When did you first start playing disc golf? Did anyone help you get into the sport?
My first round of Disc Golf was in May of 2012. A co-worker and I were hanging out, talking about the empty feeling I had from high school sports and competition coming to an end. Disc Golf was recommended and I was hooked after my first round!
Forehand, backhand or both?
I use both forehand and backhand. I choose between the two by the angles of the fairway, and the variables I’m presented with. I was told by fellow Team Discraft member, Neal Dambra PDGA#200, that to truly go far in this sport you need both. Since that day a few years ago I have made it a big point to practice both equally. It really helps out to have both throws, strong staples in my bag.
What is your favorite disc for crushing drives?
I have 2 favorite discs that I use for distance. For straight to anhyzer shots I use a Z Heat, 175 gm. I can trust it to do its job down long tunnels, and straight shots. The Z Heat is the most used disc in my bag, besides my putters.
Photo Courtesy Discraft
For distance shots that finish hyzering, I go for an ESP Force, 172gm. I like to pull this disc over and let it fly its full flight pattern. This disc saves me so many strokes out there during tournament rounds.
Photo Courtesy Discraft
What is your favorite thing about being on the road traveling to play disc golf?
My first practice round at a new course. I have a deep appreciation for good course design, and view the way we twist and twine through the trees and hills as art. I’m so glad we get the opportunity to play on such prestigious courses. I love it when nature takes my breathe away.
What is your best tip for playing disc golf in the wind?
Trust your shot. I could tell you the normal physics of wind and the way the disc will lift or fall depending on the direction it’s blowing, but honestly when it comes down to it, trusting your shot is what matters the most. You have to make a choice regardless of the other factors, and you need to trust that choice. If you’re confident in your decision, it will not turn out as bad as when you aren’t sure and soft arm it.
Photo Courtesy Discraft
Fill in the blank….Disc golf is ________.
What disc golf destination is at the top of your list that you haven’t been to yet?
If you had to choose an official beer of disc golf, what would it be?
Deschutes Brewery’s Chain Breaker White IPA
What do you think your dog’s favorite part about being a disc dog is?
When we get out of the car in a new State. She gets so overjoyed by the new smells and wildlife.
How can people help to support your touring efforts?
We are looking to run doubles events with free clinics throughout our travels this year. If you would like us to come to your area and put on a great show and event email me at email@example.com Also keep an eye out for out next Tour Fundraiser Disc, Inspired by Pinky and the Brain<3 The art has been commissioned for development and we are so thrilled to see the final product!
You’re Welcome. Or am I? The feeling of not fitting in.
This is the first in a series to help women step out of their comfort zone when it comes to disc golf. What better place to start than the initial introduction to the disc golf world? Beyond just you, your local course and some discs, there is a whole community of disc golfers, some may even call these people disc golf family. When you are new to leagues, tournaments and the greater disc golf scene it is easy (especially if you are an introvert like myself) to question if you are welcome in this whole new world (cue the Aladdin music).
AND if you are questioning if you fit in or are welcome, stop. Because the disc golf family is one of the most inclusive groups of people out there. So yes, you are welcome and you will eventually find your tribe if you haven’t already.
Still unsure if you will fit in or still unsure if you are welcome into this world of flying discs? I understand your concerns and worry; I have been there too.
I have been playing disc golf events since 2009 and I still on occasion feel unsure about fitting in, could be my tendency to overthink things.
Every time I let these thoughts creep into my head, I am reminded of where I started and where this amazing community of disc golfers has brought me, and quickly quiet those concerns.
A little history on the early days when I really questioned if I was welcome. The Western Lakes Open on March 15, 2009 hosted by Terry Miller aka The Disc Golf Guy was my first PDGA event. My boyfriend Jason (now husband) was signing up and after talking to Terry, who we didn’t know at the time, convinced Jason to encourage me to sign up. We did. We signed up.
We didn’t have a clue about organized disc golf at this time, and I had only been playing for about 10 months. We had no mini markers, and had to purchase them at the tournament. We certainly did not have disc golf bags. We came equipped with 6-8 discs each comfortably held in our fanny packs. We had no clue what to expect, and when we got to the event we were in for a bit of a culture shock. These people had bags that were strapped to their back holding discs, calisthenics were going on, and I got advice from “disc dog” on throwing forehand. People were friendly, but it was all so new it wasn’t an instant new family embrace—not to say we weren’t wanting more at the end of the day, but I was still unsure if I belonged.
Jason’s love for competition had him eager to play another event. A few weeks after our first tournament we signed up for a tournament called “Parkside of the Moon” at the University of Wisconsin- Parkside. We had not played this course before, but we did upgrade from our fanny packs to Innova Sport bags. I was nervous and excited for this event because unlike the Western Lakes Open there were a total of 4 other women signed up. Until this point the only other woman I played disc golf with was at the Western Lakes Open. One of the women on the tournament registration was Barrett White, I knew a little about her, that she was kind of a big deal, and that she could throw!
Again, being a bit on the shy side I was nervous to meet this new group of women, I still didn’t know much about organized disc golf. After a few holes into the tournament Barrett asked me, “What discs do you have in your bag?” I will admit when she asked me, because I had only been playing for 10 months and didn’t really know a lot about my discs I was a bit embarrassed and apprehensive to divulge the details. One of the discs (and I still have it) was the Quest Technologies T-bone, I knew it wasn’t a super popular disc. With the dimple technology the t-bone has I thought people may think I am a weirdo for throwing this disc. I didn’t know Barrett at the time, and that she is one of the nicest people I know with an inquisitive mind, who loves discs, and that is why she was inquiring.
