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Disc Golf World Championships will visit St. Helens park

The PDGA World Championships will be at McCormick Park on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday


Though it will only be used about half as much as the other five courses chosen, McCormick has a chance to be a part of history: the first ever professional disc golf world championships in Portland.For most, Frisbee golf is a fun, relaxing activity between friends: throw a Frisbee around for a couple of hours, just for kicks.

But next week, the city of St. Helens will get a firsthand look at a group of people who take the sport – yes, the sport – of disc golf far more seriously.

Nearly 400 disc golfers will descend on the Portland Metro area for the 2014 Professional Disc Golf Association's World Championships, including a stop at McCormick Park for a tour on the brand spankin' new disc golf course.

Interested in playing? You can check out our full hole-by-hole breakdown, but nothing will quite substitute for the experience of simply getting out and knocking off the rust.

Nestled in the woods on the southwestern side of Milton Creek, the McCormick Park Disc Golf Course is the brainchild of Logan Miller, Sean Phillips, Jared Fischer and a handful of fellow disc golf visionaries that decided to petition the city council to build such a course several years ago.

It hasn't been an easy task. Much of the land the course was built on is heavily forested with thick underbrush covering rocky, undulating hills. There are only a few points where the patch of land can be easily accessed, and though there are a number of trails running through the section of the park, the group planning to build the course would basically have to start from scratch.

Thankfully, they had some experience on their side. Miller, who is listed on www.pdga.com as one of two designers of the course, said he had moved to a part of California that was devoid of a place to play.

The solution? Build one.

Through the years since, he's had connections to the construction of several disc golf courses. Miller said he's been playing since the late 1990s, and has gotten the chance to play on over 250 different courses across 41 states. That background makes for a pretty good idea of what a hole should be like and how a course should lay out.

From that point, because of the thick canopy above McCormick Park, it was all ground-work. Literally. The designers spent hours walking the course and picturing where tees would be, where to place baskets and how everything would affect the walking paths. In addition, a bottleneck near the center of the course where the creek swings toward the park's boarder made it difficult to establish a “flow,” limiting the distance between one hole and the next to keep golfers fresh and interested.

The many factors made designing the course a long, arduous project.

“We probably went through about 20 to 40 redesigns,” said Miller with a laugh.

McCormick is among the rougher of the six courses – Trojan Park, Pier Park, Blue Lake Park, and two at McIver Park being the others – but according to Todd Andrews, the tournament director and former president of the PDGA board of directors, it presents special challenges the other courses don't.

“They're all chosen for their difficulty,” said Andrews. “They're all big, long courses. Blue Lake [Park] is extremely long, and it's near the [Columbia] River. Trojan [Park] is the same way, and there are water hazards. You have to technically do very well.”

McCormick is also the newest course to host part of the championships. In fact, it was barely out of the planning stage when it was chosen, but Andrews said he felt confident and moved forward based on the level of volunteer commitment.

St. Helens can expect to see action at McCormick on three separate days. The Grand Master Men, golfers 50 and older, will be at the park on Tuesday morning at 9 a.m., while the Pro Women will grace the park on Thursday morning, along with the Senior Grand Master (60+) Men. The 40+ Mens' division will be at McCormick all day next Friday.

The finals for all eight divisions takes place at Blue Lake Park in Gresham next Saturday afternoon. In addition to the golf, the event will have a number of merchandise, food and beer vendors. For the most part, all events are free with the exception of parking fees at state parks.