So far on Saturday morning for Trevor Wilkerson, of Hastings, Neb., hole No. 12 near the Main Street bridge had been the most difficult.

It was the start of the 35th Annual Frontier Open disc golf tournament in Frontier Park.

“You’ve got to throw underneath the bridge, it’s mandatory, and then you throw an up shot,” Wilkerson said, as he watched his buddies each take their turn at hole No. 13 in Frontier Park East, throwing through thick trees across Big Creek to the bank on the other side.

“You have to do it without getting in the water,” Wilkerson said. “I was the only one to get a par on that one.”

Waiting his turn at hole No. 13, Jake Lazzo said he’d driven four hours from Kansas City, Mo., to play in the annual event, “because this is the best course in Kansas,” he said.

“I like the trees, the creek, the variety, the character of the park, and the people,” Lazzo said. “It all makes this a great tournament.”

Diran Missack, of Omaha, Neb., said it’s his second year playing the Flying Bison Disc Golf Course, aptly named for the herd of bison that have inhabited the perimeter of the park for decades.

“It’s a beautiful course, it’s a tough course,” Missack said. “The first time I played it I just immediately fell in love with it. It’s a great tournament, and a lot of people here take great pride in putting it on.”

Tournament director Brett Straight, of Hays, said this year’s 180 registered players, with just one no-show, breaks last year’s record of 149. And there would have been more, but Straight had to put five players on a waiting list.

Sanctioned by the Professional Disc Golf Association, the tournament play Saturday was 18 holes on the east side of the 75-acre park, and 18 on the west, which officially allowed for 180 players.

“We actually had to turn a few people away, I can only have five people on each tee box,” said Straight, a PDGA certified director.

Given the growing popularity of the tournament each year, Straight is working with the Hays Park Department and Fort Hays State University to install more holes. Disc golfer Greg Hunt Farley, former dean of FHSU’s College of Science, Technology and Mathematics, and now a dean at Black Hills State University in South Dakota, has been a fan of the Flying Bison course, and continues as a tournament sponsor and someone interested in extending the course to the Fort Hays campus, Straight said.

“I hope that it can give us a little bit of an opportunity to maybe get some more courses installed,” said Straight. “I’ve worked with Dr. Farley and he has some money available for us to be able to get a course installed on campus.”

The course design is already drawn up, and Straight and others developing the course plan to walk it by the end of the month to work out any hiccups, he said.

“We’re also having discussion and dialogue with the Parks Department. There’s some land that’s available, in their lease that runs behind where the Parks Department is actually located, so we might be able to get some holes down there,” Straight said. “Hopefully that would alleviate having to turn people away. The more people that come here, the more money that they spend and the more that everybody benefits.”

With another 18 holes, Straight said he could register 270 players next year. The three-day tournament began Friday and continues Sunday. The first 90 players to sign up each got a player package, which includes a T-shirt, a disc and a mini marker disc.

September 1984 was the Frontier Open’s inaugural tournament.

“Seven players showed up for that, and three of them are here today,” Straight said.

Ron Convers Jr., of Blackwell, Okla., a three-time world champion grand master, has been coming for more than 20 years.

He noticed Big Creek is running a little higher than usual, particularly over the stepping stones, forcing players to walk an extra quarter-mile on one part of the course.

“I love this course, it’s very unique,” Convers said.

The growing popularity of disc golf is partly because it’s not expensive, with a disc as little as six or seven dollars from Walmart, he said.

“It’s something you can go have fun with your buddies, or bring your family out and play,” Convers said. “It’s a healthy exercise, you’re basically taking a hike and throwing things at a target on the way. I’m 57 and I’m still able to play with the young guys.”

Matt Loyd, a disc vendor from Fayetteville, Ark., at the tournament, said he had at least 60 different kinds of discs for sale Saturday, each one different in how it throws. Beginners don’t have to worry about all that, Loyd said.

He’d start them out with a putter, or a mid-range, he said.

“It’s easier for new players to throw discs that have more glide on them,” he said. “Those are a lot better for beginners than the more beveled-edge fast discs.”

Every player approaches the Flying Bison course differently, said golfer Patrick Ryan, of Salina, including what discs they have in their bag.

“Some people carry five,” Ryan said, “some people carry 20 or more.”

Missack hopes to be one of the 120 players good enough Saturday to make it into the top 120 for Sunday’s 24-hole monster course.

“All these baskets that are covered up,” said Missack, pointing to the black trash bag over one of the baskets. “That’s part of the monster course. You gotta earn the right to play on the monster course, she’s got some teeth.”

Will Steinmetz, of McCook, Neb., hopes to play the challenging monster course also.

“I will make it,” Steinmetz said, “Although I could still blow up here.”

His third time at the Frontier Open, Steinmetz says the tournament is one of the bigger events for disc golfers in northwest Kansas, western Nebraska and eastern Colorado. He brought his 10-year-old son, Blake, who is playing in the junior division.

“He’s having a good time,” said Steinmetz. “He couldn’t sleep last night, he was all pumped up.”

The 36th Annual Frontier Open, like all the others before it, will be the first weekend after Labor Day 2020.