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50th Annual International Frisbee Tournament
This event is the oldest and most prestigious flying disc tournament in the world, dating back to 1958, when some fun-loving folks at a family picnic in Michigan's Upper Peninsula took a Pluto Platter – the direct ancestor of the modern Frisbee – and invented a simple game of throw and catch between two teams standing about 15 yards apart. They called it "Guts Frisbee" because to score a point, you had to throw the disc so hard that the opposing team couldn't catch it cleanly in one hand – then have the guts to try catching the screaming-fast disc when it was thrown back at you.

The Wham-O® company – fresh off their success with the Hula Hoop® – acquired the rights to the Pluto Platter around the same time, renamed it the Frisbee, and launched a major fad that swept the nation. As the years went by and millions of Frisbees were sold, that humble family picnic grew and grew, until tens of thousands of people were attending what had become known as the International Frisbee Tournament, or IFT. By the early 1970's, the game of Guts had spread across the country, then around the world, with coverage on radio, television, major newspapers, and even TIME magazine.

The 50th Annual IFT promises to be the biggest, most historic, most competitive Guts Frisbee tournament ever, with players old and new from all over the United States and visiting teams expected from Japan, Canada, and Finland. The sport's official sanctioning body for North America, the United States Guts Players Association (USGPA), is also planning to induct some of history's most outstanding players into the Guts Frisbee Hall of Fame at their Saturday night players' banquet. Those new inductees will join such flying disc legends as Fred Morrison, the inventor of the original Pluto Platter, the Healy brothers who started the IFT, and "Steady Ed" Headrick, the Wham-O visionary who won two IFTs and is credited with inventing the standard "pole hole" basket used on modern disc golf courses.
The Original X-treme Sport?

As Guts Frisbee evolved during the 1960's, players started throwing faster and faster, until it wasn't unusual to see presumably unbreakable Frisbees traveling at 60 or 70 mph shatter on impact with some unlucky defender's hand. Catching the speedy disc – either straight on or after a teammate deflected it into the air – now really took Guts! With over 60 teams at a tournament, matches became knock-down, drag-out affairs, as everyone tried to battle their way into the Finals and a chance to win the IFT's coveted Julius T. Nachazel trophy. One player even required 15 stitches to close a gaping wound across the palm of his hand after repeated pummeling by one of the world's fastest throwers. With radical curving shots, deflected Frisbees bobbled frantically among teammates, and spectacular diving catches, Guts Frisbee had become an extreme sport demanding lightning-quick reflexes, physical endurance, and steely concentration.

Guts Frisbee Rebirth

Since its heyday in the 1970s, when even ABC's Wide World of Sports was televising Guts action and tournaments were springing up everywhere from Toronto to Chicago and Los Angeles, the sport has gradually declined in popularity in America. With its obvious parallels to Asian martial arts, Guts in the 1990s became even more popular in Japan and Taiwan than in the U.S. Recent years, however, have seen pockets of strong, young American players who are taking the sport to an even higher competitive level.

Plenty of older players have also stirred from retirement to revel in the game's rebirth and take part in the historical 50th IFT. Organizers anticipate the largest turnout in decades, with both players and spectators from the past fifty years converging on the Driving Park fields in west Hancock for two days of the most thrill-packed Frisbee action imaginable.
About the Author
For more information, photos, videos and more, check out the USGPA's website at Guts Frisbee. And start planning your vacation so you can be there and enjoy all the intense, high-speed Guts action when the oldest Frisbee tournament in the world turns 50!
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