Today shook me to my core. It started out as a normal enough day! After putting out a few small “fires” at work, I was off to try and play eighteen holes at Zebulon Community Park in Zebulon, North Carolina. It was a 35-40+ minute drive to get there…so quite a bit of commitment, specific to both time and fuel. But I was excited when I pulled into the parking lot, as I knew this would be another wooded/technical course that I tend to love and excel at. Though after I started looking for a parking spot? I noticed several signs saying that the course would be closed for the day, as there was an unsanctioned tournament happening on the course.

After an initial feeling of “ARGH!,” I regrouped and thought: “Okay, that didn’t work…but I’ll head to East Clayton Park in Clayton, North Carolina instead…as that is another one I would like to play!” So I reluctantly left Zebulon, and made my way over to Clayton. And when I arrived in Clayton, guess what?! More signs at that course…saying THAT course was closed for a PDGA C-Tier.

By about that time, I wanted to shake my fists at the sky and say: “What have I done to deserve this?!” I say that sarcastically, of course! But starting my day 0-for-2, when I was working with limited time (needing to get back to work, AND two of my favorite human beings in the world saying/thinking “tick-tock” in wanting me to get back with our van, so we can do other things)? I wasn’t in the greatest of moods.

Putting Things Into Perspective - Tonn's Travels
Course Map and Welcome Sign at Wendell DGC in Wendell, North Carolina.

So…I looked on UDisc, to see how to find my third choice on the morning: Wendell DGC in Wendell, North Carolina. And after burning more time/gas to get there, I realized that I had finally arrived at an unplayed course that I could actually play today. Only the disc golf gods weren’t quite done tormenting me yet…as I came to find out that Holes 12-17 were closed as a result of construction adjacent to the course. But hey, it was at least still a course played! Positive yardage.

After my previous two “swings and misses,” I decided that on my way back to the house, I would try and sneak in nine quick holes at the North Carolina State University Centennial Campus in Raleigh. And that is when everything changed.

On Interstate 40, as I was getting back, closer to Raleigh, there was suddenly nothing but brakelights in front of me as I was driving along in the right lane of traffic. I needed to brake, HARD, just to avoid having an accident. My first instinct was to look in my rear-view mirror, to make sure the vehicle behind me wasn’t going to crash into me. And after I realized I was safe, I then tried to look ahead to see what might be going on. I couldn’t see anything for several minutes, until we finally started moving forward…slowly.

After a minute or two, I saw what the problem was. There had been at LEAST a dozen vehicles involved in an accident in the right two lanes of traffic. Mostly dents and scratches…but then I saw it. 🙁 What looked as though it used to be an SUV. Lying on its roof in the right lane, about half its former length. Looking nothing like a vehicle anymore. With people running and crying from their cars, hundreds of yards in front of it to the scene of what I can only presume was at LEAST one dead body.

The image of one of the young women, running from a vehicle parked a few hundred yards in front of the remnants of the vehicle, crying and screaming, is burned into my brain. I cannot stop thinking about her. Thinking about how many people might have been in what was left of that SUV. There was absolutely nothing I could do to help, and with so many vehicles involved in the accident, there were already 20-30+ people on the scene looking to provide whatever help they could before police, fire and ambulances arrived on the scene. But I still get choked up, thinking about what I saw. Thinking about how at least one person’s life probably ended today. And here I was, feeling annoyed because a couple of disc golf courses I wanted to play weren’t available to me because some tournaments were happening? Ugh.

Putting Things Into Perspective - Tonn's Travels
View from the Hole 8 tee at the North Carolina State University Centennial Campus in Raleigh, NC.

There being nothing I could do, and not knowing what else to do, I continued on my way to NCSU, to check out a short nine-hole course not too far from our housesit. But my heart/head just wasn’t in it. I ended up shooting a -1 (26) for an estimated round rating of 861. But I could have shot a 126 and just felt lucky to be alive. As I know at least one person wasn’t going home tonight. And at least one family was getting the phone call that none of us ever want to receive. 🙁

Magic Number = 174 (1,826 Courses Played)

How it All Got Started: Tonn’s Travels >>
A main purpose of this blog will be to share information, helpful tips and tricks (everything from health and fitness to methods for saving money while you’re out “bagging courses” of your own), and ideas for better, safer course design. But I am also hoping to inspire others with my passion for the sport, via the stories I can share about all of the interesting experiences I have. All of the interesting people I meet. All of the amazing courses I am blessed to have the opportunity to play. If I can inspire even a handful of individuals to get off the couch, get “out of their bubble” or “security blanket” and explore more of this big, beautiful planet we all call home? Then I will consider this effort a success.

About Derek

Putting Things Into Perspective - Tonn's Travels

Derek Tonn is a member of the DGA’s Ambassador Team. His company, Mapformation, LLC, has been DGA’s partner in the development of disc golf tee signage since 2012. The longer our two companies have worked together, and the more Derek has gotten to know all the great folks at DGA, the more he has wanted to formally sing the company’s praises. The more he has realized that “Steady” Ed’s (the father of disc golf and the modern-day Frisbee) vision for the sport and his company perfectly describes his own interests and priorities related to disc golf, and the more Derek has recently been encouraged to share his story.