Ben Loggains, 38, an engineer with CP Rail, took first place at Falcons Flight, one of the largest disc golf tournaments in Canadian history held earlier this month in Sundre, Alta. defeating Casey Hanemayer, another Cranbrook disc golfer and two-time winner of this tournament, by one stroke.
In the second round, Loggains shot one of the rounds of his life shooting a 10-under-par score of 48, moving him from third card in round two to a four stroke lead coming into the final round. For context the next best score in round two was a -5.
What makes this win special for Loggains, beyond being the biggest win of his career, is that he and Hanemayer have a history of friendship and of playing disc golf together going back a decade.
Loggains first started playing disc golf in 2001 Greensboro, North Carolina, a state now known as one of the biggest hotbeds for the sport, home to 263 courses and some of the biggest tournaments in the sport.
It was still what you would call an epicentre for disc golf in 2001, but back then what that meant was that his area had maybe two or three courses — two or three more than most other places.
He was working at a cellphone store at the time, when a customer came in and asked if he knew anything about disc golf.
He had a background in playing competitive ultimate frisbee, and had heard of but never tried disc golf, so figured he’d give it a go and was immediately hooked. And shortly thereafter he was also quite good at it.
For the first few years he played nearly every day, but always just casually with his buddies. When he moved to Cranbrook in 2005, lacking that old social circle, he was attracted to tournaments and league rounds as a means of meeting new people in a new town.
“Upon moving to Cranbrook I was really impressed with the quality of the course from the time that I got here,” Loggains said. “At the time I’d say there were very few places that even had quality designed courses with concrete tee pads and baskets. So Cranbrook was way ahead of most communities thanks to the people that started the club here.
“And I just think that that head start has carried on to now, where we’re still ahead, just with steady progress from those days. We’re still well ahead of most communities in terms of number of courses, quality of courses, the number of players and the quality of players. I’d say we’re a destination city for disc golf in western Canada.”
Loggains has been instrumental in that steady progress, helping run the local league, directing tournaments and helping to design and construct the area’s new courses.
“I definitely can’t help but be involved in some way with the work that goes into building the community, just because I love the game so much,” he said. “Just loving to play makes it so that when someone says that they have a project for a new course or some kind of infrastructure project to do with disc golf I just want to be involved and it’s hard to stay away from those things.”
He played his first tournament in around 2006 and became member number 40357 in the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) in 2009.
Since 2009 he’s played in around seven to 10 tournaments a year, mostly in western Canada and Montana and he’s observed slow and steady improvement in the quality of event and of their players.
“This year’s Falcons Flight was far and away the most excited I’ve been for a tournament in the time that I’ve been playing,” he said.
In terms of scale, this year’s tournament had a huge amount of added cash and was promoted extensively. The organizers who put the tournament together, the fans that came simply to attend, the huge field of players competing, the amount of upgrades to the two already exceptional courses all made for an extremely high quality tournament.
The event was also filmed by Central Coast Disc Golf, trailblazers in the rapidly exploding YouTube disc golf media realm.
It was Loggains first round filmed by any of the disc golf media networks and though he thought being filmed would add more pressure, he said he was already “maximumly nervous,” just at the weight of the event alone.
“I felt a lot of pressure to make it into the top four to make it onto film and I would have expected to feel a tremendous amount of pressure due to being on film, but once I was there I had already felt so nervous in the second round just because of the weight of the event with it being an A Tier, I was already maximumly nervous.”
Even in the second round, as he took the lead of the tournament from way back on third card, a crowd had already formed to watch him play, and this combined with messages of support from home over the course of the weekend made a big difference and helped him shoot the best shots he could.
His history with Casey also made the final round, and his one stroke margin of victory, all the more memorable.
He first met Hanemayer in 2011 at the Sunday doubles rounds in Cranbrook, and said they’ve been best friends ever since.
“As soon as I saw him throw for the first time I knew that he needed to play tournaments and get involved. So for the first couple years I was doing whatever I could to convince him to go, including driving him wherever, making sure he got registered for tournaments,” he said. “It didn’t take him long to realize that his skills were worth taking to tournaments and he was just as enthusiastic as I was pretty quickly. And within two years probably, and for the last five or six years he’s been completely dominant in Canada.”
According to Loggains, Hanemayer has won just over 40 per cent of the PDGA tournaments he’s entered, the highest mark for any male player in Canadian history.
Hanemayer and Loggains usually travel together to tournaments, but this year Loggains had to get there a little bit late and he said Hanemayer actually drove back to the course to help him get to know the changes that were made to the course, what lines to shoot and what discs to select.
“Both nights before the first and second round he was there to help me be prepared,” Loggains said. “Even in the final round, knowing that we were definitely battling with each other he certainly wasn’t ever trying to play anything other than his best golf and take it away from me.
“But I could feel that he was happy for me every time I thew a good shot, which is just really special, because I know I’ve done everything that I could to help him be his best in the past and it felt a bit like circular, that he was there to help me play my best, even though we were competing against each other.”
The two players have played countless rounds together and have had some close battles in the past. Loggains had a one-stroke lead over Hanemayer on the last hole of the 2019 Kootenay Up and Down, and wound up losing to him by two strokes, but he was able to best him at this year’s Sam Steele Tournament.
“But honestly we haven’t had that many close battles over the years, truthfully he’s been pretty dominant since he started playing MPO,” Loggains said. “Casey’s growth as a player has really pushed me to grow as a player as well. I don’t think that I would ever have the game that I have now if not for him. Getting choked up just talking about it.”
This win, given that it was at an A-Tier over a field of nearly 65 other pros, with that much visibility and the fact that it was recorded, will likely open up sponsorship opportunities for Loggains going forward.
In the meantime he is focusing on the Cranbrook Disc Golf Club’s league playoffs and gearing up for the 2021 Kootenay Up and Down, which will undoubtedly generate another great battle in the long saga that is Cranbrook disc golf.