Staff photo: Gabriel Monte Gilbert Lucero, 48, of Clovis makes a putt on the last hole of the course Saturday during a tournament at the Ned Houk Park disc golf course.
By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent
A sign at Ned Houk Park points out that a disc golf course exists on the easternmost part of the facility.
On Saturday, the Ned Houk Disc Golf Course got its first major workout as 18 participants gathered for an inaugural tournament.
The course has been in existence for less than two years and, in that period of time, interest in the sport was spawned for several who were in the field.
“We found out about the course and a friend of mine bought a couple of discs,” said Casey Shaw, 22, of Clovis. “Because the course was here, that’s why we started.”
Disc golf uses frisbee-like objects, which competitors fling toward metal baskets that stand approximately 4 feet high. At the Ned Houk course, the baskets were set up as far away as 449 feet from the tee boxes.
For the first Clovis Disc Golf Tournament, the course was expanded to 18 “holes” by making the first nine appreciably more difficult the second time around.
Though regular frisbees can be used to navigate the course, Saturday’s entrants in the tournament used the smaller, heavier discs favored by the disc golf community.
Avid players carry up to eight kinds of discs, some used for long throws and others for shorter chip shots, and even tote small minidiscs to mark the spot of their most recent shots.
John Stockmyer of Portales, who has played in tournaments around the country, said the sport isn’t a new phenomenon.
“It’s gotten a lot more popular over the last 20 years. It’s really grown,” said Stockmyer, 43. “It’s a lot bigger in the rest of the country. It’s sort of found its way to New Mexico.”
Saturday’s tournament, sponsored by the Clovis Noonday Kiwanis Club, gave prize money to the top three finishers and additional prizes for the best results in long-drive and closest-to-the-pin contests.
“It’s real easy. I call it poor man’s golf, because it’s free to play although the discs are from seven to 18 bucks apiece,” said Clovis’ Matt Quick, 33, who has been playing for seven years.
Some aspects of disc golf are similar to regular golf: Trees abruptly stop the progress of shots and general quiet does fall over the scene when someone is preparing to throw.
But it can be quite different, too.
“I feel like a midget,” proclaimed Dustin Stidham, 28, as he got on his knees to throw a disc under a tree on the second hole.
Brenda Poucher, 51, played while riding in a large, motorized wheelchair — using a tomahawk-chop motion to throw her discs.
“This is something I can do, even though I have a physical disability. I don’t have to worry about falling or tripping,” Poucher said. “I just get frustrated at myself.”
And that makes Poucher just like most other participants at regular golf courses on Saturday.