Big Arms Highlight Big Guns Showdown at West City Park
Local disc golf club's marquee tournament featured over 17,000 feet of disc-throwing competition.
Like any other weekend, Festus’ West City Park was packed with activity under Saturday’s warm summer sun. Youth soccer took to the central fields in the morning, and family picnics occupied the pavilions throughout the afternoon. Several fishing poles were cast, walkers and joggers took their laps, and several motorcyclists found pleasure with a leisurely cruise.
As temporary as each of these crowds were – a two-hour soccer game here, a 30-minute bike ride there – one group remained constant throughout the day. Circling silently around the park’s perimeter, noticed only from a Frisbee that zipped out of the trees or the jingle of chains that rang in the wind, the Big Guns made their rounds.
On Saturday, West City Park’s professional-class disc golf course played host to the Jefferson County Sharpshooters’ signature event: The second annual Big Guns Showdown. The local club drew more than 20 teams out for a full day’s worth of tournament disc golf, all beckoned by the chance to show off their own big guns – or big arms.
“It was definitely a success, if only because we had about ten more teams than we did last year,” said Joe Bryson, information officer for the Jefferson County Sharpshooters, which was officially established this past January. “We got a little boost this year, thanks to a bit more of a friendship with the bigger club from St. Louis, the River City Flyers, which brought out eight teams of pros who came down and played.”
Those professionals, active members of the Professional Disc Golf Association, took to a course that was extended to its maximum distance for the tournament – a single round was stretched to a staggering 9,700 feet, with enough trees and water hazards to dismiss any hopes for a simple throw. Still, the duo of Bryan Johnson and Jerry Barklage, winners of the Showdown’s Open division, did manage to make things look easy. Living off precision putting and drives that pushed 500 feet with a single throw, the pair turned in an outstanding two-round score of 108 on the par-70 course. Roger Reyes and Aaron Walters took second with a score of 113.
While Saturday’s tournament was not sanctioned by the PDGA, it was a confident step toward that goal. Growing from a loosely organized inaugural tournament last year to the coordinated effort installed last weekend – complete with a $400 sponsored prize pot, catered lunch and beverage, and several side events such as long drive and putting competitions – the Sharpshooters hope the Big Guns Showdown will become a PDGA C-tier event as early as next year. The River City Flyers, which hosted four PDGA events this year, is helping every step of the way.
“We want to help (the Sharpshooters), we want to see them flourish and grow,” said Mark Kane, vice president of the Flyers. Kane and his partner, Dave Rish, followed an otherwise average morning round with a 54 in the afternoon session, finishing with a 119 score and first-place in the Advanced division. “It’s not this club and that club, our club or their club. We’re all just one big community, and we’re all working toward the same goal.”
Beyond simply trading members for event support, the Flyers have boosted the Sharpshooters internally as well. Along with club framework and fundraising methodology, as well as years of tournament experience under its belt, the Flyers club has helped put the Sharpshooters on the fast track to becoming a legit organization.
“(The Flyers) have definitely helped us in the growing process,” said Bryson, who won the Intermediate division with a score of 133. He and his partner, brother Ricky Wells, a senior at Hillsboro High, also won the Recreational division last year. “Being sister clubs, they really gave us a lot of insight on how to run a tournament with pretty much minimal-to-no flaws.”
The Sharpshooters are directly responsible for the West City Park course, as well as Festus’ Jokerst Park and Arnold City Park. The club has two night-time “glow” disc events planned for the latter courses – the 4th Annual Night Flight at Jokerst on Sept. 24 and JCS Halloween Glow at Arnold Park on Oct. 22 – as well as the JCS Birthday Bash at West City on Nov. 5, the club’s major membership drive to celebrate its founding.