By Sue Moore
Vicksburg’s Recreation Area is popular among the dozens of disc golfers who use it. They’ve shortened the name: It’s “ViRA.” And hundreds of golfers will converge on it July 18-25, according to Rusty Gorter, assistant director of the coming tournament.
A total of 774 amateur competitors signed up to play following an invitation extended to those who had accumulated a minimum number of points throughout the year. They range in age from 10 to 80, male and female. That means they are the best of the best, Gorter said. The competitors will begin arriving in the Kalamazoo area by July 13 for practice rounds.
They will also be traveling to nine other courses during the week to compete, with the finals scheduled for Timber Ridge at the end of the week. ViRA was chosen because it was close to the headquarters in Kalamazoo, but it also has a nice variety of long and short holes to play, Gorter says.
“We like the community aspect of disc golf. It’s fun, cheap to play, and one of the faster growing sports in the US since it began in the 1970s,” he points out. Players will carry around a backpack that contains different weight of plastic discs that serve as a putter, mid-range, and a driver. Typically the sport appeals to a younger generation, but the Vicksburg park’s Mike Gerry volunteers to take care of the course as his retirement occupation. He doesn’t seek recognition according to Gorter, as he has volunteer help, such as Christine and Leonard Klok. “He actually collect cans at the park and puts the money collected towards benches that he builds at home. We joke with him that they are ‘benches – a dime at a time’.”
“He has done an awesome job in keeping it in good shape and even building some of the timber buttresses around the baskets.”
On Friday, July 24, the Lake Effect Disc Golf tournament organizers will provide free entry to the disc golfers to the Lions Club Summer Festival pavilion. Many of them are expected in town to take advantage of this local event. Larry LaBond, a Kalamazoo area professional disc golfer, the tournament director managing the event along with his assistants Kevin Dowd and Gorter.