After a long stay in the United States for the inaugural Disc Golf World Tour event, Tour Director Jussi Meresmaa has been back in Finland looking back on the La Mirada Open and looking forward to the Konopiste Open in the Czech Republic.
While we had the pleasure of working along side Meresmaa and his crew in California and having a chance to reflect back on the week in person, we wanted to give Meresmaa a few weeks to let the dust settle before doing a full review of the event.
We’re just over a month away from the next DGWT event and Meresmaa believes he’s learned a lot from the La Mirada Open.
The first event of the Disc Golf World Tour is in the books. Now that the dust has settled and you’ve had some time to review everything. In terms of your expectations going into the event, how did the La Mirada Open stack up?
“It was the wildest ride in my career as a promoter. Lots of stones were turned during the 3-week period before the event I was in the United States. Tour directing is a more than full-time job. Kudos to all TDs and promoters.”
“My expectations were higher for this event, to be honest. We did a bold statement for our live broadcast and just weren’t able to execute it like planned. Our staff worked hard and over their limits but some technical issues restricted us to reach our full potential. My goal was to have 7,500 live viewers and we fell short (4,250 peak).”
“Our course staff did really well. We were able to create a Championship layout at La Mirada and got quite positive reviews from the players. La Mirada is so famous place in disc golf so this was an honor to do. Our design principles were pretty strict and we did not wanted to go to those “parking lot holes” that would not look good on TV. Thankful for our crew!”
“The Metrix was my biggest success point at the La Mirada Open. It’s a complicated system that has been in the works for over a year. This was so important to us that the original software maker from Estonia was there to make sure things rolled into our favor. We had some nags on the first day, but after that everything was smooth. We did not have volunteers on every card (There were two big amateur events simultaneously with us that took almost 600 players.).”
“I’m sorry about that. Players took the Metrix really well. There is a benefit for all to make this happen. I think we set the bar pretty high. Not only stats-wise but the looks-wise too — it is gorgeous!”
What about the least successful? Why?
“I have to say arranging an event in LA county. We did encounter so much nos and cannots that it almost drained me. After a week in Cali I had to loosen up I appreciate LA County letting us be there, but I’m used to things working so differently. I’m glad we did make it through.”
“Also, because of LA, we did not succeed to crack the local media. That was a disappointment, because that is one of our main goals on tour.”
At dinner following the final round, you asked the entire crew what hole we liked the most. Each one of us gave a different answer. How do you think the course performed for such a prestigious event?
“It was a good version. It was also demanded a ton of work. We build it according to the DiscGolfPark concept. Every hole teed off on DiscGolfPark turf pads. Every hole had brand new DiscGolfPark targets and the course design was made according to our rules. I had Austin Montgomery assisting me on the design and he really stepped up. I heard from DiscGolfPark HQ that after the event, they received one course request per day from within the US.”
You also asked what everyone individually learned over the course of the three-day tournament. What did you learn?
“Oh man, I do not even remember that, I was so tired. I learned a lot. This is why we do this. To learn. And grow. I’m understanding better the culture of the disc now.”
Let’s look forward. The next three DGWT events are in Europe. Do the European events face similar challenges as to what the La Mirada Open faced or do they have a separate difficulties to overcome?
“I’m so excited to show Konopiste to the World! That course is nuts (See, I´m hyping again). But it will live to your expectations. We have totally different situation there. I recently got a call from our promoter in the Czech Republic that their national TV wants to show our event’s post produced recap exclusively in Czech. That will potentially mean hundreds of thousands of new viewers to us and Disc Golf. This is why we do this. It would be hard to think that happening in US anytime soon (in few years).”
Going into the La Mirada Open you focused on a wide multimedia approach. With various video crews, including a live broadcast, photographers, and ourselves, among the mix, what kind of multimedia plans can we expect for the Konopiste Open and other events?
“Because of National TV intrest, we are dropping live streaming out and concentrating on our post produced show. I understand that this will come as a disappointment for many of your readers. However, we are going to make edited play-by-play videos and more from the event. I will fly more of our Finnish crew to the Czech Republic to make social media, pictures, etc. I promise there will not be a shortage of materials. And hey, the Metrix.”
