Finland state

Europe’s biggest disc golf tournament draws thousands to Finland | New

In Finnish, the term “kiekko” means puck or disc, and it is well known that Finns are a bit crazy about the sport played with a puck.

However, another kiekko The sport has taken Finland by storm over the past few decades, but it’s not played with a puck, sticks, or even on the ice. It is played with a disc.

Disc golf, also known as Frisbee golf, is a big deal in Finland.

It’s no surprise, then, that the Disc Golf European Open in Nokia, Finland, has become one of the premier professional disc golf tournaments in the world and the largest of its kind in Europe.

Image: Matthew Schilke/Yle News

Replace clubs with discs

The sport is similar to traditional golf, with a few tweaks. Forgoing clubs, balls and holes, players try to get discs into baskets with hanging chains in as few tries as possible. The same terminology is also used – “birdie”, “eagle” and “fore” are all borrowed from the original version of the sport.

Depending on the type of stroke, players also change discs, often named by their counterparts in traditional golf clubs – “driver” and “putter”. And while they’re not as bulky as traditional golf bags, some players even have their own caddies to help them carry their arsenal of discs.

Image: Matthew Schilke/Yle News

Although they may look similar, the style differs greatly from traditional golf – sponsors of the Disc Golf European Open included barefoot shoes, a popular Nordic table game and, of course, many disc manufacturers.

At this point, however, Finland now has more disc golf courses than traditional golf courses. There are several reasons behind the meteoric rise of sport in Finland. Compared to other sports, it is relatively inexpensive, both for the equipment and for the use of the courses.

The sport appeals to players of varying skill levels, is family-friendly, and a way for people to get away. Also, unlike traditional golf courses, disc golf can be played in forests, rather than on carefully manicured fairways and greens, which suits Finland’s natural terrain quite well.

Thousands of people present

Originally held in Tampere in 2006, the event began taking place at Nokia’s disc golf course, also known as “the Beast”, in 2011. The 18-hole course is challenging, littered of obstacles and offers elite players a chance to really test their skills.

The logo of Europe’s most important disc golf tournament is a roaring lion, a nod to Finland’s coat of arms and ice hockey team and to remind competitors that this is not not a walk in the park. This year, the scholarship has increased to 100,000 euros, with a first prize of 12,000 euros.

If anyone could be held responsible for the rise of sport in Finland, it might be Jussi Meresmaaan original idea of ​​the Disc Golf European Open.

He is a former professional disc golf player as well as the owner and founder of Discmania, a company which is one of the main sponsors of the event.

Meresmaa said he was optimistic about the turnout for the event.

“Yesterday we had over a thousand people, and today we are expecting over two thousand, and more will come for the final this weekend,” he told Yle News on Friday. .

The event takes place over several days, with competition starting on Thursday and ending on Sunday. People of all ages, especially families and children, come to see some of the best talent in the sport.

The biggest names in disc golf

Paige Piercean American professional disc golfer from Texas, has won the women’s event twice, first in 2013 and again in 2019. She said few countries are better hosts for the sport than Finland.

Pierce said that during the players’ meeting, Meresmaa told tournament attendees that disc golf was extremely popular in Finland. Meresmaa confirmed that according to a VTT survey, disc golf was the number one pastime for 28% of Finnish schoolchildren.

As fans approached her to autograph her range of trademark records, Pierce said it was good to be back in Finland.

“It’s great to be in the community of people who love disc golf so much,” Pierce added between signature doodles for his fans.

Image: Matthew Schilke/Yle News

Another American player, Kat Mertsch from the US state of Arkansas, told Yle that this was her first time visiting Finland, but she already loved the country’s enthusiasm for disc golf.

“It’s not like that in the States, it’s seen more as a sport here. Americans are like, ‘Frisbee, let’s throw the Frisbee in the park!'” she said happily. .

“While here [in Finland] it’s like, ‘We’re going to do competitive disc golf,'” she said in a more stoic voice.

Mertsch added that Finland’s appreciation for disc golf is what the sport needs.

“They’re really into it. It’s good to see. It’s good for the growth of the sport,” enthused Mertsch.

Image: Matthew Schilke/Yle News

Playing at home was Finland Heidi Lainewho enjoyed the return of the Disc Golf European Open this year.

“It’s great to play in front of family and friends and it’s a great event,” Laine said.

While Pierce was ranked second on Friday and Mertsch tied for third, the Finn Eveliina Salonen led the women’s division with a total of four under par.

On Sunday, Pierce took the lead to win the open for the third time, with a score of 12 over par, beating Salonen’s 15.

The men’s competition also had its fair share of the biggest names in the sport. American Paul McBeththe five-time champion of the event, battled against his toughest competitor to date in the aptly named Eagle McMahon, also American. At the end of Friday, McMahon led with a total of 24 under par compared to -23 for McBeth.

At the end of Saturday, the two were tied at -32 as they looked to settle the score on Sunday.

Making his outdoor debut and his first visit to Finland was American Brodie Smithone of the best known players in the sport.

Smith began his career playing ultimate, a team sport that is also played with a disc, albeit in a different style. His trick shot videos (siirryt toiseen palveluun) have accumulated millions of views on YouTube. After a final professional career plagued by injuries and a brief stint in American reality TV Fantastic raceSmith has decided to switch to disc golf in 2020 and try his luck on the professional circuit.

Image: Matthew Schilke/Yle News

While admitting he needs to work on his game a lot, Smith said it was great to play in Finland.

“The weather is great, it’s great to play a tournament where the fairways are lined with fans, and it’s a great course too,” Smith told Yle News.

Smith, and many other players, weren’t surprised by Finland’s enthusiasm for disc golf, as at this point the Nordic country’s interest in the sport is well known.

“I watched past tournaments here, so I kind of had the idea there would be a lot of people,” Smith explained, adding that in most tournaments only the top groups have followings, but at Nokia, there are spectators all the way.

Smith clarified that it’s not just about the number of fans, but how young they are.

“I think the craziest thing here is just how many kids are coming out. Lots of professional touring events at home [in the US] it’s mostly people over 20, so seeing all the kids here, it just shows you that the sport is growing and it’s probably going to get bigger and bigger here,” Smith noted.

Fans from here and there

The open tournament also attracts fans from all over the world and thousands of enthusiasts came to Friday’s event.

Sven, from Germany, said he and his girlfriend arrived in a motorhome to watch the action.

“No,” he laughs, “disc golf is nowhere near as big in Germany as it is in Finland.”

This sentiment was shared by most onlookers, reveling in how Nokia had become the center of the disc golf world for a few days.

Image: Matthew Schilke/Yle News

By Stalas came from Stockholm to see the action. Disc golf enthusiast and player, he also owns a store that sells disc golf equipment in Sweden.

“Just the opportunity to see these people play live, that’s a big step up from YouTube,” he joked from the VIP section near the course’s eighteenth and final hole.

Image: Matthew Schilke/Yle News

Duncan Ross came to Nokia from northern British Columbia, Canada. He stopped at Nokia on a trip to Europe, but said it was the most important event on his itinerary.

“Of course it’s great to see Europe, but it’s really something special. It’s one of the best disc golf in the world and the atmosphere here is amazing,” a smiling Ross told Yele News.

But not everyone had to travel far to see the show. Local Nokia resident Seija came to watch the event from her apartment which overlooks “the Beast”. She said it was good to see the suburbs of Tampere hosting the event.

“It attracts people from all over the world and it’s interesting to watch. Before the event came to Nokia, I had never heard of the sport, but now I always look forward to it,” said Seiya.