By Jerry Roth
On March 8th the Ledgestone Insurance Open presented by Discraft will officially open registration for the amateur division. Many hopefuls will get the opportunity to join an amazing event and if they are joining they must prepare for everything that goes along playing in a world-class disc golf tournament.
If all great athletes could put into words the exact ingredients that led them to their greatest victories, the rest of us mere mortals would simply duplicate the miraculous feats of our heroes. Unfortunately, the blend of skill, passion, and sometimes luck are the most elusive mixture obtainable. Jack Nicklaus once commented that, "confidence is believing in your own ability, knowing what you have to do to win. My confidence was developed through preparation." I had the chance to talk to pro disc golfer Nate sexton and asked him how he prepared for the Ledgestone last year and what it takes to win at this event, he answered, "I think a good putt in the wind will be helpful, along with some smart position plays to try to manage some of the stroke and OB rules. My preparation is not different for this tournament, or any other tournament. I have to practice the courses and create my game plan no matter where I play. My goal is to execute my game plan, when I do that well I feel I will have an opportunity to win any event I play."
With the Ledgestone Insurance Open presented by Discraft approaching, the greatest Disc Golfer's from around the globe will converge in Peoria, Illinois to compete in a tournament that is quickly gaining a reputation as the most lucrative, not to mention prestigious event of the year. I asked Nate what is unique about the Ledgestone Insurance Open presented by Discraft and he responded candidly that, "I feel like the fundraising approach is the most unique thing about the event. We really work hard to raise as much money as possible for the event and I feel like our approach is different than every other event."
The Ledgestone Insurance Open, among the highest payout amounts on tour, may persuade many to make the trip to Peoria, but winning the event is a privilege only a few can hope to achieve. With every quest to reach a dream, preparation is the first step. Promising to entertain enormous crowds, the Ledgestone Insurance Open will undoubtedly be fueled with excitement and its share of interruptions. Each competitor most face their own mental challenges if they hope to keep focused with a gallery so large. In order to overcome such distractions, disc golfers will have to make a conscious effort to control their state of mind in order to maximize their potential. When Nate Sexton was asked how he dealt with distractions he remarked that, "I think all good players need to be able to deal with distractions or unexpected outcomes, as they are a part of every round we ever play. I try to focus all my mental energy on the shot at hand, and I wait to throw until I feel I am able to give the shot my full focus." An athlete from the lowest division all the way up to the professional must battle disturbances ranging from loud commotions among spectators, to personal issues in their own life. Managing these diversions will lead to the highest level of readiness. A clear mind is a winning mind.
Another path to tournament preparedness is developing clear course goals and maintaining the focus on performance. Many professional players have the ability to forget the bad shots of the past, only choosing to remember the brilliant ones. It is this remarkable capacity that allows great disc golfers to trust their skills and make challenging shots under extreme pressure. It is also this total consciousness that will help control the tempo and pace in each round.
Unfortunately, not all preparation strategies are created equal. One tactic that is used far too seldom is getting familiar with the course itself. Practice rounds may be a necessity, but most top pros know that walking the course and taking note of the subtle undulations and possible landing zones is imperative for a successful drive or approach. The competitor who chooses to ignore the landscape and its unyielding landmarks will likely endure treacherous skip sneaky slides, and the most dreaded of catastrophes, the roll-away. Of course the added danger of the wind in combination with the terrain only adds to the susceptibility of a poor round.
The true cornerstone of tournament preparation will always be practice. Although the word "practice" is so often overused, the value of practice remains paramount for success. A true competitor relishes the process of self-improvement. There is a sublime rhythm to the repetition of putting practice, or the powerful creation of muscle memory with each explosion of a practice drive. Relying on a consistent routine works on many levels for the athlete, quieting that insecure voice inside and reassuring that fierce contender within to fight on. But many have an alternative theory that "less is more". With too much exertion comes with it the threat of mental exhaustion. Sexton commented on conserving his energy and know when is enough by saying, "Yes absolutely, the feeling is a tired arm! Drinking water and eating snacks becomes important over a long tournament round, especially in hot humid weather. Using a cooling towel on my face and neck has been helpful to me in the past." Some disc golfers feel that being well-rested and relaxed is the optimal way to enter a tournament. Whether you practice hard or conserve energy, the only answers that a sportsperson will find, awaits them on the course. On March 8th, you can be a part of history by joining the 2017 Ledgestone Insurance Open presented by Discraft.