FAIRMONT — With the 10th annual Seth Burton Memorial Disc Golf Tournament taking place this month, the tournament’s founders Phil and Rebecca Burton are preparing for what will be the biggest event Morris Park has yet seen.
While the standards in place to combat the coronavirus pandemic could have made this event impossible, Phil said he and Rebecca, the tournament’s founders, along with Josh Smith, their tournament director, have made changes to the event that will prohibit people from congregating in one space at one time.
“It’s going to be our biggest tournament ever, we’re so excited,” Phil Burton said. “It’s also much more complicated than it usually is, because we have been running tournaments up there for 15 years, and now we’re having to do everything different.”
The tournament takes place from Sept. 19-20 in Morris Park, and in the past few years, it has garnered participation from about 100 disc golfers from around the country. There are 145 competitors signed up for the tournament, which is the limit. During play, they will be spread around the park for most of the tournament, player parties have been cancelled this year and the normal player’s meeting is instead an online video made for the participants to watch.
Phil Burton said there are a few other aspects of the tournament that had to be changed in the name of safety as well.
“We’re having to do everything different,” Phil said. “We’re doing drive-thru check in instead of having a lot of people congregate at headquarters. We are having hand sanitizer available, masks are required at tournament headquarters, masks are recommended at all times.”
According to Smith, the tournament is following new guidelines recommended by the Disc Golf Association, which are meant to help minimize contact between players. Aside from the standard directives of keeping groups small and having everyone wear a mask, Smith said the association developed an app that will give players an easier time finding the next hole, and also keeping score during the game.
“We are also using a Disc Golf Association digital scorecard system that they have developed,” Smith said. “That’s basically going to let everybody get on their phones and see their scores and record their scores in the tournament. That is also going to let people know where they go for each round and where they have to be.”
Smith also said everyone who signed up to play has signed a waiver to attend the tournament, and they all did so without question. With players coming from other states including Pennsylvania, Maryland, Tennessee, Kentucky and more, Smith said this was a necessary step.
Burton and Smith said they have always raised money for the tournament, to pay out the players who place high with prizes and cash. Phil said that although they got a late start in raising funds this year, the leaders will still be able to pay out the players because of donations and sponsorships.
“Overall, we’re expecting it will be about a $15,000 payout or more at the end of the day,” Smith said. “There’s a division of 20, and then 10 of those people will be the ones who get the payout. Out of 145 people, 72 of them are going to walk away with some extra stuff.”
While there are guidelines in place to keep everyone attending the tournament as safe as possible, Smith said the sport of disc golf is one that can already be played and enjoyed at a distance from others.
“This being in a pandemic, really it’s a boom for disc golf,” Smith said. “They’re encouraging people to get outside and get some clean air and exercise, and what better way to do it and be socially distanced at the same time than play a sport like this.”
Phil, too, said national interest in disc golf has been increasing over the past several years, and this pandemic has brought even more people to give the sport a try. Judging by the participation in the tournament, Burton said he believes this trend will continue.
“We’re tuned into this sport across the country and it has seen a huge increase due to COVID,” Burton said. “We are certainly experiencing that here. There are so many more people playing now than there was a year ago, and that is also evidenced by our tournament attendance.