Later in the round on hole 10 the wind was howling. I took an 8 on that hole. The other 4 ladies carded scores much closer to par. I again felt embarrassed and that I didn’t fit in. As I said my score one of the ladies in the group Carla, had made a comment that they have all been there before and started recalling high scores earned at previous events. This sharing of a similar experience made me feel not so bad about my snowman.
Towards the end of the round on hole 16, there is a building the left of the tee pad, yet pretty far out of the way. I managed to throw my drive off the tee into a window on the building, all we heard was a loud thud, luckily the glass wasn’t broken. Embarrassing again, but if I recall correctly we all got a good chuckle from this errant throw.
At the end of the event, I know I didn’t place to win any funny money. However, Barrett did come up to me and give me a 165 Elite X Comet, I was stunned by her generosity. On the way home from the event, I had mixed feelings, I felt uncomfortable for most of the day, but at the same time I had this yearning to play again, and meet more disc golf friends.
The next event we played was our local tournament called the Greater Milwaukee Open. I didn’t know any of the 3 ladies playing in this event, and didn’t hit any buildings off the tee, but still came in last place. After the 2009 GMO I didn’t play any tournaments that summer or early fall, due to work and needing to take a bit of a competition break. I was still feeling a bit uncomfortable and wasn’t confident in my skills.
A local event came up in late November called the Cold Turkey, we decided to sign up. I was feeling refreshed and yearning for more competition after a 6 month break. It was the first event I ever won, and I could tell my skills had improved since earlier in Spring. At this point I could say I had fully caught the disc golf addiction and was ready for the 2010 season. I was starting to feel a lot more welcome and comfortable in with the disc golf community, after a season and a few events to scope out the scene.
2010 brought many more events, and a decent amount of women playing in these events. The feeling of not fitting in, was going away. One of the ladies, Carla, from the Parkside of the Moon event had become my friend on Facebook, and Carla being kind, caring and cool as a cucumber with a similar interest in plants we started chatting more. Over time, we started to get to know each other better, and as of 2018 I consider Carla to be a true disc golf sister to me. In 2009 I was shy, nervous and unsure if I would ever be like the disc golf gals that I met at Parkside of the Moon. Reflecting back over the last 9 years I can certainly say I have learned a lot from them.
First casual round of many with Carla, Katrina, Sergio and Jason
Carla and I, as mentioned, over time got to know each other and have worked on growing disc golf in Wisconsin for women for years now.
Carla and Jenny working on women’s disc golf
That wasn’t the only woman at the Parkside of the Moon who I looked up to. Barrett White, being a disc golf icon, had me in awe. For the first couple of years I was too nervous and shy to say hi to her if I saw her at my local course or event. My husband Jason being the outgoing fellow he is, would say hi to her, but I would hope that I would go unnoticed. This all changed in 2011 when I was playing an event that Barrett was also at. First round we played together, and my nerves must have created laser focus, cause I was playing on a higher level than normal. In between rounds there was a close race for 1st place with me and another gal. Barrett came up to me and gave me a fist bump and some words of encouragement—I was shaking with excitement, it was the confidence boost I needed to win the event. With words from a hero of mine, I was really starting to know I was welcome with the disc golf family.
Leave It To Beaver Group Round 1 2011 Barrett, Alana, Me and Jen Thatcher
Flash forward to 2018 Barrett is still a hero of mine, but also one of my closest disc golf friends, and we have enjoyed many many rounds of disc golf together.
Last reflection before I wrap it up. I mentioned the 2009 GMO and coming in last place and meeting some disc golf ladies. Well the woman who won the 2009 GMO Jennifer Thatcher, has also become one of my closest disc golf friends. For our first 2 or 3 years of disc golf competition we were battling back and forth in the Intermediate Women’s’ Division, one could even say we were rivals. However,our competitive beginnings have brought forth a wonderful friendship of support and disc golf.
Jenny and Jennifer enjoying golf and life!
If I would have stopped playing competitive disc golf, due to feeling silly, wearing a fanny pack, throwing my driver into a building, or coming in last place over and over I wouldn’t have the friends I do today. So many things for women’s disc golf wouldn’t have happened if I chose to not persevere through the feelings of discomfort. If you are thinking of playing in your first disc golf event or have played a few but didn’t think you fit in, or didn’t like the feelings of discomfort that can come from starting something new, competition or not fitting….I suggest you embrace the comforts of being uncomfortable and sign up for your first disc golf tournament this year. Who knows where it will take you, maybe you’ll meet a life long friend, or discover you have more skills than you thought you did.
P.S. A wonderful event for your first disc golf tournament is the PDGA Women’s Global Event. You will be competing against women from the whole world of similar skill level to you. Click here to find an event in your area:
I started playing disc sports around 2003 when I played on a recreational ultimate Frisbee team in high school. When I went to college, I played on the competitive co-ed team starting in 2005. My friends and I used to throw Frisbees around campus and use light poles and trash cans as targets. I didn’t even know disc golf existed! In 2008, one of my professors took me to the campus-owned disc golf course, and I played my first legitimate round. I wouldn’t say I was immediately hooked, but I started phasing out of ultimate and focusing all of my free time on disc golf.
Forehand or backhand or both?
I mostly throw backhand but often use forehand for putter upshots. I developed this skill from throwing an ultimate disc for years.
What are your 3 favorite discs from Innova?
