How the Wide Open Was Born
As told by Ace Mason, KCFDC #1, PDGA #1735
During the early 1980s disc sports were in major transition. Wham-O had been bought out by Kransco, and they had quit publishing their magazine. Ultimate players, disc golfers, and field event players were suddenly on their own. Into this void stepped several players’ organizations, which fragmented disc sports for years to come.
One of these newly formed organizations had actually been in existence for awhile. The Professional Disc Golf Association had been founded by the same man who developed the Pole Hole disc catcher, the same man who had run Wham-O for many years, and considered by all disc golfers as the founder of the sport: Steady Ed Headrick. But by the early 1980s, many local clubs had sprouted up around the country, and people who played disc golf were looking for some new directions for the game.
One of the early organizers and the man who truly launched the PDGA into its current status was Ted Smethers. Along with a small group of like-minded players and with a seemingly endless supply of energy, Ted set out to turn the organization into a player-run format. One of the first things he did was to call a few friends and acquaintances around the country to see about organizing a professional tour. Fortunately, the Kansas City club – the Disc International Sports Club – was well established and known for its tournaments and its newsletter. So in the middle of the night I got a call asking if we would be interested in hosting a large event. Voila! The Kansas City Wide Open was born.
A few close friends and I sat around one evening and came up with the concept. At that time, a major brouhaha swirled around disc weights and designs. We decided that our tournament would be a fling what you bring event. And it would be open to anyone who loved the game. Hence the name: the Kansas City Wide Open. David Allen, one of our more artistic members, came up with the James Bond motif with the girl throwing the disc between the legs of a tuxedoed gentleman. Mark Stiles set about finding the perfect site, which turned out to be Shawnee Mission Park, where the legendary photo of David’s wife making a hole in one on the island was shot by Mark Bracewell. This turned out to be a historic photo known as “The Perfect Shot.”
The first tournament turned out to be extremely well attended by the standards of the day. Entrants came from all over the region, especially from Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Illinois, and several other states. At the time, this was practically unheard of. As it turned out, even though the pro entry fee was a mere $25, we ended up with one of the largest purses in the country. The total purse was $1,088 if memory serves!
Luckily a local player won that year: the fabulous Bob Feild. Unfortunately it would be several years before this feat was accomplished again when Duane “CD” Steiner finally wrestled the trophy from the clutches of the Okies and the Zonies and the Calies who dominated the event for years to come.
Over the years the Wide Open pioneered many innovations that seem commonplace at disc golf tournaments today. We were the first or amongst the first to use computer scoring, computer scorecards, walkie-talkies, cell phones, multiple courses, and many other ideas that now define a major event. The tournament has consistently placed in the top five or ten events year after year. It has drawn all of the top players at one time or another and always brought them back to the great and diverse courses that Kansas City is famous for. For 30 years the tournament and has grown bigger and better. Hopefully this trend will continue for the next 30 years and beyond!