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.
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.
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.
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.
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: