Disc golfers at Keystone Games say they are hooked on sport

By Tom Robinson - For Times Leader
Matt Kunieger, of Moscow, tosses a 15-foot shot on the 5th hole during the Keystone Games disc golf on Sunday at Nesbitt Park. - Tony Callaio | For Times Leader
Seth Johnson, of Tunkhannock, watches his frisbee after he releases on the 5th hole. - Tony Callaio | For Times Leader
Harvey’s Lake resident Eoin Ellis releases a 50-foot shot during the Keystone Games disc golf at Nesbitt Park on Sunday. - Tony Callaio | For Times Leader
Disc golfer Jordan Hillegas traveled from Lancaster to participate in the Keystone Games on Sunday. - - Tony Callaio | For Times Leader
Cain Schoville, of Hazleton, prepares to launch a tee shot on the 6th hole during the Keystone Games disc golf. Schoville carries various disc along the course. - - Tony Callaio | For Times Leader

KINGSTON – Players from the NEPA Flickers club provided more than half the entries among the 27 participants in the Keystone State Games and Pennsylvania Senior Games Disc Golf Tournament Sunday at the Nesbitt Park Disc Golf Course.

The NEPA Flickers is a group that gets together at the handful of available local disc golf courses for fun and the occasional more serious competition.

As others from the club gathered in the parking lot next to the course to explain their game, they noted that club member Michael Siley was probably somewhere nearby practicing.

“I’m always practicing,” Siley, from Mountain Top, where the American Legion Post has a course, said later.

Siley led the 18-29-year-old division after the morning round and wound up placing second of 10 in the age group. Friends introduced Siley to the sport in which players throw discs – think Frisbees® — at baskets attached to poles. In the three years since, he has been hooked.

The game has been picking up participants, including many of the Flickers club members over the past half-dozen years.

According to the Disc Golf Association’s website, there are more than 2,500 disc golf courses in the country. Between 7 and 10 million people have played the game and there are 24,000 members in the PDGA, which sanctions nearly 400 annual tournaments.

After a morning round of 18 holes or two trips around the nine-hole course, the Keystone Games players returned for a 1:15 p.m. round. They used a shot-gun start, the same approach taken in golf when tournaments start players on different holes around the course so that they can begin and finish around the same time.

There are similarities to traditional golf, both in the playing of the game and some of the surrounding sights. Players either carried their equipment in backpacks or used smaller versions of the pull carts seen on a golf course. The attire was more casual – more jeans and T-shirts like the ones that identified several of the members of the Flickers.

When it came time for the shot-gun start, tournament director Chas Ford, the state coordinator for the Professional Disc Association who came in from Hershey to run the event with Pete Sickler of Dallas, walked to his Toyota in the parking lot and sounded its horn signaling players to start in two minutes.

Unlike golf, where players use different clubs to execute shots, the change from shot to shot is in the type of disc selected from the bag and thrown.

Over the next 1 ½-2 hours, they would throw their “drivers” and “putters” as needed while navigating from hole to hole, working around trees that defined some holes. The goal is to use the fewest shots to complete a hole, which is finished when players send their disc into a basket hanging from a pole, usually positioned 3-6 feet above the ground.

While Siley practiced, club members George Marsellas from Hanover Township, Bryan Pavlick from Wilkes-Barre, Andrew Lazovich from Plains, Randy Boatman from Kingston, Eoin Ellis from Harveys Lake and Seth Johnston from Tunkhannock explained their game to a reporter.

“It’s just golf with a Frisbee,” Boatman said. “There’s drivers, mid-ranges, putters.

“It’s pretty much always around trees.”

The longer holes tend to measure at 350-400 feet with the shorter ones in the 150-220 range.

Wind impacts play and some courses have man-made obstacles.

Different holes and courses emphasize varying throwing skills.

The club members have tried the different courses in Luzerne County and noted there are many options around Allentown and Bloomsburg.

“There’s also talk of them putting a course up in Dallas and expanding this one to the other side of the woods over behind Kirby Park, another nine holes, which we’re all for,” Marsellas said.

Siley said the distance of his drives is one of the strengths of his game and helped him to his 5-under-par, 49 in the morning round.

Nicholas Spitler, a professional from Union Dale in Susquehanna County, had the day’s best performance with rounds of 45-46—91.

Spitler was first of eight in the 30-39 age group that produced three of the four scores below 100.

Matt Kuniegel rallied to shoot 54-43—97 and beat Siley by four shots for the 18-29 title.

Nathan Hillegas, a University of Kansas student from Lancaster, won a tight battle for the bronze, shooting 105 to edge Pavlick by one shot and Lazovich, Johnston and Ellis by two each.

Spitler won the 30-39 title over Kingston’s Keith Stewart (96) and Wilkes-Barre Township’s Frank Kotula (97). Spitler followed up the day’s best round of a 45 in the morning, by shooting 46 in the afternoon to expand his lead.

Boatman was fifth.

Andrew Felker from Walnputport defeated Marsellas, 110-116, as the only competitors in the 40-49 age group.

Brad Alden’s 104 won the 50-59 age group where Scott Ritchie was second and Scott Alden third.

The Senior Games conducted nine-hole events in which Martin Mearz won the 75-79-year-old male division by 18 shots with a 35.

Laura Ford, the only senior woman entered, shot a 54.

Matt Kunieger, of Moscow, tosses a 15-foot shot on the 5th hole during the Keystone Games disc golf on Sunday at Nesbitt Park.
https://www.mydallaspost.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/web1_Keystone-Disc-Golf-1.jpgMatt Kunieger, of Moscow, tosses a 15-foot shot on the 5th hole during the Keystone Games disc golf on Sunday at Nesbitt Park. Tony Callaio | For Times Leader

Seth Johnson, of Tunkhannock, watches his frisbee after he releases on the 5th hole.
https://www.mydallaspost.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/web1_Keystone-Disc-Golf-2.jpgSeth Johnson, of Tunkhannock, watches his frisbee after he releases on the 5th hole. Tony Callaio | For Times Leader

Harvey’s Lake resident Eoin Ellis releases a 50-foot shot during the Keystone Games disc golf at Nesbitt Park on Sunday.
https://www.mydallaspost.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/web1_Keystone-Disc-Golf-3.jpgHarvey’s Lake resident Eoin Ellis releases a 50-foot shot during the Keystone Games disc golf at Nesbitt Park on Sunday. Tony Callaio | For Times Leader

Disc golfer Jordan Hillegas traveled from Lancaster to participate in the Keystone Games on Sunday.
https://www.mydallaspost.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/web1_Keystone-Disc-Golf-4.jpgDisc golfer Jordan Hillegas traveled from Lancaster to participate in the Keystone Games on Sunday. Tony Callaio | For Times Leader

Cain Schoville, of Hazleton, prepares to launch a tee shot on the 6th hole during the Keystone Games disc golf. Schoville carries various disc along the course.
https://www.mydallaspost.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/web1_Keystone-Disc-Golf-5.jpgCain Schoville, of Hazleton, prepares to launch a tee shot on the 6th hole during the Keystone Games disc golf. Schoville carries various disc along the course. Tony Callaio | For Times Leader
Keystone Games highlight growing aerial sport of disc golf

By Tom Robinson

For Times Leader