Paige Bjerkaas #33833 is a pro disc golfer on the Dynamic Discs team. Her disc golf career started in 2007 competing as a junior disc golfer. Paige is the 2018 Female Pro Disc Golf World Champion, winning in a 49 player division of professional women disc golfers. The 2018 Pro World’s competition took place at Smuggler’s Notch in Jeffersonville, VT, Paige earned her first world championship title as a professional at this competition. In 2010 Paige earned the title of Female Junior II World Champion at the Amateur Worlds in Marion, OH. She is also a student at Emporia State University in Emporia, KS, and works at the Dynamic Discs retail store in the off season. Her parents have had a huge impact on her disc golf journey!
Who introduced you to disc golf? At what age did you begin playing?
My parents introduced me to the sport. They found out about disc golf the year I was born. My parents put a disc in my hand as early as 6-7 but I didn’t play a full 18 until I was 10. I competed in my first tournament also when I was 10.
What disc would you most recommend to a new female player?
I would recommend a Diamond for a new female player.
If Dynamic Discs said you could only play with 3 discs from now until eternity, which 3 would you choose?
The three discs I would use forever would be the Opto Ballista Pro, the Lucid EMAC Truth and the Classic Judge.
Dogs or Cats or Both or Neither?
I love kitties!!!
Often players get nervous before a tournament starts, and sometime it holds them back from playing. Do you get nervous before an event starts? Any tips on shaking the nerves?
I definitely still get nervous at the beginning of the tournament. My tip for that is getting a good warm up in. If your body has been throwing the shots and putting already, it’ll be easier for you to execute with nerves on that first hole.
What event do you look forward to the most each year?
On a PDGA Radio podcast episode from earlier in the year, you mentioned you were a fan of the Beastie Boys! Well, the Beastie Boys are one of my favorite bands too, that put a smile on my face when I heard that:) 2 part question: 1.) What is your favorite Beastie Boys album? 2.) What song off that album is your favorite?
I love the Beastie Boys!!! Licensed to Ill is my favorite album and my favorite song on that album is No Sleep Til Brooklyn.
If you could have a spirit animal, which animal would you choose?
My spirit animal is a penguin because I am very clumsy.
If you could have an official beverage or snack of disc golf what would it be?
My official snack of disc golf would be Gold Fish!
Congratulations on winning your first Pro Worlds title! The whole disc golf community is excited for you! A lot of young ladies look up to you, and will be looking up to you as you continue your disc golf career. What is the best advice you can give to a new female disc golf player?
Thank you!! The best advice I can give to not only a new female player, but any new player, is learn to throw a putter! Start with putters. It teaches you smooth form. And when you mess up on a putter shot, it shows you what you did wrong. You can easily see the mistake you made.
Bonus question: How can your fans support you and your tour?
I can be supported through the Dynamic Discs website! Just type my name Paige Bjerkaas in the search bar and my Discs should come up! I have signature Fuzion Judges and a custom DyeMax design that can be put on almost any disc!
Alexis Mandujano is a 3 time Amateur World Champion in disc golf, wining 2 junior division titles in 2016 and 2017. Alexis is the current 2018 Advanced Women Amateur World Champion. Her sister Valerie is also a 3 time world champion, family and disc golf is strong with this young upcoming disc golf lady. Read more about Alexis and her dedication to the sport of disc golf:
Who introduced you to disc golf and how long have you been playing?
My dad introduced me to disc golf.
It was something to try out as a family, then we got hooked. I have been playing for 6 years and 5 years competitively.
Your sister Valerie plays disc golf too, and is also a multiple time world champion. Have you always both shared the same interest in disc golf?
We have the same interest, we have achieved along list of Junior and Amateur titles. Now we have along list of Pro titles yet to achieve.
I putt with is Discmania P-line P1 .I love the feel in my hands it has a clean release and feels gummy.
What event of the year do you look forward to the most?
So far it’s been Glass Blown Open, Worlds and Ledgestone Insurance Open. I do look forward to more big events.
Does having your sister Valerie who is so close to you, and close to you in competition help to motivate you?
Yes it does. Valerie being one of my biggest competitors pushes me even harder. You never get to see your competitors train. Seeing my sister train pushes me harder.
Valerie and Alexis at 2016 PDGA Amateur Worlds in Madison, WI
What disc golf destination is on your list that you haven’t been to yet?
They’re are a few I’m looking forward to: Las Vegas Challenge, Discraft Memorial, Vibram (now MVP Open at Maple Hill) and Masters Cup.
Fill in the blank: Disc Golf is:______
Disc golf is my life. I can’t see myself doing anything else. I hope to continue on this path that God has lead me too.
If you could have an official snack of disc golf what would it be?
I like to carry apple’s, granola bars and carrots, it helps me keep going in my rounds.
Youth and kids disc golf is growing, and is one of the most important groups in disc golf for growing the sport. You have been playing since you were a young lady, and have multiple world titles, including 2018 Advanced Women World Champion that show your dedication to the sport. Do you have any advice for young ladies who are just starting to play, or who have been playing for a while?
Whether you’re doing it for fun or competition, enjoy the sport and have fun. Don’t let anybody set a bar for you. Keep challenging yourself.
When I was about 5 or 6 years old I was Upnorth (Northern Wisconsin for anyone not familiar with the term “Upnorth”) visiting my granny like we did every summer. We were at a small amusement park of sorts which had a train that ran through the park. Little did I know that this wasn’t a normal peaceful train ride.
