COLUMBIA — The Professional Disc Golf Association has named Columbia as the host of the 2020 PDGA Tim Selinske United States Masters Championship in May 2020.
"There's only one place a year that gets picked to do that," said Alan Combs, a Fulton disc golf enthusiast and former leader of the local club. "As far as I'm aware of, it's never been in Missouri. This is a pretty big deal."
Columbia beat out eight other communities to secure the tournament, which will be hosted on Harmony Bends Championship Disc Golf Course at Strawn Park.
The Tim Selinske United States Masters Championship is open to professional and amateur disc golfers in the Masters division: players aged 40 and older.
"We have guys from Fulton who will go play," Combs said. "There'll be quite a few from Fulton who'll go watch it. It'll bring people from all over the country and I'm sure a few international players, too."
The Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau, Parks and Recreation Department and the Columbia Disc Golf Club partnered to submit the bid to the PDGA. Of all of the PDGA's annual events, this championship event saw the most bids submitted. According to Mike Downes, director of operations at PDGA, Columbia's bid stood out.
"The combination of the well-experienced team that will host the event, the wealth of support from the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau and surrounding communities, and the opportunity to hold the event on one of the most prestigious disc golf courses in the United States was viewed by the PDGA Staff and Board of Directors as a recipe for success," Downes said.
Downes also noted picking a city to host a major event requires looking at a multitude of factors.
"The PDGA relies on host communities to help bring together the best disc golfers on the planet for world-class competition and fellowship," Downes said. "This high-level event will help to increase disc golf's exposure and development throughout the world while allowing new generations of disc golfers to experience a fantastic PDGA competition in this wonderful community."
Amy Schneider, director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, emphasized how important events like the PDGA Tim Selinske United States Masters Championship are to the local economy.
"Bringing in large-scale events like this demonstrates why tourism is vital to Columbia's economy," Schneider said. "When we work with local partners on an event like the PDGA, it benefits our community in terms of overnight hotel stays, dining in restaurants, shopping in local stores and much more. Groups like these help support local jobs and businesses that we all get to enjoy year-round."
Combs hopes Columbia hosting this tournament will benefit the disc golfing scene in Fulton, too.
"Any time Columbia grows, it drives awareness which helps us," he said. "I don't think people realize how many disc golfers there are in central Missouri or how big of a deal it is."
Fulton currently has one disc golfing course at Veterans Park. It's a good course for junior and amateur events, but unlikely to appeal to the pros, Combs said. The Fulton club is in the early stages of lobbing Fulton Parks and Recreation, the Callaway Chamber of Commerce and the Callaway tourism board about installing another course in town.
"Right now, it's running up against obstacles — there are a few other projects (Parks and Recreation) has going," Combs said.
Acting soon will give Fulton a chance to capitalize on the growth and success of Columbia's disc-golfing scene, he said.
"Any time Columbia can bring in a big tournament like that any course within 30 miles, they'll allow those courses to be a part of that tournament," he said.
Mid-America Open, a disc golf tournament hosted in Columbia for the last 30 years, is also looking to expand, he added.
"We have to plan now to be part of something Columbia does in a year or two, or we'll be so far behind we can't do anything," Combs said.