Photo Courtesy: Innova Disc Golf
Photo Courtesy: Innova Disc Golf
Photo Courtesy: Innova Disc Golf
If you could choose any disc golfer in the whole world to be your partner in a doubles tournament who would you choose?
I swear I’m not trying to be mushy! I would choose my life partner Shawn Sinclair. When Shawn was on tour full time, he was one of the top pros in the world! He is still a 1000+ rated golfer, but he hasn’t played a competitive round since 2009. Although we play for fun all the time, we have never partnered up for a doubles event. I know that we would have a ton of fun and not take things too seriously. I also know what I would be getting myself into and wouldn’t be nervous around him if I made a bad shot, because he witnesses my bad shots all the time!
What are your 3 favorite courses in Tennessee?
Harmon Hills in Fall Branch, TN
Photo Courtesy: DG Course Review
Cedar Hill in Madison, TN
Photo Courtesy: Dg Course Review
and Victor Ashe in Knoxville, TN
Photo Courtesy: DG Course Review
You performed very well at Am Worlds in Minneapolis in 2014. What was the deciding factor when you decided to compete as a pro?
I put a lot of thought into “going pro” before I actually did it. I wanted to make sure that I felt comfortable and confident enough to play in the big leagues. I played amateur for six years, albeit I took a year off from tournaments to do a year of volunteering with AmeriCorps, and had to work my game back up when I returned to competing. After I placed second at Am Worlds, I figured it was time to move up. I had played two other Am World events prior to that and hadn’t even made it into the semi-finals. You can imagine how happy I was to not only get into the semi-finals, but to take second by only five strokes!
Photo Courtesy: PDGA Tour Flickr
Moving up to pro is really a personal decision that is different for everyone. I considered how well I did locally and statewide (at the time I was living in Columbia, SC), and I had won several advanced tournaments up to that point. I knew it would take me some time to become a strong competitor in the pro field, but decided it was time to take the leap.
Photo Courtesy: PDGA Tour Flickr
If you could have an official beer of disc golf what would it be?
I’m from Philadelphia, so Yuengling of course!
Prior to disc golf you played Ultimate Frisbee. Do you still play Ultimate? Was it hard to learn disc golf discs after throwing an ultimate Frisbee for years?
I haven’t played ultimate in a few years. After playing on my college team at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, I played a bit recreationally in AmeriCorps in 2010-2011, and I tore my meniscus. That kind of sealed the deal for me for awhile. I played in a competitive league in the summer of 2013 when I lived in Columbia, SC, but I didn’t love it anymore.
There was a definite learning curve for me when it came to throwing golf discs. Ultimate discs require a lot more touch – if you put the kind of power on it that you’d put on a driver, it’s going to flip over every time. If you’ve thrown one ultimate Frisbee, you’ve thrown them all. When I started playing disc golf, I figured out quickly that I should learn to throw different discs for different shots/distances. It was hard – there were so many options! My drivers flew on a 45-degree angle up in the air most of the time I threw them, and I didn’t have smooth form. I’m not sure whether playing ultimate was beneficial or a detriment to my disc golf game, but I guess I’ll never know!
Is it possible to own too many Italian Greyhounds?
No way! Unfortunately, we lost our little girl Bamboo last year at 16 years old, but we have our one-year-old boys Otis and Bruno. They are quite a handful! I keep asking them if they want a little sister, but unless Shawn has a change of heart, it probably won’t happen for a couple more years. Follow me at @iggy.discgolf.life on Instagram for lots of adorable photos!
In April you will be hosting the 5th annual Ladies and Gents Mixed Doubles tournament. We hope to make it to your event in the future. Tell us what makes this event so special and why ladies and gents in the disc golf world should add it to their disc golf plans in the future?
The Ladies & Gents Mixed Doubles is my favorite day of the year! Although I live in Nashville now, I travel back to Columbia, SC to run this one-day, Throw Pink charity event that raises money for the South Carolina Cancer Alliance. This event is special to me because I lost my mom to cancer when I was 11 years old, and I am very passionate about raising awareness and money for cancer research. We have raised over $7,000 for the SC Cancer Alliance to date, thanks to all of the generous sponsors, players, and volunteers who participate each year. All of these amazing people make this event special. Players include world champions as well as first-timers and all skill levels in between.
Each year, my goal is to not only raise as much money as possible, but also to ensure that everyone has a ridiculous amount of fun. My hope is that no one leaves empty-handed. Along with a players pack, I typically have 50 CTP prizes, a ring of fire, a large raffle, and other fun side games. This year, we have some sponsors who are stepping up big time, including Smoky Mountain Discs, our title sponsor; the Columbia Sports Council, who is providing lunch for all players and volunteers; DiscStalker, who always provides a free item in our player pack; Innova Discs, who gave me an awesome sponsorship package for ordering tournament discs; and Paragon Discs, who sent me a hefty box of apparel. And how could I forget Ladies First Disc Golf! You are one of our most popular sponsors because of all of the sparkly women’s apparel you donate.
This event has been the largest, PDGA-sanctioned mixed doubles tournament in the world for three consecutive years, and I’m hoping to keep the streak going. If you’d like to be a sponsor, please email me at saraBlamberson@gmail.com
Sara is the most recent member of our team of Sparkle Sisters. Use coupon code SL15PCT when placing your order to save 15%.
