The 2015 edition of the Crane Hill Open featured the most players it has ever seen with 130 people competing over the weekend. There are a number of reasons for the increase in participants, first and foremost is the growing popularity of disc golf in the area. Everyone collectively pat yourselves on the back if you continue to expose this sport to new people-because it’s working! There was also a switch from a Pro only day and Am only day to a Pro/Am1 day and all other Am day. This helped enormously but also drew the ire of a number of disc golf die hards who were shut out of the event due to it selling out in 12 hours! As a tournament director, these are the types of decisions that are very hard to make but that you ultimately must stand behind and learn from, whether they were good or bad. In this instance, I would make the same decision again although as the DG landscape in New England shifts towards bigger pro fields the decision may not be as simple next year.
This year’s Crane Hill Open saw it’s first Massachusetts’ resident winner in the MPO field. Kyle Moriarty needed one playoff hole to knock off the other titan from Team Crane, Chris Howard. The duo have found themselves battling all year on the tournament scene and this chapter went to Kyle. Moriarty joins Craig Cutler, Jasin Bayer and Jason Dore as Crane Hill Open champions. For those that don’t know all these guys, that’s 4 states represented by 4 winners of the 4 Crane Hill tournaments – New Jersey, Connecticut, Maine and Massachusetts. Will New York, Vermont, New Hampshire or Rhode Island continue the trend next year? Kyle was joined by fellow Champions, Wendy Boutin (FPO), Mike Zorovich (MPM), Mike Phaneuf (MA1), Mich Guerin (FA1), Brian Kynard (MM1), Karl Molitoris (MG1), Evan Marcyoniak (MA2), Mimi Herrick (FA2), Adam Morrison (MA3) and Kim Ricciardone (FA3).
I would feel remiss if I didn’t mention more exciting happenings. One of those things is the 15 person MPM field. This should be a trend in the coming years and will be something for tournament directors to consider moving forward. There is a plethora of feelings surrounding age protected divisions at 40+ since many can still compete at a very high level (at least in New England) and large MPM fields can detract from bigger MPO payouts. Bigger MPO payouts not only reward the happy winner and those immediately behind him but it increases the sex value of the sport. I’ve always believed that both bottom up and top down development is necessary for disc golf at and the former point is a top down model for the sport’s development. Put like this, if Kyle takes home $500+ for his win instetad of $350, that money registers that much more in the minds of amateurs aspiring to continue their DG development. One only needs to listen to a few pop songs to recognize the importance that money has in shaping the adolescent’s mind of what is cool. Disc golf has long operated outside of those confines but will not and can not gain commercial success if grassroot scenes continue to neglect the importance of growing payouts. That’s a small tangent and I’m plenty prone to go down a wormhole or two.
Another exciting event at this year’s Open was the new putting competition unveiled. The competition spotlighted the brand new two basket putting area at Crane Hill. It featured a 4 minute time clock and 8 stations where two putts were to be taken from each. Each station had a point value assigned to it and the qualifying rounds went all day long. The best eight qualifying scores proceeded to a bracket style competition where the 1 and 8 seed battled to see who would play the winner of the 4 and 5 match. After all the dust settled it was the 7th seeded Assistant Tournament Director, Jeff Fleury, who beat out the upstart 1st seed Jason Lasasso in a hard fought championship bout. Sunday’s event was less high scoring due to the natural fall off in talent level between the two days but the drama was no less. 12 year old Michael Thompson defeated New Hampshire resident, Brian Betit, in the championship to earn himself a share of the Crane Hill Open Putting Champion.
I should not write more, but I definitely can. I will spare those reading and leave you with this. I continuously feel rejuvenated with the disc golf “bug” after the Crane Hill Open. It’s a blessing to call this course “home” and the community that has embraced it is more amazing than the course itself. Thank yous are not enough but are undoubtedly due. Thank you to Davis Johnson, Dan Hale and Jason Johnson for their contributions as the creators of the Crane Hill DGC. Thank you to Steve Merrill, Ken Wagner and countless others for their hard work and commitment to the course. Without the effort from the community the scene surrounding Crane would not be what it is today. Last, but of course not least, thank you to the players. Thanks for coming, competing, smiling and contributing to what keeps me smiling, the furtherance of this beautiful sport.