Arriving at my first tournament was a bubbling combination of nervousness and excitement. I had been to the course a handful of times in the past to practice it, but everything looked different with swarms of people crowding a small tent. Dozens of putters flew at the small practice basket, clumps of people laughed nervously, and Tournament Headquarters was a buzz of activity trying to get everything in order. My boyfriend and I joined our own clump of friends, laughing nervously and throwing dozens of warm-up putts.
When checking in, the Tournament Director noticed that I was in a division by myself, and asked if I wanted to bump up to the Advanced Women division. When I asked what the advantage would be to bumping up, he replied that he would only have to pay out one place. That didn’t seem like a good enough reason to me at the time, so I decided to stay in my lonely Recreational Division bubble.
Looking back, this was an advantage and disadvantage simultaneously. I had no one to compete against, so I was able to keep my mental game sharp without the pressure of “winning.” But that said, I also wasn’t really competing in a tournament; it felt more like just playing a simple round of disc golf while others were actually competing. Although this served as a great transition into tournament play, it also felt a little silly.
I “won” my division by default. I see now that the true advantage to bumping up to a higher division wasn’t only about the TD having to pay out one female player. It would have given me the ability to actually work to earn my standing, even though it can be a bit intimidating to have to play against females competing at an advanced level.
The way I see it, we need to encourage more beginner ladies to compete! If there were more women willing to play in tournaments, we could better fill all of the divisions. I understand that the word “competition” strikes fear into the hearts of many people (my sweaty palms often remind me of this fact) but we need to remember that in the end we’re simply outside throwing plastic in the woods. It truly is just a game! If you want to take it more seriously than that you absolutely can, but you also don’t have to! Play at the level and intensity where you feel most comfortable and don’t feel obligated to compare yourself to others.
My favorite part about playing in my first tournament was getting to do what I loved with other ladies who loved it too. I don’t need to win to have a good time, and knowing what I do now, I will be happy to truly compete in my next tournament.