I have been stranded on my couch for the past 4 days with the worst flu I have experienced in 10+ years. This illness and time of rest has provided a great deal of insight and inspiration. Who would have thought something so awful as the influenza virus could provide an opportunity for a new blog series? As my husband reminds me their is always a silver lining to every experience. A silver lining to being laid up with the flu is the prospect of being healthy, productive and back to your normal self. All the down time has allowed free space in my mind to think of new ideas. Several days of feeling uncomfortable have taught me to appreciate the feelings of comfort.
Early this morning I was unable to sleep due to my various flu related symptoms. I started thinking about being uncomfortable. How we as humans don’t like the feeling of being uncomfortable. We do whatever we can to stay in our comfort zone. I am often guilty of being one of these humans. Writing this blog post made me a little uncomfortable. The topics in this blog series may also bring up feelings of discomfort. I know that growth, strength and learning often do not come from a place of comfort.
Playing disc golf is fun! BUT it can also be uncomfortable–whether it’s learning a new part of the game, competing, weather, mental aspects or any other life nuances. Even though disc golf is our favorite activity, it’s not glitter & sparkles all the time.
I invite you to our monthly series where we will cover different disc golf topics and situations that may make you feel uncomfortable. It won’t hurt it will only help all of us in this diverse disc golf family to grow, step outside our comfort zone and learn to get comfortable with appreciating the uncomfortable.
I probably threw my first disc in the spring of 2006. Tracey Lopez and Kathy Betcher would drag me to Eastern Park and would put discs in my hand, saying try this one then this one until eventually I ended up with a Millennium Orion, Innova ROC and a JK Avair (which I still putt with). In 2009 the Quad Cities got the bid for the United States Women’s Disc Golf Championships and it being the first year the Recreational division was included they (Tracey and Kathy) talked me into playing. With only one tourney under my belt I ended up winning my first tournament.
Driving, approaching or putting?What is the strongest part of your disc golf game?
Approach as of the 2017 season. It seems every year I have a good grasp on one aspect of the game whether it be putting, driving and or approach. I strive for the day my brain and body collide to have a well-rounded game. The game of disc golf has you constantly improving all aspects of the game simultaneously so you can’t just focus on one without still honing in the skills of the others.
It is a fact that you and your lovely wife Tracey are dedicated to traveling to various states to play disc golf for various reasons. What states would you like to travel to play disc golf in that you haven’t yet been to?
Oregon without a doubt. I see Val Doss always posting on Facebook about the scenery and camping up there so why not get a round in with her while visiting a gorgeous state. If you were curious Alaska would be next.
In your opinion what disc or type of disc should every disc golf lady have in her bag?
A putter!! I can’t believe how many ladies still don’t know how to use a putter. In my DOLLs group I try to promote the use of a putter. Why not-Stability. Isn’t that what every lady needs in her life?
What is your best advice for people who just started playing disc golf?
Do not give up. I know you feel intimidated but someday with practice and determination you to will be driving that far and making all those putts. And I always say, ”Any given Sunday”
If you had to name an official beer of disc golf, what would it be?
Bevel, of course. Made by, drank by and loved by disc golfers.
If you could have anyone in the whole world as a partner for a doubles round of disc golf who would it be?
Barrett White, without a doubt. If you know us you wouldn’t even question it.
You placed 2nd in the Female Advanced Masters division of the PDGA 2017 Amatuer Worlds competition, congrats we are impressed! Do your 2018 plans include competing in the 2018 Amateur Worlds competition in North Carolina?Or do you have other aspirations for 2018?
Thank you. I do not plan on attending Worlds. I have played the last two Worlds and it requires a lot of vacation time.
Tracey and I have thrown around the idea of playing more of the tournaments where our friends are. You know the tournaments that every year you say, “Gosh, that tournament looked like a lot of fun. Maybe next year I should try to make that one”. I played three Majors this year and I truly feel I missed seeing a lot of my friends. Sometime this year I hope to get my feet wet and run a tournament of my own. I hope to make it an all ladies tourney – so I hope to see some of you gals here in the Quad Cities.
I started playing waaaay back in 1983, the summer that I got married. My husband (Eric Vandenberg) loved to play catch with his friends. He always wanted to attend the Canadian National Frisbee Championships but had never found out in advance when the tournament was being held (pre-internet days). We noticed a flyer announcing the 1983 competition and went to see the competition, expecting to see freestyle, but instead when we arrived the competitors were playing disc golf. Eric was immediately excited about the discovery of a Frisbee sport that could be played solo, rather than needing a partner of similar ability. The next weekend we were out on the Island with our 110g pro models trying to putt into heavy chained baskets.
Soon after we bought “state of the art” Midnight Flyers and Ben-Wal 21cm discs. In September the new high-tech Innova Aero had arrived in Canada and we started buying these for ourselves, our family and our friends. I would certainly have quit the sport if it had not been for the Aero since my short fingers could not get a good grip on the Midnight Flyer and I was pretty much hopeless at that point. In contrast, I could get a nice grip on the Aero and it actually flew a little bit for me.
It’s too bad that there is no video of me playing during my first year. I had little arm strength, no wrist snap and there was absolutely no indication that the situation would ever improve. It is only because Eric was well and truly hooked on the sport that I continued in any fashion at all. In 1984 Eric started competing and I tagged on as a groupie, and observing the female players. The year after that I had improved enough that I felt ready to start competing myself.
Disc technology has evolved and is continuing to evolve, what are the biggest changes you have noticed?
