By Carrie Reader | crew clerk
DJ Haynes and Thomas Jay hit their ticket to the 2022 National Amateur Pirate Tour Championships in Austin, Texas October 28-31.
Hines and Gay earned their place in the National Championships by winning the Zanfel Premier Tour A-Tier event at Kudzu Cove Disc Golf Course in Guntersville April 29 – May 1.
The two had played the course once before, but they didn’t have much experience with the holes. They traveled to Guntersville for a practice tour on April 28.
“Getting into the competition mentality was a bit tricky,” Jay said. “I knew I was good enough to compete, it was only if I was good enough on this course or if I wasn’t actually competing for the win.”
Jay said he was more concerned about off-course things like traveling and bringing all necessary items with him to Guntersville. He was confident he could compete for the win, but didn’t think he was the frontrunner.
Jay competed in the entertainment department and this was his first Class A event. In disc golf, level 1 events are three rounds and are worth more points towards the players’ overall rating.
“At level A, you give your best game,” Jay said. “You’re not coming to mess around, you’re coming to a first-rate event to prove you’re good enough.”
Jay did his best, retaining the lead in all three rounds of the event and winning the championship by eight strokes with a score of -10.
Hines played in the Intermediate Division and the Guntersville Championship was his second Division I event. In his first A-level event last year, Hines took the lead during the first two rounds, but finished second.
“Going into it, I wanted to win. I didn’t want to be second like I did last year,” Haynes said. “After the first two days I was second, so I told myself I was here before, and I knew what mental ability I had to be.” to be in it.”
Haynes found himself in familiar territory after the second round, in second place, trailing the leader by two strokes. He said the Guntersville track is difficult due to the many water threats on the track and tight gaps outside the tee box.
“When the lights come on, and you get to the first tee, it is a completely different feeling despite all the practice shots,” Hines said.
Hines tied for the leader on the 16th hole. Jay finished his round before Hines, and met with him on the last six holes of his last round to help him read for the throw.
“When you have a friend like that who is willing to step up and do it, it gives you extra confidence,” Haynes said.
Hines finished the tournament with a birdie on the 16th and 17th hole and tied on the 18th hole to win the championship.
Both Jay and Hines moved up the divisions with their Guntersville victory. Jay moved to the intermediate section and Haynes moved to the advanced section.
Jay also won the Aerial Assault Class C Championship in the recreational division by three strokes at Tuscaloosa on May 7.
Hines and Gay both started playing disc golf around May 2020. The two met by golfing, have been friends and have been playing together for over a year. The two mesh together really well because of how similar their games are.
Hines said that both Jay and Jay are throwing a similar disc and “we’re so in tune with each other.”
“Thomas is better than me for throwing distances,” Hines said.
“But the DJ is a better racket than me,” Jay said quickly.
The duo bounce different tips and questions from each other frequently, and use each other to get better.
“Our games are very similar, and he saw a lot of himself in me and vice versa,” Jay said. “It was easy for us to improve on the little things in our games.”
When it comes to the Amateur National Championships in Austin, Texas, Hines plans to go. He said he’s never been to Austin before and the tournaments will be bigger, but both guys are looking forward to the challenge. Hines is going on a family trip with his wife Ashley and daughters Nora and Brie.
“Mostly everyone out there is going to have won a national amateur golf event, so it’s all a winner,” Hines said. “It comes down to which cream is going to rise to the top in those environments.”
The four-round tournament begins on October 28, but players must be present the day before for the players meeting. Jay is a student at the University of Montevallo and is trying to plan his classes so that there is a gap in October to conduct the tournament. He said he’s never played disc golf to this extent and won’t be playing in many tournaments before October to save money for his Austin trip.
“We talked about it a lot, and we said if one of us goes, the other one will do whatever it takes to go too,” Jay said. “It’s all about staying confident out there. I was confident in the Guntersville course and needed the same mindset there.”
Hines and Gay hope that someone in the community can help sponsor the duo to help them get to Austin to represent Chilton County.
“It would be great if some of the local businesses could sponsor us to represent our community,” Hines said. “Our entrance fee is paid, but it’s about things like getting a place to stay and meals. That’s when things get tough.”
The duo have a few tournaments coming up with Hines playing at the 2022 Professional Disc Golf Association World Championships in Princeton, Indiana on June 21-25. Haynes credits Clanton Outdoors for his sponsorship of helping him get a chance to go competing there.
He will also compete in the Alabama State Games on June 11 in Dothan.
Gay’s next tournament will be The Peach City Classic on July 30, Chilton County’s biggest golf event of the year. This tournament is a third tier event and it filled up quickly last year. The turnout is expected to be good this year as well.
Online registration opens May 13th at 8pm at discgolfscene.com/tournaments/Peach_City_Classic_2022/register.