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Music City Open Gets Bigger and Better at Mill Ridge Park in Antioch

by Rich and Laura Lynch

A lot can happen within a year. Still, the more things change the more they stay the same. Both of these observations apply mightily to the Music City Open (MCO) held at Mill Ridge Park in Nashville, Tennessee. The Disc Golf Pro Tour (DGPT) returned to the region April 19 - 21, 2024 to showcase the best professional disc golfers from all over the world. Disc Golf like many sports is growing in popularity and the Pro Tour gives athletes an opportunity to make a living on the greens while encouraging kids - and even quite a few adults - to pick up a disc and test out their skills on the links.

The newly opened Mill Ridge Park played an expanded role at this year's event.

We first attended this event in 2023 and one of the first things we observed on Friday was that the Music City Open felt bigger and perhaps even more professionally ran than last year's tournament. Also, Mill Ridge Park is now an updated urban park with a playground and facilities for public use. The new configuration was put to use in a smart and intelligent manner that felt celebratory and allowed curious newcomers to the sport to visit the vendor village and easily inquire about purchasing walk up tickets - which according to DGPT staff - many did this year. The course was laid out in a 180 degree turn from last year with several difficult holes returning in full like the tricky tree-lined 14th. The terrain in Nashville was hilly with plenty of vegetation - along with an unrelenting steady wind - that created numerous challenging obstacles for the golfers.

2023 MPO Champion Simon Lizotte at the Thursday afternoon press conference.

On Thursday, the DGPT held a press conference that started with an interview with 2023 MPO champion Simon Lizotte who revealed he was battling a cold with accompanying back pain that had left him bed-ridden the day before. He also reiterated that he was under some stress as his second child is due next week and he will be taking a few months from the tour to attend to his family needs. Still, Simon said that in the past when he has felt his worst he has played his best. He also described the tour of Gibson Guitars he had taken earlier in the day when staff showed him this year's trophys. Keep both of these items in mind!

We made it from start to finish with this card of Fins - Joona Heinanen, Tuomas Hyytiainen, Vaino Makela and Jesse Nieminen.

Per the DGPT's website their goal is to create and curate the world's grandest stages at premier venues for the world's best disc golfers in order to transmit the story of professional disc golf as an engaging, high-quality experience that inspires and grows fans of the sport on-site and online. In addition, the DGPT upholds sustainable practices in an effort to craft meaningful experiences and products for their community. At Mill Creek we saw plenty of places to recycle and after day one of golf no noticeable litter on the course.

Rising DGPT star Anthony Barela tied for 7th place in Nashville.

Similar to traditional golf there is the etiquette to remain quiet as an athlete evaluates and throws the disc. In many cases they have to study the image of the playing field as the baskets are often behind a curve or surrounded by trees, so precision is important in scoring par or ideally under par. Since this sport is still evolving it is common for the players to keep their score on an app although there is also a scorekeeper following each group as a backup. Caddies are less common which means the athletes carry a backpack of colorful discs over the course of eighteen holes. Plus, they seem to have to contour their bodies more to manipulate the disc to go in the desired direction which as mentioned are often hidden from view on the first shot.

Passionate and powerful shots were the order of the day in Antioch.

As in ball golf spectators can choose a single spot to watch all the players or follow a group or do a combination. Last year we mixed it up. But, this year we wanted to walk the whole course to experience one full round of exciting disc golf. At 2:50 p.m. we followed a quartet all hailing from Finland consisting of Joona Heinanen, Tuomas Hyytiainen, Vaino Makela and Jesse Nieminen. Thier comradery and competitiveness was fully on display while proving that the MCO attracts athletes from around the world. We gained a greater appreciation of the sport this way as we witnessed all the challenges of the course plus factors such as weather, wind and the pressure that comes with playing in a high-profile tournament at a professional level.

The real story was the large gallery that followed the leaders home on Sunday.

Back at the enjoyable MCO vendor village we discovered a meet and greet area, food trucks and plenty of people selling discs. Some of our favorite designs were ones featuring spin art (which we loved creating as kids) and the smart looking flyer made for the event that many fans were gathering autographs upon. We also hooked up with our friend Jerod Black from Guardian Aliens who was happy to report that his large size murals devoted to the sport and dedicated to the theme of "Intergalactic Disc Golf" were being used this year as feature graphics on several holes throughout the DGPT season. Their paintings present disc baskets surrounded by science fiction characters and landscapes. They also sell out of this world discs. Also of interest was JC Design Services who was selling analog (paper) journals that could be used for taking notes or keeping score.

Teeing off on the tricky 14th hole at the Music City Open.

Where last year was remembered for being mostly a muddy and rainy mess the disc gods were looking down a bit more favorably in 2024. Thursday's press conference was downright summer like with heat in the mid-80's with full sunshine. But, by the time Round One rolled around on Friday the weather was cooler and for many that was a plus.

Approach shot near the end of the day on Sunday at Mill Ridge Park.

Saturday was again pleasant but rounds were delayed due to an ongoing controversy surrounding the sport which we will let you Google. Sadly, it seems even something as fun as disc golf and its more casual scene can get tangled up in more serious issues. The big story on Sunday was the large and impressive gallery that looked a lot like The Masters as hundreds followed the leaders home. Round Three was another fine fall like day dominated again by a heavy headwind that the modern discs appeared to have little trouble cutting right through. Well, at least the winners felt that way.

The 18th hole sponsored by Gibson who also provided the trophys again this year.

On the female side, once again 2023 champ Kristin Tattar emerged victorious after battling courageously on the final day to land on the top spot. German born Simon Lizotte literally kept his eyes on the prize while leading - and quite frankly dominating the MPO side in 2024 leading from wire to wire. Both champions took home gorgeous, custom made, two-of-a-kind MCO branded Gibon Les Pauls to join the SG model they both won last year to really underscore just how important music is to the Music City Open.

Simon Lizotte claims an MCO branded Les Paul to go with his matching SG that we won in 2023.

In Simon Lizotte disc golf and the DGPT really are witnessing a star being born even as he takes time off for his second child to be born this week. On Thursday, Lizotte talked about how the one thing he really doesn't like about being a pro disc golfer is regularly having to leave his family behind for days at a time for life on the road. He admitted how he finds it hard to leave home for the season which runs for much of the spring and summer months. Simon has a two-year-old and another child on the way so like many athletes he has to balance being at the top of his game while wanting to be a number one dad. In reality, that predicament isn't much different from the lament levelled by many touring musicians. In Lizotte, we have a very likable character and a talented athlete and a gifted musician with a human interest story to boot. Now, with a few months off and a pair of guitars to get busy with Simon is set to possibly make his mark on Music City in an even more musical way in the future. Time will tell!

The stars of the tournament as disc golf grows at a rapid pace in Music City.

Related Links: For more information on the MUSIC CITY OPEN and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links - Disc Golf Pro Tour | Simon Lizotte | Guardian Aliens Disc Golf Club | Pro Disc Golf and the Music City Open Experience a High-Flying Elevation to Elite Status at Mill Ridge Park in Nashville | Mill Ridge Park


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