The biggest change in disc technology was the invention by Innova of the bevel-edged disc (Eagle/Aero). A few years later Innova released the Roc which had a nice balance of stability and glide and quickly found its way into everyone’s bag (but remember that everyone’s bag contained about 4 discs at that time). The next cutting edge disc was (almost literally) the Eclipse by Discraft, which had a much sharper rim configuration than any other disc to that time. It was after the introduction of the Eclipse that the PDGA developed standards on rim configuration. Lightning had a few discs that were extremely popular including their initial release called the P-38. They subsequently made some discs in very light weights (110 – 130g) which was contrary to the trend of making discs as heavy as technical standards would allow. Players found that these light discs got more distance especially with a tailwind. Discraft had another big hit with the Cyclone, which had more glide than other discs of the time. Just recently Eric unearthed a series of articles where many top players, now sponsored by other manufacturers, listed the Cyclone as one of their key drivers. In the past 20 years driver technology has been optimized with a string of discs achieving popularity as distance records were broken (for example, Innova’s boss).
Another key turning point was the introduction of the Prodigy brand. The media splash of the product line and the sponsored team challenged the “Big 2” manufacturers. With the success of Prodigy a flurry of additional disc manufacturing companies has subsequently arisen. In the past few years there has been an increasing trend in disc manufacturing companies outside of the US.
Currently, 7 companies offer more than 40 discs and a total of 102 companies have PDGA approved discs. I could not have foreseen this proliferation of discs and manufacturing companies when I started playing long ago.
What are your 3 favorite courses in North Carolina?
I very much enjoy my home course, Valley Springs, in Durham. It has ups and downs through a pine forest with a balance of long and short holes requiring a variety of angles. There are multiple tees and a few holes also have two baskets, adding to the diversity of the course.
Photo courtesy Disc Golf Course Review
Castle Hayne in Wilmington is another wonderful course. It demands precise placement of the drive in order to have the correct angle for the next shot. When your game is “on” this course is lots of fun to play. If your accuracy is a bit off this course is intensely frustrating as you stretch to get out of trouble with a flick, an overhand or simply a pitch out.
Photo courtesy Disc Golf Course Review
If you want to have a truly enjoyable round, Glenburnie in New Bern is the place to go. The park is beautifully manicured with a mix of open and wooded holes. Alternate tees/basket placements add to the variety. At the right time of year you need to watch every step on hole 8 so you don’t step on little toads. There are lots of deuces to be had, but they can quickly turn into a bogey or worse by an inaccurate line through the woods or by the disc finding OB.
Photo courtesy Disc Golf Course Review
If you could give a new player starting out 1 tip of advice what would it be?
Throw only midrange discs. It is discouraging to see so many women (and men) playing with discs that are much too overstable for the amount of spin that the player can provide. This leads to the woman throwing every shot with a huge anhyzer in order for the driver to land in the correct spot, and as a result she never learns to throw a disc straight. By starting with a midrange you learn how to control the disc rather than adapting your throwing style to the particular disc. Once you master throwing a midrange straight, hyzer and anhyzer you are ready to start throwing a driver.
Name your favorite disc pre-2000, post 2000 and your current favorite disc.
Pre-2000 my favorite disc was the Cyclone and post-2000 it was the Avenger in X plastic (although I have tremendous fondness for many of my mid-ranges as well). Currently I am infatuated with the Orbital by MVP, although its use is limited to long turnover shots.
Your well decorated and enduring career in disc golf has allowed you to meet many women disc golfers and have a unique perspective on the growth and change of women’s disc golf. Have you noticed an increased momentum or any significant changes in women’s disc golf in the past decade?
The most significant difference in the last 10 years is the number of touring women and indeed, the fact that women can earn enough to be able to tour. In the past few years media coverage of women’s golf has also exploded, due to the support of the PDGA to film the women’s card, due to TDs asking for the same, and due to videographers taking a special interest to ensure women are given air time. This would not be happening without viewers, and it is exciting to see that it’s not just women watching women’s golf, in fact men make up the vast majority of the viewership.
(Elaine commentating and playing on the lead card last round of the 2017 Hall of Fame Classic)
When Val Doss (neé Jenkins) departed from Innova, this further sparked the conversation about equity for top women golfers. The flurry of conversation on the internet, in publications and live shows demonstrates that disc golfers (being 93% men) are keenly interested in the growth of women’s participation. The desire has not changed, but what differs is the recent intensity of conversation on the topic.
At the PDGA Fall Summit, President Justin Menickelli opened the meeting with a graph of PDGA member demographics since 2006. The men’s numbers showed accelerating increase whereas the women’s numbers grew at a very much slower pace. The PDGA Board has committed to considering the growth of female participation with every decision made. That is an unprecedented level of focus for women’s golf.
We recently found out you are involved with the Disc Golf Foundation, can you tell us a little more about your work with the Disc Golf Foundation?
I was one of the founding members of the Disc Golf Foundation (DGF), which achieved registered charity (501c3) status in 2004. At that time the PDGA passed responsibility for the newly created Matching Baskets Program to the DGF. This program requires applying Colleges to raise money for 9 baskets, obtain approval from the College administration and submit design details for review. The successful applicant is partnered with Innova, Discraft or DGA who donates the other 9 baskets. 17 new courses have been established through this program, which is ongoing.
The DGF also focused on preserving disc golf culture and history through several projects. We partnered with DGA to establish the Headrick Museum at the International Disc Golf Center in Appling, GA. A travelling disc golf history exhibit has been established and is currently residing in the Lemon Lake Flight Center in Crown Point, IN. The DGF works with the Disc Golf Hall of Fame to support donations.
