A behind-the-scenes look at the massive Tyyni disc golf tournament
June 26, 2018 by Alex Williamson in Interview with 0 comments
On June 21, 2018, the biggest disc golf event ever held in Europe got underway with participants playing a little warm-up doubles. It speaks to the scope of the event that the tournament players are warming up for—Latitude 64 Tyyni Sponsored by Dynamic Discs in Sipoo, Finland—doesn’t begin until June 28th. In between, there have been flex-start C-tiers galore, an “after dawn” round that takes advantage of the nearly endless light of Nordic summers and begins at 1:00 a.m., and even a chance to go bungee jumping.
Now in its second iteration as a large-scale event, Tyyni is a European disc golf-stravaganza that seems capable of reaching Glass Blown Open-level size and success. Last year, 468 players attended the event, and the highest ratings to be found were 1013 in Open and 855 in Open Women. This year, it’s likely to become the 10th largest PDGA event in history with over 750 players—and counting—currently registered. Well-known names Ricky Wysocki, Seppo Paju, Philo Brathwaite, Devan Owens, and Gregg Barsby have the highest ratings on the Open side, and seven Open Women players are rated over 900, including Paige Pierce, Catrina Allen, and Vanessa Van Dyken.
With the main festivities set to begin in the not-too-distant future, I caught up with one of the central figures behind Tyyni—Event Coordinator Juha Kytö. Among other things, we discussed why he believes Tyyni’s popularity is skyrocketing, what it takes to put on such a massive event, and how he got an ice cream company to sponsor a disc golf tournament.
The interview has been edited for clarity and length.
First things first. How do I say the name of the tournament correctly?
You say it “too-iny,” but I think it’s funny when English speakers call it “tiny.”
Ha! It’s definitely the opposite of that.
What do you think people should know about Tyyni?
It’s more of an event than a competition. It’s most likely something you haven’t ever experienced before.
What makes it so special?
Of course the size. There are so many players from all over the world. Right now, 16 different countries are represented, and over 200 players are coming from outside of Finland.
Also, it’s the small details that make it special. It’s not like we just threw something together. It’s a huge size, but everything is still well-considered and organized at a high level. There are also tons of surprises. For example, it’s a surprise to the amateur players what they’ll get in their player’s pack—it’s huge. There are also surprise raffles. You might win a prize just for playing badly. Every time you win your card, you get a prize. You also get a tee-off song every time you play.
Everybody gets a song, even the amateurs?
Yep. Everybody gets that.
And how has the local community responded to the event?
There are spectators who even watch the amateurs play, not just the top pros. Local people are interested. We play in a small town, and people know that a big tournament is happening. People in the town know me even if I don’t know them.
They ask, “Oh, you have the tournament coming up, how’s it going? A lot of players coming?”
I say, “Oh yeah!” but then I always have to ask what their name is.
And is it usual in Finland that strangers talk to you?
No, no. Finns don’t talk to each other even if they know each other.
So is it a big surprise that people come up to you?
How many spectators do you expect this year?
I don’t know for sure because I’ve never run a tournament with top, top-tier players in it before. We’re preparing parking and a shuttle-bus service for over 3,000 people, but we have no idea what the actual number will be.
What do you think is behind the tournament making such a huge jump in the number of participants from last year to this year?
I’d say last year was a huge success. People—particularly sponsors—thought I was crazy when I first told them, “I’ve got this idea that I can get 600 people to come play disc golf in Finland.” Then, people started to sign up. People from outside Finland started registering, and the Finns warmed up to it. Slowly it grew from 200 registered players to the 468, and then everything went perfectly. People loved the player’s packs, the tee songs…
Really, I think it came from working year-round on the event, considering all the small things, trying to create the best possible experience for all the players. People went back and told their friends, “It was so fun!”
Then, when we opened up registration this year, we had 555 registrations in one hour. At that point, we decided we needed to add a course to accommodate 800 players instead of just 600 like we’d planned originally.
What does it take to put on a tournament that is this big, and what are some of the biggest hurdles you have to overcome to do it?
Well, that’s a complex question, but I actually have one word that’s the answer: time.
The hardest part of organizing the event is just finding the time to do it. I work on it the entire year, and it’s basically a full-time job. But I also run a disc golf store and have a family, too, so I really do the work of two or three people. I can’t do it alone, though, and I have a good staff around me.
You’re doing really well at attracting sponsors from outside the sport. What makes you good at creating those relationships for Tyyni?
The size and quality of the event. By size, I mean the number of players and spectators coming. By quality, I’m talking about media. The homepage, social media coverage—I do everything I can to spread the news, and that has a lot of influence on sponsors.
Even though we had sponsors the first year and a great turnout, it wasn’t until recently that things turned around. Before, I was sending out e-mails and getting no answers, and suddenly people are contacting me asking to sponsor the event. For example, the ice cream company Ingman that’s owned by Unilever [who also own brands like Lipton and Dove toiletries] did that.
How did a company like that find out about the event?
Well, their factory is just across the road from the tournament center, so it’s a local company. We were on the news, in the local newspapers and everything, and they got in touch.
I also noticed Ford Motors is a sponsor. How did that relationship begin?
Ford wants to be in disc golf, at least here in Finland, and they’ve been into it for awhile. They have been a part of the European Open, sponsored a local club for something like the last three years, and even built their own disc golf park.
What are your future goals for Tyyni?
I can’t reveal all of it, but I’ve already had some meetings about the 2019 event, and what I can say is that it’ll be new, bigger, and better.