Konopiště Open Notebook: The Czech-In From Wednesday’s Practice Day

Observations from a tournament reporter's notebook

Paul McBeth, Paul Ulibarri, and Eagle McMahon meeting up on hole 18 on practice day ahead of the 2018 Konopiště Open. Photo: Alex Williamson

The Czech-In” is Ultiworld Disc Golf’s daily update of all things Konopiště Open from European Beat Reporter Alex Williamson. A new entry each evening will not only give you scores and stats but will bring the entire tournament — on and off the course — to life.

Get on the Bus

FRANKFURT, Germany – “We go to Prague, understand?! Prague, Czech Republic!”

This refrain was shouted over and over again by the exasperated ticket controller as I boarded my bus from Frankfurt, Germany to (you guessed it) Prague last night a little after midnight. I imagine that to others his constant yelling may have been nothing but a reason for annoyance or cowering. But it was music to my ears because that repeated phrase was a pleasant reminder of my destination.

View from the highway entering the Czech Republic from Germany. Photo: Alex Williamson

Why so pleasant? Well, around 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Prague is the site of the Franz Ferdinand Disc Golf Course, home of the Konopiště Open, and the first PDGA Major of the season.

Quality Time with the TD

PRAGUE, Czech Republic – Something about my interview with Konopiště TD Přemysl Novák that was “edited for clarity and length” was an offer to pick me up in Prague and take me with him as he rode to the course and tournament center. No crowded bus and exclusive time with the TD? Sometimes convenience and journalistic opportunity aren’t mutually exclusive.

On the ride, our conversation about the history of Prague and the Czech Republic was interrupted by calls coming through Novák’s car radio. The first was Discmania CEO—and also overseer of SpinTV operations at Konopiště—Jussi Meresmaa calling to confirm a few details, including checking if the internet speed at the tournament center was fast enough to allow SpinTV to upload its coverage (good news, everyone, it is). Also, ‘Big Sexy’ commentary fans will be happy to learn there will be a reunion for the Konopiště coverage.

The other calls were all about toilets.

Apparently, there were some issues with the portable toilets for the course, and it took quite a while—and about five different calls—for Novák to make headway. In the end, though, the problem got solved, and Novák simply laughed it off as just another “TD problem.”

Practice Time with “Kotkas” McMahon

BENEŠOV, Czech Republic – Spending time in Estonia last week for the Pärnu Open, Eagle McMahon made some friends and got a new name—sort of. In Estonian, kotkas means “eagle,” and McMahon has taken a shine to the moniker, going so far as to sign autographs with it for Estonian fans.

I learned this from following McMahon through the first nine holes of his practice round today, during which he was accompanied by an Estonian crew. It consisted of Silver Koni, Liis Päid, and Joosep Stomma  (and, side note, Estonians can crush forehands). The practice rounds at Konopiště were extremely organized, including strict tee times, a limit of throwing just two discs from any lie, and even a prescribed throwing order off the first hole. McMahon joked that this was really the official practice round.

McMahon throws while the Estonian crew looks on. Photo: Alex Williamson

The mood on the card was light, and McMahon seemed relaxed and in high spirits. Still, it was apparent that he knew exactly how he wanted to throw each hole. He commented on the quality of nearly every tee shot and how it compared to what he had imagined before the disc left his hand.

Before leaving him to follow a couple of Paul’s—McBeth and Ulibarri—I asked McMahon about how prepared he was feeling for the event.

“Everything’s pretty much thought about. This is my third round out here,” McMahon said. “Today I’ve just been solidifying what I’m gonna throw tomorrow on tournament day. So far, so good.”

I then asked what he thought would qualify as a “good” round for him.

“I’m just trying to shoot better than 9-under every round,” he answered. “I feel like an average of 10-under will do really well, and—”

At that point, our conversation was interrupted on account of McMahon noticing a small frog on the grass and wondering if it was poisonous. His card-mates and I assured him he was safe.

McBeth explained this old path has been used for hundreds of years. Originally for servants to go to town to buy goods for the castle’s residents. Photo: Alex Williamson

Practice Time with ‘The Pauls’

When I joined Ulibarri and McBeth’s practice round card on hole 10—which was conveniently directly behind McMahon’s—it was immediately noticeable that the mood was a little dimmer.

The big reason?

Konopiště’s turf tee-pads are laid on the ground without much—if any—intermediary material, and yesterday the area experienced a lot of rain. Though today was generally dry, the tees held the moisture, and both McBeth and Ulibarri were having problems trusting their footing.

Beyond being concerned about how it would affect their scores, they were also worried about the prospect of injury. When we met Novák on the course, he assured the players he was tending to the issue. However, this is definitely something that could affect scores and player confidence tomorrow if the tees continue to be slippery.

McBeth getting some practice reps in on the green at Konopiště’s 10th hole. Photo: Alex Williamson

Another interesting note from my time with McBeth is that he mentioned that many people had been asking him why he had stayed in the U.S. to play the Great Lakes Open rather than acclimating himself to Europe like other big names. He explained that he saw the Toboggan course where the Great Lakes Open was played as the “perfect practice course” for Konopiště. And, there’s really no denying him there. Toboggan’s changing elevations? Check. Open expanses of grass interspersed with older trees and brush? Check. McBeth going 18-under par through 18…again…we’ll have to wait and see.

  1. Alex Williamson
    Alex Williamson

    Alex Williamson is one of Ultiworld Disc Golf's European Beat Reporters. He’s a former high school English teacher from North Carolina and holds an M.A. in Transcultural European Outdoor Studies. He now lives in Germany where—among other things—he plays and writes about disc golf and teaches and creates content for a small Business English training company. Contact him with comments or interesting story ideas at alexanderbwilliamson@gmail.com.

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