Photo courtesy of PDGA
The DGF supports local clubs by allowing donors to receive a charitable giving tax receipt for eligible projects that create and/or improve local courses. If you have a local project that benefits the general public and have potential donors who would welcome the opportunity for tax credit for their donations, contact the Disc Golf Foundation via email: info@DiscGolfFoundation.orgThe Board of Directors was refreshed in 2017 and I currently participate in Board meetings as an advisor and link to the PDGA Board. There are some exciting new projects being planned for 2018 that will focus on empowering passionate people to bring the joy of disc golf to the world! Find out more by going to our website at https://www.pdga.com/DGF and liking our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/DIscGolfFoundation/
If you could have an official beer (or beverage) of disc golf what would it be?
I’m not a beer drinker but I love Mike’s lemonade. You can get the original flavor in “lite” which is less sweet, has fewer calories but the same alcohol content, and that is my drink of choice after a hot sweaty summer round.
Discraft was your main sponsor for decades until this past Summer, when the decision was made by you to part ways with the team. Are you enjoying the freedom of trying out all the various choices from new manufacturers?
It has been a refreshing experience for me to be able to throw any disc I please. However it has been overwhelming since there are now more than 1000 PDGA approved discs! The first new disc I added to my bag was a 162g Starlite Wraith which was given to me by a friend. I can get more distance with the Wraith, but it needs a broad, swooping path to achieve maximum distance so I only use it on wide open holes.
Next I have added the Wave and Orbital by MVP. The Wave has become my go-to driver, flying very straight for most of its flight with a hard hyzer at the end. The Orbital is very understable but has a really long glide and acts like a disc that has been carefully beaten in over years – I’m really excited about this disc. I’m experimenting with more MVP discs since the science geek in me loves the gyroscopic design principles as well as the nomenclature of the discs. My friends have given me a further list of discs I need to try out. In reality, I have always been very slow and cautious to replace discs in my bag so it will take time for me to discover what I like amongst so many selections.
We are honored and excited to have you on our team of Ladies First Disc Golf Sparkle Sisters. What is the best way to get women competing and playing disc golf?
That is the magic question. Experience has shown that women’s leagues are very successful in supporting women who are learning the sport. Mixed leagues can also be a nurturing place for women to develop their skills but the format of the events is important. For example, straight up doubles leads to the “oh no I got partnered with the girl” effect which completely discourages women. One way to overcome this is to spot the mixed teams an appropriate number of strokes or have the woman play from shorter tees, so that getting the girl as a partner is an advantage.
It’s important to remember that competition is not for everyone.
Some women will never wish to compete, just like some men never wish to compete. Women tend to get pressured to compete much more than their male counterparts, doubtless due to overenthusiastic supporters. The goal is to get more women playing, which will encourage other women to play.
We need to attract a wider demographic of women to the sport. This is definitely starting to happen with outreach in schools, after-school centers and local communities. Support of kid’s disc golf will also ultimately result in a pipeline of girls playing the sport to bolster female numbers in the future. I would love to find a way to recruit teenagers who are already competing in individual sports where the competition opportunities dissolve after high school (except for the very elite athletes), for example track and field events. These females have the competitive urge and are comfortable in individual sports and therefore might be a source of our future disc golf population.
Are these the best ways to attract and retain female disc golfers? Perhaps not, but we will all need to use many different tactics to make women aware of the sport and teach them how to throw so that they can enjoy playing. As we all know, once you’ve caught the bug you are hooked!
I had known about disc golf since the early 90’s, had friends that played at the local Bayville Disc Golf Course in Virginia Beach. I went to a tournament in August 2013 and sat the sidelines for two days and decided on my way home, I’d give it a try.
Would you say you are more of a touch finesse player or a power crusher?Or somewhere in the middle?
I would say I am more of a touch finesse player, better at the short game than a power crusher.
What are your three favorite discs from Innova?
Gosh, I like so many but I would have to say my three top are the Tern, Sidewinder and a toss up between the Mamba and Wombat.
Going into the final round of a big tournament if you could have any song playing as you tee off, what would it be?
“Blind” by Korn. It has always been one of my favorite songs, let alone bands, with such a kick butt beat that makes me want to just go rip it up.
What is your favorite disc golf saying or slang terminology?
I have quite a few. I always try to encourage others and look for the positive when playing with new players…If they think their drive is short, I always say ”Its Forward Progress”, this helps new players stay focused on the positive side ;-). Another is “Smile at those chains and shake hands with the basket on your putt”. My last one is mainly so I don’t beat myself up but good advice for others as well…”In order to shoot consistent golf, you have to shoot consistently”. I see this happen a lot. People expect to come out once in awhile and wonder why they cant hold lines or miss those 20 ft putts. Golf to me is a muscle memory thing. The more you work that muscle, the better you are going to be.
If a placement to the basket gives you the choice of a hyzer line or anhyzer line which do you prefer?
I love anhyzer lines so that would be my preference. Unfortunately lately, I have been struggling with my turnovers, so I have been avidly working on a sidearm shot to add to my bag.
What is the most important piece of advice you would give to a female who just started playing disc golf?
The first bit of advice I would give a new female player as they start playing the sport is to not beat yourself up and think you are going to master the game overnight. We all start out the same with this game and the more you put into it, the more you will get out of it. But above all, have FUN!!!!
What are your three favorite courses in Virginia?
Wow, now that’s tough because I have so many but I would have to say…
1) The Blockhouse Disc Golf Courses in Spotsylvania
The Blockhouse- Sunny Side Photo: DG Course Review
If you had an official beer of disc golf what would it be?
