MISSOULA — A Garden City tradition is back after a pandemic-forced hiatus in 2020.
The 15th annual Zoo Town Open disc golf tournament returns this year with 94 competitors set to take on the Blue Mountain Disc Golf Course in the Lolo National Forest on Saturday and the Pattee Canyon Disc Golf Course Sunday for the final round.
The move to Pattee Canyon, which will be the first for the Zoo Town Open, was special for tournament director Brian Bjortomt, especially considering that the event is back after a year off.
"It's a special thing for the locals," he said Friday. " ... We are so excited. Pattee Canyon is kinda our local gem. Blue Mountain is the championship course while Pattee Canyon is the fun local course. To be able to showcase both of our local courses in a premier event or Montana sure is special."
The younger groups will get things started Sunday morning, with the other groups hitting the course in waves after with the final groups teeing off no later than 1 p.m. or so.
The two winners from the last time the Zoo Town Open was held in 2019, Idaho's Sarah Hokom and Florida native Calvin Heimburg, are not listed on the current registration list.
Unlike past years when the tournament would welcome golfers from across the country and a few of the best in the world, this year has more of a local flair. Just over 60 of the participants as of Friday afternoon hail from the Treasure State, and others aren't coming from too far outside of it. In 2019, 150 people competed. The 2021 tournament was limited to around 90 due to limit restrictions in the Lolo National Forest, where both days are held.
"People were just jumping all over each other to get into the event," Bjortomt said. " ... We kinda took a year off from the national. We scheduled it away from the national tour when we would get all those national players. Just with COVID we wanted to keep it within what we could handle."
Among those traveling in for the event, eleven players are coming in from Washington — four from Spokane alone — and another five each from Oregon and Idaho. Colorado and Arkansas will also be represented.
Familiarity with the course could pay off for Missoula native and Helena resident Christian Dietrich who holds two course records at Blue Mountain. Dietrich has the lowest score for both long tees and short tees with scores of 29-under and 31-under respectively. He placed ninth in the 2019 Zoo Town Open.
In the Pro Masters 60 and up division, Missoula native and resident Jon Graff, who won the Pro Masters 70-plus division in August 2018 in Kansas City, will compete like he did in 2019 when he placed sixth in the Pro Masters 50 and up. The highest rated player competing this weekend also is in the Pro Masters 60 and up as Steve Simmons (Spokane), who has a PDGA rating of 19,234. John Willard of Missoula has the highest rating of any Montana golfer competing at 20,180. He is competing in the Pro Masters 50 and up.
As of Friday's registration list, there is just one participant in the women's open, Shyanne Feucht out of Columbia Falls. Seven will compete in the advanced women division, led by Bozeman resident Jenna Dodge.