Until this month, it seems highly unlikely that Eastern Mennonite University had ever beaten Clemson in any sport. Or Missouri. Or even Western Kentucky.
But that is exactly what happened over the previous weeks, as recently graduated senior Trevor Oyer represented EMU in the College Disc Golf Hek Yeh Putter Party, and calmly out-played participants from each of those schools en route to finishing as the tournament’s runner-up. Oyer nearly won the championship before North Carolina State’s golfer jumped ahead of him in the final round of their competition.
EMU was one of just three NCAA Division III teams in the 32-team field of the Putter Party. After winning an opening round match against Arkansas by default, Oyer represented the Royals past two NCAA “Power Five Conference” programs and into the final match. EMU was the only Division III representative to advance out of the first round.
The first three rounds of the tournament were played via Facebook Live, within a specific timeframe. Oyer shot his rounds on a basket set up inside of EMU’s University Commons. But starting with the Final Four, the stakes were raised as DJ Hek Yeh hosted the head-to-heads on a live stream, interviewing the participants throughout their match.
The two final rounds are still available on the College Disc Golf Facebook page, while all of the rounds can be found by searching for “#cdghypp” on Facebook.
Oyer ended up losing to Raven Newsom from NC State by a score of 28-24 in last Saturday’s championship, but his efforts capped a surprising year for the new EMU Disc Golf team and gave the EMU community something to cheer for while being socially distanced.
EMU’s disc golf team was comprised of Trevor Oyer, Jared Oyer, Cameron Byer and Silas Driver. The foursome won the first-ever EMU Royals Qualifier on Feb. 29 to earn a trip to the College Disc Golf National Championship.
Anyone interested in learning more about EMU Disc Golf or in playing at EMU, please email Trevor Oyer at email@example.com.
The following is a Q&A with Trevor Oyer.
How did this Putter Party come to be?
My understanding is that DJ Hek Yeh hosted these putting tournaments in person before the coronavirus. He (previously) had two online Putter Party competitions before teaming up with College Disc Golf to do this tournament. Originally, the College Disc Golf Hek Yeh Putter Party was going to be in-person during one of the evenings at the National Championships.
How did you get to be the participant for EMU?
College Disc Golf reached out to us teams to see if we were interested in doing this competition. Our EMU team seemed pretty indifferent and did not initially jump on board. It wasn’t until a text from one of the College Disc Golf directors saying they needed a couple more teams that we decided to join. I asked our team if any of them wanted to be our representative. None of them wanted to and so by process of elimination, I was selected to represent EMU.
What were you thinking after shooting such high scores in the first two rounds of the tournament?
I was shocked that I had back-to-back 40-point rounds. In my practice rounds outside, I was averaging just over 20 points. I thought I could do better inside, but not that much better with the added pressure. I did not think I could keep pace with 40 points each round, and my goal each round was 24 points. I believed that 24 points would put me in a position to win some of the later, higher pressure matches. Turns out I needed 28 or more in the championship!
What was it like to do those final rounds, being streamed live with DJ Hek Yeh as the host? Have you ever done anything like that before?
While it was nerve racking, it was a lot of fun to be on the live streamed rounds with DJ Hek Yeh. The stats and split screens made it seem much more official and important. I really enjoyed talking to DJ Hek Yeh and the College Disc Golf directors before and after these live streamed rounds. I had never done anything like this before! Not a putting competition or a live streamed competition.
What was your thought process through that championship match against the NC State golfer (Raven Newsom)?
This is a very long answer! So many thoughts! Initially, I wanted to go first to try and put pressure on Raven. I had a poor first set but then he did as well. I had a really hot second set and I was feeling really good about things. I was up 20-4 after my second set. Then Raven went 1-of-4 from 45 feet to put him at 10 points. He made his last putt of that set which was huge and brought the score to 20-16. Going into my final set, I really wanted to make two putts to go up by 12 points. I felt that this would have applied enough pressure on Raven to get the victory. I did not feel super nervous in that last set but was just slightly off on my putts. One of my goals going into the championship was to avoid having 1-of-5 sets, and I had two of them! I still felt all right about being up 8 points, but not nearly as good as I would have about 12 points. Raven went 2-for-3 from 35 feet and then moved up to 25 feet where he calmly made two. Had I made one more putt in my final set he would have had to hit a 35 footer and then a putt from 25 feet for the win, which would have been much more stressful. I am sure a lot of people are questioning why I chose to go first. It may have been a mistake that cost me the match, but I really feel that had I made one more putt in the last set it would have proven to be a good decision. After the match I was disappointed, however, I was still happy that I made a handful of putts and didn’t get blown out!
Did you ever get a sponsorship deal from Honey Bunches of Oats?
It was fun to have small jokes in the live feed like this! But no. No sponsorship deal from Honey Bunches of Oats.
What is the biggest memory you'll take away from being in the Putter Party?
Three are three main things that come to mind, with the last one being the biggest memory/takeaway. The first is being able to go back-to-back 40-point rounds. I really could not believe that I did this! The second was being down 8-10 in the semifinal match against Western Kentucky and then hitting 4-of-5 to come back and win the match. Lastly, so much of this whole competition for me was being able to personally meet and get to know the College Disc Golf directors. While I was sad that I lost in the championship, it feels really good going forward knowing that they know EMU's disc golf team is classy, respectful and passionate about disc golf and growing our team and success in the future. Forming these relationships was huge for me and our team. On top of this, it was great to get more publicity for EMU Disc Golf and to put our team more on the College Disc Golf map. This included being able to have the EMU community see me go up against and beat Division I schools.
Do you know what the plans are for a National Championship hosted by College Disc Golf?
Nationals is still very much in the air. The College Disc Golf directors are really hoping that this year’s National Championships will be able to be rescheduled. While there is a chance it may have to be cancelled, they will make sure they have explored all possible options before they make that call. I really hope that Nationals will be able to happen at the end of the summer or at the start of next school year.
This has been a meteoric year for you and EMU Disc Golf. As you graduate, what are your hopes for the sport at EMU?
Yes, this year has been a great first year for EMU Disc Golf. We were able to host a qualifier, we qualified for Nationals, and I made it to the championship in the putting competition. While I have graduated and will not be a player anymore, I will still be working very closely with the team. I will help form the team and figure out tournament logistics, as well as be there to encourage the team to get better and build team chemistry. I think it is such a cool opportunity to play disc golf in college because EMU is in the same competitions with Division I schools, the sport is relatively inexpensive, and there are individual and team rounds. My hope going forward is that we can grow the team and bring in more students to play disc golf for EMU. With this in mind, a goal for next year is to have an A team and a B team, as well as a women’s team if there is student interest. I think that EMU having a disc golf team could bring in a couple more students each year as the sport continues to become more popular. While there may be a time when making the EMU disc golf team is more competitive, for now, I am just looking for anyone who really enjoys playing disc golf and intentionally works on improving their skills in the sport. I also hope that our team can continue to either host a qualifier tournament or a just a competitive tournament each year.