Blonde ales if I had a beer choice
or Miller Lite…
but my preferred beverage of choice are vodka sours.
You recently wrapped up the first ever Virginia Women’s Series, and put in a lot of hard work to make it happen, congratulations on the hard work! Do you think the series helped along with women’s tournaments bring more players to the course and connect ladies in the greater Virginia area?
Thank you Jenny. The series was a blast and so worth the work. I could not have done this without all the support from the Virginia Disc Golf Clubs hosting us and sponsors helping with each individual event. The feedback from the ladies that played was great and gives me high hopes for next year’s series. We had ladies of all levels and ages play in the VWDGS and quite a few ladies that had never played in a sanctioned tournament before until the series. Ladies that hadn’t played that much in recent years decided to dust off their disc and start playing again also.
My thought process behind starting the series in Virginia is to not only encourage more ladies to start playing the game but, we have a lot of ladies golfing and the divisions are very small in local tournaments. And there are a couple reasons for the smaller ladies divisions: 1.)The sport is growing so rapidly that tournaments fill up a lot faster and 2.) It is very intimidating playing in your first few sanctioned tournaments. Starting up a women’s only series gave the opportunity to women who are just starting the sport, a chance to feel more comfortable on the course and work on their nerves as well and prepare them for other sanctioned events. Having decent size divisions, watching more advanced ladies shots and learning from them, how to get out of certain situations and playing at different courses, gave the opportunity to see what kind of shots you need to have in your bag for competitive play. Having a series throughout the state allowed for other women golfers to get to know each other and have ladies to play with at their home courses. The camaraderie you gain from playing with other ladies with the same passion as you is priceless and growing the sport for that very reason is something I will continue to do.
How did you first hear about disc golf, when did you start playing?
I first heard about it from a friend’s boyfriend and thought it was absolutely insane and pointless. Then five years ago (this month actually, happy anniversary) I met my dude and he played. I wanted to hang out with him so badly all the time so when he suggested it I thought it was a great idea all of a sudden. It then took me about a year and a half after that to get serious about it. I really used to be bad at it for a long time and still don’t know why I kept playing. Anyway, I played in an Ice Bowl with my future really good friend Cheryln Rawls. She is really good! And I was like well crap! I don’t have to suck because I am a woman. I figured I should step my game up a bit so I wasn’t embarrassed to play against her. I still haven’t beaten her, but have gotten pretty close, as long as she is distracted by pushing her extraordinarily well-behaved daughter in a stroller.
Do you think chickens should be allowed on the disc golf courses?
Of course. They are amazing tick control! There are very few downsides to chickens in any setting, in my opinion.
What are your three favorite things about disc golf?
1. Walking in nature. It is amazing sneaky exercise.
2. Friendships, both on social media and locally.
3. The feeling of improvement. I still feel very far away from my true potential in the sport. (Don’t look at my rating to confirm this fact.)
What are your three favorite courses in Kentucky?
1. Stuart Nelson Disc Golf Course. *The Home Course* one of the harder courses in our area but you always run into a friendly face.
3. Central Park DGC in Murray KY. Ok so, my last tournament I played a pretty good round and a horrible round here but I have to shout this one out because they just added 9 holes that reportedly make it even harder. So thanks a lot, guys.
Honorable mention: Fort Massac. Technically in Metropolis, Illinois but right across the mighty Ohio. Won my first tournament there and also is just a beautiful, hard course.
Forehand or Backhand?
Backhand only. I wish I could flick a little to get out of all the abovementioned woods though!
What is your favorite driver, midrange and putter?
Driver: Pink metal flake Roadrunner, but going more toward a Westside Queen as I have started throwing faster.
Midrange: Buzzz or Emac Truth depending on the shot.
Putter: Pink Wizards.
If you could have any female disc golfer as your partner for a doubles tournament who would you choose?
Val! She is my favorite player. She is so good and has done so much for the women of the sport. She seems so nice and cool also. I am a serious Valarie fangirl. I hope she doesn’t read this and think I am weird. Man, the likelihood she is going to read this is really high! Holy crap. Um. Hi Val. Love you. (Was that weird?)
What is one tip you would give to a player who is just starting to play disc golf?
I used to throw behind myself. Keep at it, and even if you are terrible, you are still getting a good walk in the woods.
If you could have an official beer of disc golf what would it be?
Honestly I am probably the world’s least picky beer drinker. Having said that, my favorite disc golf beer is Abita Strawberry lager, perfect for a nice warm summer day at the course.
You recently ran your 3rd Throw Pink Paducah tournament and it was another successful event, congrats! Why should more clubs and tournament directors try to run at least one fundraiser event a year and why should players support these events?
One of the top reasons I love fundraiser events, Throw Pink especially, is that they really help get women involved in disc golf. Throw Pink fundraisers are such a good way to draw out those beginner and casual women players and get them feeling connected to the disc golf community at large. The other big reason to throw fundraiser events on a club level is the dramatic way they impact your community relations. It is the best opportunity you have for getting disc golf publicized in local media. You can build long-term relationships with local businesses. And lastly, fundraisers are a great way to connect your club to your parks department.
Who introduced you to disc golf and how long have you been playing?
On September 20, 2013 my friend Tucker and my mom finally convinced me to try disc golf. Tucker was an ultimate Frisbee friend of mine who slowly but surely convinced most of our ultimate pickup group to try disc golf. It was love at first throw, despite my judgments that the sport would be boring
Eleanor & her mom on the course
Backhand or forehand?
