CARY — Town Hall and the surrounding area in downtown Cary have become a golf course this weekend. But the cries of “Fore!” are for flying discs instead of little white balls.
Competitors from across North Carolina rushed to fill the spots for the Downtown Urban Open Disc Golf Tournament. It’s played on a course where buildings, parking decks and parking lots are all part of the field of play.
It’s a sign of how disc golf is growing in popularity among people who’d rather throw than swing their way through 18 holes.
“I’ve been waiting all year for this,” said Kevin Wiggins of Raleigh, who became hooked on the sport after playing in last year’s inaugural Downtown Urban Open.
Disc golf is similar to regular golf in that players try to complete each hole with as few strokes, or in this case, throws, as possible.
Eight to 12 million people have played disc golf with 500,000 people playing it regularly, according to the Professional Disc Golf Association. The association sanctions tournaments around the world, including the Downtown Urban Open.
“It’s amazing to see my hobby turn into something that pays for itself and lets me travel,” said Terry Gallops, an internationally-ranked disc golf player from North Raleigh who is participating in the tournament.
Gallops is sponsored by Innova, a disc maker, and he plays in 40 tournaments a year. Gallops is also one of the event’s sponsors, personally donating hundreds of dollars of equipment.
In advance of Sunday’s competition – which is organized by the Town of Cary, the Cary Area Disc League and the Raleigh Area Disc League – a youths clinic and exhibition was held Saturday morning.
Despite the cold, 25 kids turned out to learn the art of properly throwing the specialized discs, which are heavier but more aerodynamically-designed than Frisbees.
“This is what we live and work for – teaching the youth(s),” said Jay Pontier, president of the Cary Area Disc League.
The flying discs didn’t always go where the kids planned, but they still had fun.
“You get to throw things and don’t break them,” said Sebastian Shim, 7, of Cary, who attended the clinic.
But the highlight of the weekend is Sunday’s competition, which has a field of 90 professional and amateur competitors.
Most disc golf courses are in parks and wooded areas. So disc golf players jump at the chance to play on temporary urban courses such as the Downturn Urban Open. Pontier said all the slots filled up in just six days.
“This isn’t an opportunity that comes around that often,” said Bobby Henn of Clayton, who is playing Sunday.
The course includes challenges such as throwing a disc 42 feet up in the air through an opening in a parking deck. Discs deflected up and under the opening Saturday afternoon during a doubles event that attracted 62 players.
Players ultimately get to throw off the top of the parking deck toward the next hole that’s 269 feet away.
“When (else) do you get to play through a parking deck?” Pontier said.
Proceeds from the weekend will benefit the Town of Cary’s Relief for Recreation Fund, a scholarship program that provides financial support to Cary residents who wish to participate in recreation, sports, environmental, historical, and cultural arts programs and services.