Originally published at: https://discgolf.ultiworld.com/2019/09/06/interview-ringleader-maple-hills-8-holes/
Zak Benson, leader of the 8 holes, sits center-left with pink socks and matching hair. Photo: Alyssa Van Lanen
Since June’s European Open a topic of debate has been bubbling under the surface around the remaining major events in the United States. Could American crowds compete with the show of support we saw in Finland?
Pro Worlds in Peoria put to rest some of those concerns, as large crowds followed several cards at both Northwood Park and Lake Eureka, but the MVP Open at Maple Hill really showed the energy those stateside were capable of.
Ultiworld Disc Golf’s Chris Wiklund, a Masshole himself, caught up with Zak Benson, the leader of the “8 Holes,” a passionate group of Maple Hill spectators who posted up behind hole 8’s basket and brought the noise at last weekend’s Disc Golf Pro Tour stop.
Ultiworld Disc Golf: What is the origin of the 8 Holes?
Last year for the MVP Open my friend and I decided that hole 8 was a great place to sit. At first we were the only people, but as we invited our friends as the weekend progressed we had a small crew by the end of the weekend. Funnily enough, Paige Pierce actually took our photo last year and the resulting picture was used in an Ultiworld article about the MVP Open
For the weeks, to months, leading up to this year’s event I kept inviting my friends and fellow disc golfers to “come join the 8 Holes” as we had so wonderfully named ourselves the previous year. Then we got our butts out there for this year’s tournament and the people just KEPT SHOWING UP! It was crazy to see the sheer size of the crowd on Sunday by noon. It was easily four or more times the amount of people that we had had at our peak the year before.
UWDG: How did the players react to the 8 Holes?
ZB: I think I saw almost every player smile and seem genuinely excited to walk onto the tee on 8 as we slow clapped their walk to the tee pad. While I am sure it was distracting to players on other holes at some point, the overall gist I got from the large majority of players was enthusiasm and positivity. They loved the crowd, the energy, the hype, all of it. Also, many of them enjoyed the candy!
UWDG: Whose tee shot was the most memorable?
ZB: Oh man, there were so many. There was one player in all green, that I am ashamed to admit I forget his name, who proceeded to get the crowd rallied and loud before his throw. He wanted us to bring the noise and energy during his shot, and boooyyyyy did we. His drive was dead straight and came in jussssttt to high. Hitting and skipping off the top of the basket. It was that ALMOST perfect shot to complement his enthusiasm and the energy he was getting the crowd amped up with!!!!
UWDG: What advice would you give to others looking to inject some crowd…participation, into their local tour stop?
ZB: Get out there! It doesn’t matter if you’re all alone, or with just one friend. Just get out there and bring your energy to the event. Set an example and invite all the people you see. Tell them all about how great it is. The best way, in my opinion, is just getting out there, set the example, and let it grow naturally.
UWDG: What are your thoughts on the reactions to the 8 holes by players and media?
ZB: It was really fulfilling to see how many of the players really appreciated the energy and enthusiasm. Also, hearing Nate Doss say that he has never seen energy in a crowd like he did on the live stream was really cool, and also really enlightening. It was overall just a kind of jaw-dropping experience. I think with most of the media and players having positive reactions it made me think that the sport needs more of that kind of enthusiasm from its fans. If spectating is “fun” and engaging, it has more potential to bring more people to watching the professional side of the sport, which in the long run hopefully helps take the sport even further.
UWDG: What’s in store for next year?
ZB: There is already a lot of talk for POTENTIAL things for next year. Maple Hill was kind enough to immediately reach out and want to work to make this even bigger! It will be interesting to see how these things pan out, but as for now if you want to see what is really in store for next year… well…
I guess you’ll have to grab your chair and cooler and come on down to the 8 HOLES! #8holes2020
If you want to keep up with Benson’s normal adventures, follow him on Instagram @discgolfanonymous