If you're not a LADY, You're a CADDY.
I had the great pleasure of playing both days of the tournament that Discraft’s Mark Ellis referred to as “the Best Cold Weather Event in the WORLD.” The Big Freeze will always be a bit of a sentimental tournament to me. The very first time I played the Big Freeze, I partnered with my husband, and we were the first ever mixed team. Because there was not a mixed division, we competed in the amateur men’s division. (My husband will tell you that event was the first event he did not ‘cash’ in. Apparently, I broke his streak.) The following year, Uncle Joe (Big Freeze TD) actually created a mixed division just for us. Ironically, that year, I partnered up with a friend named Amanda (Hinkins) Prue, and we won the ladies division. (And, we took home a very cool trophy, as is typical of the event that is co hosted by the World’s best Disc Golf artist- Thomas Holsten.) The following years I was not able to attend, or the event filled before I could secure a baby sitter. The same nearly happened again this year. It was my initial intention to play this event with my husband again as a mixed team. (With a legitimate mixed division!) By the time our sitter confirmed, Ryan and I were put on the wait list of a sold out Sunday. Meanwhile, there was a lot of chatter on the women’s pages about not having a division for women to get paid out in cash. Through a beautiful misunderstanding, I put my hat in the ring, stating that I would play, incorrectly thinking I was allowing for a women’s pro division to be formed. By the time I had realized my mistake, the girls in Milwaukee had found me a partner and a couple of different men had stepped up to make playing worth our while… but that’s another story for another blog post.
Saturday was a beautiful day as February days in Wisconsin go. It was chilly and hazy as the sun fought through the freezing misty fog. I left Appleton bright and early to head down to the Brew City, filled with a nervous anxiety while driving to Milwaukee on my own to meet a partner that I’d only met once before, but with whom I’ve had a great rapport on Facebook with. The moment I arrived to the Old Orchard Inn and starting greeting the other ladies getting ready to play, my nervousness gave way to anticipation. (OMG- I got to meet World Champion Barrett White! *Star Struck*!) My partner and I took to the field, and after our first round, we were dead in the middle of the pack. After our second round, we fell back to 4th place, but we had a fantastic time with our DOLLs filled second card.
Sunday was completely different story. If there is a snowy cold version of hell, I am confident it was the muse for this particular Sunday. The weather was technically a few degrees warmer than Saturday, though there was a massive amount of precipitation falling in the form of painful, slushy freezing bullets. The wind carried these minuscule weapons harder and harder until they become abrasive against my skin. The snowy sleet also seemed to stick to my disc and cripple my grip to the extent that even feeling the putter in my hand, let alone the release point seemed all but impossible. Sunday’s travels had been easier, as my husband drove, and as always, it was great to meet back up with the men that befriend me at these types of events. After the first round, my husband and I were somehow tied for 2nd place. We improved our game the second round to hold that status, ending up cashing out and making the day all the more worth while.
As I sit back and review the two days, it appears that there were distinct advantages to playing both formats. There were some advantages that were received by both groups. The Milwaukee Big Freeze offers what has got to be the best raffle for the money in the entire world of disc golf raffles. The grand prize each day was the chance at a Holsten basket… which I honestly think is the main reason most people play this event. This tournament is really fun and penalty free both days, which is great. But…
When playing among women of similar rating and caliber, I felt relaxed and my throwing mechanics were so much the better for that. When I saw that a moderate effort produced a drive that was of the same quality as the other women I was playing against, it seemed that I relaxed and really played my own game. I had relatively few errant throws, (though believe me, there were a few) and I made nearly all of the putts I felt were in my comfort range. I found that when hanging out with the women, we were more likely to walk to the next hole together. We were better about spotting for one another and helping locate lost/snow covered discs. Incidentally, even walking through thick snow in my partners footsteps had been easier than trying to trudge through the footsteps left by the long legged men on the course. Both rounds had caddies that were extra helpful in spotting and cleaning the pads off for us. Despite coming in next to last place, I walked off the field really knowing that I had put together a great game of golf compared to my own abilities. It just so happened that the other combos on the field had put together far better games based on their own abilities, and really, that is how golf is supposed to be. We should always be playing the course and our own game as opposed to playing against one another. All the woman even received a free Avair putter for participating. Uncle Joe was kind enough to sort out lighter weights trying to anticipate our throwing needs.
In contrast, playing with the men, even my very best drives felt inadequate. Though I married my partner and have went through many trials with him, it’s somehow still intimidating to to follow his 300+” bomb with my lousy, ill-released 180ft hyzer. (Who knows? Maybe it’s love…) I had to keep reminding myself during our first round that my husband competes in the open division, and I play like the AM woman that I am. (Though, to be fair, at times he also managed to play like an AM woman. I frustrate him, too.) We had trouble getting our game in sync. While my husband throws far and accurate, he is used to leaving his putt out a much greater distance than I am comfortable making. For a while, we got stuck in a rut of boogies including my drive, his upshot, (left close enough for his putt but not for mine), my pin-leaning lay up, and his drop-in putt. I was often sprinting to keep up with him to the next hole, in turn winding myself when it was time for my throw. Though it took me a LOT longer to relax and throw as I know how to do, I finally did get myself together. And, that’s when the benefits of playing with the men (other than their amazingly long drives and putts which initially carried us) really showed up. Men are frugal with the compliments, so when you nail a worthy putt or release a powerful drive, it accentuates the mental gain from their acknowledgement. Many times, the men would employ shots and hit lines that I hadn’t seen tried by anyone the previous day. My husband hit “putts’ which were longer than some of my fairway upshots with precision and power that was really quite impressive. It was quite a thing to behold. I’m pretty sure I threw some of the longest shots of my career on Sunday, and even though they were often farther to the right or left than intended, my husband and his long putt were there to bridge the gap.
Mostly though, the benefits of both days were very similar. I had fun. I confirmed that there is a wealth of support for women in disc golf. I often find women who feel that disc golf is unfair to women. I agree that there are a lot of changes we can make to even the playing field, especially regarding pro women and payouts, but mostly, I think we should step back and take a moment to see the support that we are actually receiving from both sides of the field. Whether it’s free putters, sponsored entry fees or just plain acknowledgement of learned skill, having ovaries has some advantages in disc golf.
When it comes to Uncle Joe’s Big Freeze, man or woman, the rules are the same. No Wimps. No Whiners!