GREENVILLE — As Greenville City Manager George Bosanic made his way along Baldwin Street on Saturday morning, he suddenly found himself at a loss for words as he approached one of the community’s city parks.
On a day that featured the first snow flurries of autumn and temperatures hovering slightly above freezing, the parking lot of Tower Mountain Park was completely full, with dozens of adults gathered at the base of the mountain.
“I’ve never seen the parking lot that full, ever,” Bosanic said. “I couldn’t understand what was going on.”
More than 50 people had ventured to the park for the inaugural “Tower Mountain Throwdown” disc golf tournament. Bosanic found himself interacting with disc golfers from within the community, as well as with others from Battle Creek, Big Rapids and Mount Pleasant.
As he walked away, he recalled a conversation with the late Ray Tower, who had once expressed a hope that the property his family had long ago donated to the city would become more utilized.
“He really wanted this place to catch fire, to be used as a park where people could come together,” Bosanic said. “With this sport coming here now, I think he’d be happy to see so many people out here having a good time.”
The Tower Park Disc Golf Course was recently completed throughout the wooded city park, but only after many months of volunteer work.
This past January, the Greenville Youth Advisory Council approved a grant of $4,704 to be utilized by the Greenville Area Community Center for the purchase of disc golf baskets for a new course within the confines of the 10-acre Tower Mountain Park, and adjacent 22-acre Tower Park.
Combined with baskets that were relocated from Alan G. Davis Park, enough baskets were put into place this autumn to create Greenville’s first 18-hole disc golf course, which is heavily wooded, but offers wonderful views from atop Tower Mountain, as well as a glistening Baldwin Lake.
Jared Rittersdorf of Greenville had long been campaigning for a course in his hometown and helped spearhead the efforts of volunteerism that finally led to the course’s first tournament.
“This tournament was thrown together, literally two weeks ago, and we got 50 people,” he said. “I’ve been to tournaments posted a year in advance, and they have less than that.”
Rittersdorf was all smiles Saturday, as the tournament doubled as a fundraiser to bring in more funding to be used to improve the course over time. By the time the tournament concluded, $1,045 had been raised to help upgrade the course in the future, with items such as permanent signage and concrete tee pads.
“We would love to upgrade, to have a more professional outlook on the course,” Rittersdorf said. “To have something that’s competitive and worth traveling for, and knowing that not only does Greenville have an awesome course now, but now it’s a disc golf destination … that’s just awesome.”
Although temperatures had neared 70 degrees on Friday, by the time Saturday’s tournament was underway, snow had begun to stick to the ground.
“It wasn’t a factor at all. Avid disc golfers play year-round,” Rittersdorf said. “I think we’re happy we had snow and not rain, as we were just cold but dry.”
Greenville Area Recreation and Community Center Director Kris Berry was left in awe as she watched the park become so heavily utilized.
“It’s kind of amazing, that in such a short period of time, we started planning this tournament and this many people showed up,” she said. “It just goes to show that there truly is a following of the sport and a lot of buzz about this course. I think we’re going to keep seeing it grow and grow each year.”
Berry said she is excited for the potential of the course, not only for disc golfers but for members of the community who are looking to try something new.
“It’s a free, outdoor, recreational activity,” she said. “So it’s definitely affordable to purchase a disc or two, and then play all you want for free. I think the Towers, who donated the property, would be thrilled to see how much use the park is getting.”
After working with volunteers all summer, chainsawing branches, clearing brush, and even contracting poison ivy, Berry said she is happy to welcome the spirit of the disc golfing community to Greenville.
“One of the things that I’ve enjoyed the most, with this course, we’re now serving a demographic that we haven’t served before,” she said. “I’ve so much enjoyed getting to know the disc golfers. I’ve been so impressed by how much of their own time they are willing to put forward.”
Making the trip from Mount Pleasant to play the course for the first time, disc golfer John Norkowski said Tower Park Disc Golf Course is just another good example of the sport growing throughout the state.
“This course, it’s got all the framework down,” he said. “It’s not the longest course ever listed, but they’ve made 280-foot holes feel like they are 350 feet long. They’ve done a great job with the land.”
Norkowski said the course offers its fair share of challenges, which he anticipates will bring in disc golfers from afar, such as himself.
“As an advocate for Michigan disc golf, it’s great to have another course in Michigan,” he said. “This is a legitimate course that you have to work to make shots on. I love what they’ve done here. Being in a city park, you can make an entire day of it if you want to.”
Those looking to play the course can park at the city parking lot at the bottom of Tower Mountain Park on Baldwin Street, just south of South Street. The first hole is located immediately across Baldwin Street off of the Fred Meijer Flat River Trail.
From there, golfers can play the first few holes, work their way back across Baldwin Street, and continue around the Greenville Optimist Camp.