The Disc Golf Metrix had a warm reception with many excited about the new stats to disc golf. You’ve said this is only the beginning. What else can we expect to see and when will the new data roll out?
“We wanted to roll out just a few stats for our first season. There are more to come, but for now we concentrate to polish this currentl level. We also need time to get people used to Metrix. There are really exciting things in the works that I cannot talk at the moment.”
The “One Division. One Champion” mantra of the DGWT has certainly been a point of discussion with the lack of a women’s division. Three women were offered positions with Catrina Allen the only one accepting the chance to compete. Allen just barely finished out of the paying spots and showed she can compete with the guys. While it is believed you aren’t going to add a women’s division in 2016, are you doing anything to help bring more women to the DGWT events?
“Yea, gender equity is a hot topic for sure. I’m running a business and we have made our business decisions for 2016. You can call it bad business, but I have explained the reasons behind this few times. DGWT is not able to sustain FPO division at the moment. My philosophy for business is always sustainability: grow or die. As much as we all want our ladies to travel around the world, there is only one sustainable place for FPO division and that is in US. The Pro Tour is a great offering for those top ladies.”
“To be honest, this feedback almost got under to my skin after this event. There were few loud people on social media blaming us for gender inequity. I just leave this here: if we would have FPO division on World Tour, how many times US top ladies would travel to Europe to play? History has shown that there are 2-4 FPO players making the trip once a year. And these players are by far the best females in the world. So, having local FPO division (under 900-rated) in our European events would not make any sense. Or am I missing something?”
“And we also invited the best FPO players to show their skills on our events. Catrina was the biggest winner in La Mirada. She got so much publicity and cheers. As a professional athlete, she gained most on personal branding that week. That is key towards sponsors, for example. And I truly believe women should have their own tour where the spot light would be on them only.”
While the majority of competitors were from the United States, you did have a nice foreign contingent in California. Are you expecting the numbers to flip for the European events with Americans being in the minority, or no?
“Yes, absolutely. This is another thing that people see so differently. Common belief in US is that DGWT is a competing tour for whatever tour they compare in to US. It is not. If I can put this into another analogy: Steve Dodge is running for US President with his Pro Tour. I’m running for President of the Olympic committee. I understand that this sport is US centric. 90% of all players are currently coming from US. I challenge all naysayers to think outside the box (borders). There are less Finns playing Pro Tour in 2016 than US players in World Tour. The impact that Pro Tour has in Finland is minimal for the sport. We have been on National TV for some years here. Disc Golf is a global phenomenon.”
“There is nothing like Disc Golf World Tour. We have 100 players in Konopiste Open now and only TWO are from the Czech Republic. Can you imagine how important it is to local player to see Paul McBeth in their home course or country and get inspired to this sport? We had over 10,000 spectators in European Open last year. That was 10-times more than La Mirada few weeks ago.”
With one event in the books and the next one a little over a month away, you certainly have a list of tasks in front of you. What is up next on your list?
“To take some rest. This is a grind but I love every minute. I have the most talented team around me making this happen. You know who you are.”
To wrap up, quite simply, after the DGWT has taken its first step forward, are you happy with where you landed?
“Yes and no. I tend to put the highest expectations to our productions. I´m happy its over and we are rolling. Summer in Europe will be crazy. Enjoy the sport.”
Anything else you want to include?
“Due to a robbery in my house in Finland during the event I have now updated security system. I´m glad that my family and my first run C-PD collection is safe.”
We are glad to hear his family is safe (I guess that PD collection is important too). Thanks to Meresmaa for the conversation.
The first DGWT event was certainly an experience and we’re anxious to see what comes out of the next three events in Europe. We’ve said for a while that 2016 was going to be an exciting year in disc golf and so far, that statement is holding true.
Tip of the cap to Stu Mullenberg from The Flight Record for the fantastic photos. It was a treat being able to work together!