Since I came from ultimate Frisbee, I feel pretty equally comfortable with both backhand and forehand.
The New England Team Challenge is a growing event out in your neck of the woods (no pun intended;)) do you participate in the team challenge? If so what team? What is your favorite part about the team challenge?
New England Team Challenge is so amazing! I am on the Borderland Billygoats and we actually won our division this year, the C-pool champions of the 2016-2017 season!! My favorite part is definitely the camaraderie and friendship you can build with playing in a team setting, which I hadn’t gotten as much from team sports in the past as I’ve gotten through New England Team Challenge.
If you could have an official tee off song what would it be?
Well for GBO next week, I chose “Float On” by Modest Mouse. It has a good beginning riff and a good message for my mental game.
Every bunny wants to know why bunnies make the best pets?
Hahaha Bunnies make the best pets because they have a lot more personality than most people think. They can be sassy, sweet, energetic, curious etc. Enys is really spunky yet affectionate, will lick my nose and dig at my pant legs at any moment. Penelope is very curious and sweet, has opened up a lot more over the past 2 years and gotten braver. They are inseparable too, which is really sweet to see, but they get overly excited for breakfast every morning.
If you could play with only 3 discs for the rest of your disc golf career what 3 discs would you choose?
This is probably the toughest question. Based on what I throw now and being able to have versatile options, I would pick the Westside BT Soft Swan, Dynamic Discs Fuzion Evidence, and the Westside Tournament Northman. I’m on team trilogy so of course it’s all Swedish plastic
You were one of our first customers when we launched our website in 2015, thank you. What is your favorite thing you have ordered from Ladies First Disc Golf?
Another tough question!! The original very soft purple t-shirt is incredibly comfortable and I wear it all the time, so I’d have to pick that.
Would you rather play in 25 degree snowy sunny conditions or 85 degree hot & humid conditions?
I would probably rather play in 85 degrees even if it’s humid, but I’m sure I would say the opposite in late summer
If you could have an official beer of disc golf what would it be?
I personally enjoy lighter wheat beers so I would choose Alagash White. Easy to drink on hot days and very refreshing!
You have recently started do some cool things with dying discs. May we see some examples? If someone wanted a dyed disc by Eleanor do you have them for sale or do custom dyes?
I post most of my disc dyes on Instagram (@eleanor_discbunny) and tag them all with #DyesByEleanor. Right now, I dye periodically for a local shop, The Hawks Nest, here in Massachusetts but I am always open to commissions. Sometimes people mail me discs they have an I mail them back after dyeing them. So far, it hasn’t gotten big enough to warrant creating my own stock so I usually do custom orders. It’s definitely something that is very fun for me to bring two of my hobbies together, art and disc golf.
Let’s take a walk down memory lane, what do you remember most about your first round of disc golf? Who were you with and where did you play your first round?
I was first exposed to disc golf in 2005, my friends and I used to go to a small 9 hole course that was in our neighborhood. I tried it out a couple of times, but never really played a full round. But my first ever REAL round would have to be when I bought my first set of discs in 2013, at the Delaveaga Pro Shop. My friends and I had made the trip to play Dela, but I didn’t have any of my own discs at the time, so I decided that I need to get my own (just in case I lost any of theirs). I bought a Reef, Skeeter, Sidewinder, & a Leopard. I survived all 27 holes without losing any of the 4 discs I had just purchased, sooo…I’d say it was a pretty successful first round. The Leopard is still in my bag to this day, however the rest have been sacrificed to courses all around California.
In 2016 you made it to #1 on the wait list for Am Worlds, are you going to try to play again this year in Quad Cities, IA?
As of right now I am going to try to make it out to Am Worlds. I am graduating college here in 8 weeks, and plan to be attending a lot more tournaments starting in June.
Which dairy state is superior in terms of cheese products: California or Wisconsin?
Jenny, why must you make me choose! They both have their positives, but at the end of the day…who can say no to Wisconsin Cheese Curds! I left a little bit of my heart in Wisconsin this past summer.
If you could play in a doubles tournament and choose any partner in the whole world who would you choose?
That’s a tough one…
If you could have an official beer of disc golf what would it be?
Well now that’s an easy on…my favorite beer, of course. The Deschutes Chainbreaker, White IPA. The name alone makes it ready to be an official beer of disc golf.
What is your favorite bag from Upper Park Designs? Is there a bag that you would suggest for female players?
I absolutely love The Shift by Upper Park Designs. I recommend The Shift to any and all female players, if I get the chance. It still has plenty of room to carry 15+ discs, snacks, clothes, etc. But it’s significantly smaller on the back than The Rebel, and I find it easier to carry around during my tournament play.
Use coupon code JENN on Upper Park’s website to get 10% off
What song describes your disc golf game?
One of my favorite warm up song is “The Heat by Jungle”, it has a funky beat, and always puts me in a good mood.
If you could only throw hyzers or anhyzers for the rest of your life which shot would you choose?
You have competed in the National Collegiate Disc Golf Championships in 2015 & 2016 what is your favorite part of that event?
I love the team aspect of disc golf, I grew up playing team sports so being able to compete as a team is fun, and totally different than competing as an individual in Disc Golf. This event shows how knowing your teammates, and what’s in their bags is important. I personally feel that this is a great way to grow Women’s Disc Golf at a college level. We have 2 veterans going this year, myself and Bayli. Then we have 2 new girls who just started playing in January that are joining us. We are heading out to Georgia/South Carolina in just a couple weeks to defend our National Title, and hopefully bring home our 3rd consecutive win!