Greatland Cup participants listen to an orientation on the first day of the Greatland Cup last year at Aant’iyeik Park. (Courtesy Photo | Russell Sandstrom)

Greatland Cup participants listen to an orientation on the first day of the Greatland Cup last year at Aant’iyeik Park. (Courtesy Photo | Russell Sandstrom)

Disc golf tourney brings together best local players

Wooded Juneau course ‘levels the playing field’ between beginners and pros

The Friends of Aant’iyeik Disc Golf Club is hosting the 13th annual Greatland Cup Saturday and Sunday at Aant’iyeik Park.

The tournament consists of three 18-hole rounds and one nine-hole round. The first three rounds will be played on the red, gold and black courses. The red tees are located closest to the disc baskets (or catchers) and are the most commonly used among the public. The gold and black tees are located slightly farther out from the disc baskets. The fourth round, the “final nine,” gets creative and mixes and matches different tees to different baskets.

Russell Sandstrom is the spokesman for Friends of Aant’iyeik and said the tournament provides a good opportunity for novice players to learn the official rules of the game and play alongside high-level players.

“Everybody is welcome to sign up and give it a try,” Sandstrom said. “This event, plus all the summer league stuff that we do, are just real good places to really learn more about the game and learn from people that play the game very well.”

There were just under 30 participants last year, about a third of which came from out of town. Sandstrom said the event is unique among disc golf tournaments in that everyone plays in the same division and all receive a cash prize. The winner last year, Brian Blitz, pocketed $400.

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Sonny Ashby, 38, won the inaugural cup in 2006 and won additional titles in 2007, 2010, 2011 and 2012. He finished last year just four throws (strokes) behind Blitz last year for fifth place.

Ashby said the tournament has become much more competitive as disc golf grows locally and abroad. In addition to the dozens of local players that participate, there are now players from Anchorage, Fairbanks and Whitehorse joining in on the fun.

“We get more and more players each year,” he said. “It’s growing at least 10 percent (every year) and I think disc golf in general since 2006 … went from 4 million users to 40 million now. It’s one of the fastest growing sports in the world.”

Ashby said he’s confident about his chances of winning for the sixth time this year. He just returned from Alaska’s largest disc golf tournament, King of the Hill in Anchorage, and finished in eighth place. But he knows from experience Aant’iyeik can humble even the best of players.

“This course is anybody’s game though,” Ashby said. “It can really level the playing field between ams (amateurs) and pros because it’s so tightly wooded. I wouldn’t say it’s luck but it’s pretty close to a luck-driven event.”

There will be practice rounds going on at the course today. Registration costs $50 will begin at 8 a.m. Saturday at Aant’iyeik Park. The first round is at 10 a.m. and the second round is at 2 p.m. The third round will begin on Sunday at 9 a.m. and the fourth round will take place at 2 p.m.

• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.