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Disc golfers take aim in Mitchell

Travis Blase, a graduate of Mitchell High School, trows a putt into the basket during the Mitchell Open disc golf tournament Saturday at Dry Run Creek in Mitchell. (Nick McCutcheon/Republic)1 / 2
Sioux Falls native Nick Hanson winds up to throw a disc at the Mitchell Open Saturday at Dry Run Creek Course in Mitchell. Hanson won the men's open division. (Nick McCutcheon/Republic)2 / 2

Although Travis Blase picked up the game of disc golf as an adult, he caught on quick and has carved out a career on the professional tour, which brought him back to Mitchell for an event Saturday.

Blase now lives in Franktown, Colo., but he got his start playing the game in Mitchell and said it's exciting to see the growth of the sport in the city.

"A year after I first picked up the sport I started playing professionally," Blase said. "I got pretty decent pretty fast and I got a feel for tournaments."

Blase graduated from Mitchell High School in 1993 and went back to school at Mitchell Technical Institute, graduating with a two-year degree in 2012. He moved to Colorado shortly after graduating from college and now works for DirectTV as a broadcast technician.

Disc golf is played on an 18-hole course, where players start each hole from a throwing area. The competitors aim to get their throws towards or in a metal basket, which is raised off the ground by a pole. The object is to get the disc from the tee-off area into the basket in the lowest number of throws.

The Mitchell Open Disc Golf Tournament took place Saturday at Dry Run Creek course, with more than 50 participants competing in seven divisions. The event marked the first sanctioned tournament to be held in Mitchell in at least seven years.

Blase went up against 14 other professionals in the open division, taking second with a two-round score of 96. Nick Hanson, of Sioux Falls, placed first with a 94.

"The Mitchell course is great and offers a lot of different types of shots," Hanson said. "For what South Dakota provides, we had a lot of the top players in the state here and having Travis come back from Colorado is huge."

Blase, who started playing professionally in 2006, said he is impressed with how far the game has come in Mitchell and he appreciates the work of Ben Kelly, who stated the Mitchell Disc Golf Club one year ago, and Dusty Rodiek from the Mitchell Parks and Recreation Department helping to make Dry Run Creek a premier place to play in South Dakota.

"The growth of the sport in general and in Mitchell is phenomenal," Blase said. "It's great to see the number of recreational and competitive players here in Mitchell."

At the height of his professional career in 2008, Blase played in 31 tournaments. He said the money was not enough to focus on it full time with the commitments of his career. He now plays in 10 to 15 tournaments each year. The tour takes him around the Midwest region of the country and he has traveled to some of the bigger events in New York and Massachusetts in the past.

As Blase, 39, gets older he has noticed a youth movement in disc golf, as kids who played with their parents from a young age are getting older and bringing another level of skill to the sport.

"Kids are getting involved at a young age," Blase said. "The ones that started at age five are now 15 and those are some of the best players in the world. The kids have definitely surpassed me. I'm an old man."

The Mitchell Open served as a United States Disc Golf Championship qualifier, with the top player getting invited to the USDGC National Championship Oct. 1-4 in Rock Hill, S.C.

Hanson automatically qualified with a top-10 finish at the event last year.

Mitchell Open winners:

(Division, name, city, score)

Men's Open: Nick Hanson, Sioux Falls, 94

Men's advanced: Griffin Haugen, Sioux Falls, 106

Women's advanced: Carol Rodiek, Amherst, Neb., 121

Advanced masters: Dusty Rodiek, Mitchell, 114

Advanced grandmasters: Jeff Filipek, Pierre, 125

Men's intermediate: Ryan Schoenfelder,111

Recreational: Aaron Tilberg, 124