald Isle. Emerald Isle Disc Golf is no more, but in the meantime courses have been added at Kit Carson Park in Escondido, Brengle Terrace Park in Vista, Goat Hill in Oceanside and all over San Marcos (Montiel Park, Sunset Park and Cal State San Marcos). It is this recent growth of the sport that has brought about the development of an enthusiastic, yet green, community of players.
Dan Lichtman, Captain of the South Team, did his usual thorough job of team-building, holding several try-out rounds at Sun Valley Golf Course and Morley Field. His efforts were hurt a bit, however, by the fact that the Challenge came one week after the Morley Team Tournament, and some top players were not ready to commit to back-to-back weekends full of disc golf. The North Team also lost some potential players because of this, but probably not to the same extent. Four-time Captain A.J. Risley shared recruiting and leadership duties with Co-Captain Scott Miller, who infused new energy into the North Team. While there was some grumbling from the South side about the eligibility of a few North players, the competition began in earnest at Kit Carson Park on Saturday morning.
It was foggy and a little chilly for the start of the doubles round at Kit Carson, but warmed up once discs started hitting chains. The South wiped away any home-field advantage that the North may have had, winning some key matches. In a battle of captains, Dan Lichtman and partner Pat Paramore defeated the father/son team of A.J. and Allen Risley, four holes to one; and in the first all-lady doubles match in the series’ history, Kayleen Boyle and Shonda Garcia beat Pam Iam and Courtney Cruz, 5-2. At the end of the morning, the South led: 5 wins, 2 losses, 3 ties.
Saturday afternoon saw 20 singles matches played at Brengle Terrace Park in Vista. The North hoped to gain some ground back, since few South players had much experience playing the county’s newest course. The North charged back, winning several matches by large hole margins, something that would come back to haunt the South in the end. Scott “Swan” Tullius and T.J. Cruz won their matches big on the same card, taking down Carlos Caballero and Bobby Martin 9-3 and 9-4, respectively. In big Open division matches, Dallas Snow-Ramirez beat Justin Kirk 7-2, while Kinetic Kouch-Krasher Philo Braithwaite bested Trey McKelvey 8-4. And in a key Masters-division match, Allen Risley won over Dan Shorkey, 4-1. The North edged out the South at Brengle Terrace, with 10 wins, 8 losses and 2 ties.
At the end of Saturday’s play, the South led with 13 wins, while the North had 12 wins…with 5 matches tied.
In past years, Morley Field had always been the Achilles’ Heel of the North squad. Twenty singles matches headed out onto the course, with South Team spirits riding high, expecting the usual Morley domination. Instead, what they got was a stalemate. The South had some big wins: Jesse Martinez 9-1 over Tom Vincent, Ian Funston over Evan Taylor 10-4, Shane Dehner 6-2 over Mark Verrochi and Dan Shorkey evening up the Master’s division, 4-2 over Allen Risley. But the North fought back hard: Don Vincent beat Mike Valli 7-4, Dallas Snow-Ramirez came through big again in Open beating Magnus Petersen 7-4, Poway’s Mike Lust took down Angel Garcia 6-2, and Daniel Boe shocked Mike Tyberg 10-2. When the dust settled, the South had won ten matches. But so had the North. The two teams pushed at Morley, a big surprise indeed.
After three courses, the South had 23 wins, the North 22 and there were 5 ties. Hard to be much closer.
The final set of doubles matches were played on the long layout at Sun Valley, once around from the white tees and once from the blues. The whole weekend had been very close, competitively, and that trend continued through the afternoon. On the first card to finish, each side won a match: Philo and T.J. beat Trey and Jesse 5-4, while Angel and Shooter beat Lusty and Don 7-2. The South still led by one. The second card finished up with a win for the North – Nick Newton and Kevin Christie over Tyler Tremmeling and Bobby Martin, 7-1…and a win for the South – Justin and Carlos beating Scott and Swan, 6-3. South 25, North 24. Card three was also a split: Magnus and Mike edged Dallas and Mark 5-4, while Team Rizbee beat Shorkey and Hesser, 5-2. South 26, North 25.
Card number four was you guessed it…a split. Stephen and E.T. beating Shane and Jason 6-2 for the North, while the Southern ladies beat the Northern ladies, 7-2. The South led 27-26-5. As the cards were coming in, players from both teams were keeping track of the math. Players formed a gallery adjacent to the 9th green, standing up on the side hill to get a good view of the discs flying in the setting sun. Word spread out to the final card that the match was very close, so the pressure was on. The match of Chris Armacost and Jordan Beam versus Big D and Pat Paramore had already been won by the North, but the players knew that the match might possibly go to the tiebreaker: total holes won. That made the outcome of the final hole still important. Chris and Big D both had tee shots just inside the circle, with Chris and Patrick slamming home suicide putts to halve the hole. The North had just tied the match, 27-27-5.
The final match, Mike Tyberg and Ian Funston for the South versus Daniel Boe and Tom Vincent for the North had been a roller-coaster. Mike and Ian had taken a 3-1 lead over the first nine holes, but Daniel and Tommy fought back with birdies on long holes 2 & 3 to even up the match. But Tyberg hit a monster putt on hole 5-long to put the Southies in the lead by one and that’s where it stood going into the final hole. Mike and Ian hiccupped a bit, with Ian’s big sidearm tee shot tomb-stoning into the green and Mike’s shot sliding down the side hill. Tommy must have been pumped up, because his tee shot screamed past the basket and skipped O.B. But Daniel kept his cool, laying his tee shot on the edge of the hillside to the left, about fifteen feet short of the basket. Ian and Mike both took strong runs at the putt from down the hill, but both missed. Daniel, usually a sure-thing putter fired his disc at the basket, hitting solid chains…but spitting out the right side. Whispers swept over the crowd – Tommy needed to hit this putt to win the hole, halved the match and bring the entire challenge to a tie. From somewhere in the crowd, Don Vincent called out “take your time Tommy!” And he did (for Tommy, that is), before tossing the disc dead-center. The crowd erupted in cheers for the “Cinderella Story”!
Immediately, the focus shifted to the scorecards. Word had spread that the tie-breaker for the match was total holes won. The holes won for Saturday had already been totaled, and the North held an edge after Day 1. The captains quickly totaled up the Day 2 scores and it looked like the North had won! But then, in shades of the year 2000 in Florida, calls came up from South players for a recount. A new team of score-counters pored over the cards, under the lights of cell phones held by nervous players. And when the scores were added up for the second time? The North had won the tiebreaker 276-263!
Members of the North team huddled together for a team picture and then headed off for a victory dinner at Fuddruckers. South players eased their sorrow with free 6-packs of Karl Strauss beer, and started plotting their revenge. But it’s good-natured revenge. Every year, the North/South Challenge impresses new participants with the level of competition, but also the camaraderie, both within the teams and between the teams. It’s disc golf at it’s best – everyone cheering for each other, no matter what side they’re on. Can’t wait until next year!