TWIN FALLS — Paul Ulibarri usually remains anonymous. That wasn’t the case on Saturday.
Ulibarri was competing in the sixth annual Twin Falls ClasSIC disc golf tournament, and he was the highest-ranked player in the field by far. In the Professional Disc Golf Association’s most recent men’s world rankings, Ulibarri sat in 21st.
A camera crew followed Ulibarri’s group for all 18 holes Saturday afternoon at CSI’s disc golf course. Fellow ClasSIC competitors talked about him with reverence. On the 13th hole, he tossed a high drive that sliced over the Perrine Coulee and nestled near the basket. Competitors on the other side of the creek watched in awe as his disc hovered over their heads.
Ulibarri was one of about 90 participants on Saturday who hailed from a state other than Idaho. Fewer than 10 players, however, are from a state that doesn’t border Idaho. Ulibarri — a Mesa, Arizona, resident — is one of them.
The ClasSIC (the SIC stands for Southern Idaho Chuckers, a local club that helps put on the event) hasn’t become a national sensation, but it did draw close to 180 players for the third straight year Saturday. Ulibarri is competing in the two-day tournament for the first time this year.
Ulibarri, 28, has played disc golf for about 12 years, and it’s how he makes a living. He attends about 40 tournaments a year, across the globe, to compete for cash prizes.
While this is his first ClasSIC, he’s been to Twin Falls multiple times for other disc golf events. Ulibarri first caught wind of Twin Falls and its disc golf tournaments from an Arizona friend who grew up here.
“I love the area,” Ulibarri said. “That’s why I come back.”
Ulibarri might be the best player at the Classic, but he’s not the farthest player from Magic Valley. He has to contend with a pair of South Dakotans, a Californian and a Texan.
Based on the PDGA’s list of ClasSIC participants, Tim McGill runs away with the most distant hometown crown.
McGill’s listed residence is from Wailuku, Hawaii, per the PDGA, but that’s purely a technicality. He does not have a permanent residence.
McGill, 24, was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. He picked up disc golf in Portland about 10 years ago, and it quickly captured a prominent part of his attention, right next to music. He didn’t want to go to college. Instead, he moved to Hawaii after graduating high school.
Disc golf became McGill’s profession, which required him, like Ulibarri, to travel nationally and sometimes internationally. The ClasSIC, which concludes Sunday afternoon, is one of about 30 tournaments McGill signs up for each year. In his mind, it doesn’t make sense to settle down in one place.
“I have a sponsor called DG Nomad. It describes me perfectly,” he said. “It sucks when I have to try and get a credit card or something. They’re like, ‘What’s your address? I’m like, ‘I don’t know what my address is,’ so I have to use my brother’s or someone’s.”
McGill is a professional, but he’s not all that close to Ulibarri’s level. A rating of 1000 will get a disc golfer into the top 100 of the world rankings, and the highest rating in the July men’s rankings is 1052 (Paul McBeth). Ulibarri has a 1016 rating. McGill’s is 971.
McGill has sponsors and a savings account, so he’s not starving. And he’s not going to complain about playing disc golf for a living. That doesn’t mean the road trips and unstable income are easy to stomach.
“If you’re one of the middle of the road guys that’s going out and grinding every tournament, it can be a challenge,” he said. “Every tournament costs $100, more or less. If you come out here and don’t get your money back, then you’re like, ‘Uh oh.’ How are you gonna get to the next stop?”
McGill has lived in the Salt Lake Area for brief spurts. That’s where he caught wind of the ClasSIC. Connections like those have expanded the tournament from fewer than 100 players in 2011 (its inaugural year) to 180 by 2015.
Twin Falls has only two disc golf courses (at CSI and Rock Creek Park), which limits the ClasSIC’s reach. Tournament director Larry Laub said 180 is the maximum number of players allowed to play at the ClasSIC.
To increase that number and host bigger tournaments, Twin Falls would need at least one more course. If that construction gets approved, Laub hopes to host a World Championship.
“As the tournament gets established, it starts getting a reputation. Then you start attracting the higher-end pros,” he said. “We grew. Now, we’re one of the biggest in Idaho.”