During the train ride robbers come to rob the guests on the train. Obviously the train robbers were actors, as we were at an amusement park. However, it was not obvious to young Jenny that they were not really robbing the train. When the train robbers approached our train car, I panicked and started balling my eyes out. My mom had to carry me off the train as I could just not grasp that I was not in danger and that it was all in my head. Since I was being a scared-y cat it was a good time ruined by unnecessary fear that I created in my mind.
The only thing to fear is fear itself.
Fear is a powerful emotion and your brain is a powerful organ. Together if you don’t face your fear or over power your mind, you will let fear ruin a lot of good times for you.
The decision to quit…
Early this year I made a decision that I would quit my full time job as the operations manager at Holland Bulb Farms.
Me, in full Operations Manager Mode.
I made this decision in January and the main reason was to focus more on Ladies First Disc Golf. Although fear of change, and the comfort of a steady job had been holding me back from this decision for a couple of years. I planned for 6 months before I decided I would pick a quit date and tell my boss of my plans. It was nice having time to prep, but it also gave me a lot of time to think.
As I got closer to the day I planned to tell my boss my decision and plans–there were a mix of emotions. I was excited for a new opportunity, but also terrified of what may happen. Fear was a strong emotion I was feeling prior to my planned quit date.
Initially I feared my boss’s reaction–would he be upset? Would he react poorly and send me packing that very day? Since I made this decision, planned and wrote it down in my dream book I couldn’t back down. I had to face my fears.
To some people quitting a job may be a sweet victory or a relief. For me I held this position for 8 years and have a bit of a loyalty complex, I have a habit of being dependable. Quitting was more than letting my boss down, it was also the fear of losing out on what I had and the fear of the unknown.
I knew I had the ability to practice putt at work, that was a bonus!
I knew what I had at my current job, but was feeling stagnant. I had to change–I had to challenge myself. I had to run directly into the fear of failure, disappointment and embrace being uncomfortable.
Lunch Break Disc Golf Was Something I Always Looked Forward To!
It was the only way I could grow, develop and attain what I really wanted.
The day I told my boss, I was a ball of nerves the entire morning. Even with the preparation and knowing my boss is a level headed and kind person, I was still in fear. When I started the conversation that day with my boss early into the conversation all my fears diminished. He was excited for me and understood my reasons for my decision. He was even nice enough to agree to keep employed part time, in a new role as Garden Expert. After all that worrying, and letting fear rule me for quite some time over this choice the outcome was greater than I could have ever imagined.
On my last day as Operations Manager July 27th, 2018
Fear and limiting beliefs in disc golf.
At this point you may be wondering how does this relate to disc golf (other than the fact I will have more time to dedicate to Ladies First Disc Golf) Well, fear may be limiting you from reaching your full potential or experiencing all that disc golf has to offer.
If you fear putting on an elevated basket you’re less likely to become good at making those putts. Step outside your comfort zone and go for it next time you encounter an elevated basket.
Maybe you are a backhand dominant player and need to learn to throw forehand but fear looking silly. Perhaps you fear throwing less than 5′ and into the ground. To overcome this practice only forehand for several rounds.
Lady of the Month Eleanor looking awesome throwing a forehand off the tee!
It may be uncomfortable and your scores may be higher during those rounds.
Sarah Hokom the BEST forehand thrower in the FPO division.
Over time you will get over those feelings of discomfort and throwing flat and with more accuracy.
Sparkle Sister Sara Lamberson Approaching with a forehand.
Want more tips on the basics of forehand and backhand throws? Check out this article from Discgolf4women.com
Fear may also be preventing you from meeting new people in disc golf. If you are afraid of meeting new people at a ladies league or tournament you are more than likely missing out on creating some life long friendships.
Perhaps you have been playing tournaments and have been crushing it in the division you have been playing in. If your rating is closer the high end cut off and you are dominating those divisions perhaps it is time to try playing in a higher division. Maybe you fear losing and not keeping up with more skilled players. After all winning and being the most skilled player on your card is much more comfortable than the opposite. However, growth and learning often does not come from a place of comfort.
To truly elevate your game and reach your full potential you must challenge yourself and risk being uncomfortable. Step up your game, face the fear of losing and potential embarrassment and step into a place of growth!
The time is now, embrace fear and the feelings of discomfort.
If you are making excuses for in disc golf–you are most likely making these excuses as you are afraid and don’t want to feel uncomfortable. I know this because I am a scared-y cat who makes excuses to not feel uncomfortable. But I am working on becoming a fearless lioness, who doesn’t let fear stop me from doing cool things and meeting new people. Life is meant to be lived, so go out and live it! If you are contemplating or holding your self back–just get up and go do it! Worst case scenario is you learn something new.
What is the most significant change in women’s disc golf since you started playing?
The amount of women that play now, amount of touring pro women, and the communities they have built.
What is your favorite disc golf driver?
It’s gotta be the Opto line Diamond right now…thanks for introducing me to it, Fairy Disc Mother!!
If you could travel to anywhere in the whole world to play disc golf where would you go?
Anywhere I’ve never been; Japan, Finland, Australia, the Disc Golf Cruise!
What is your favorite in state (Wisconsin) disc golf experience or event?
The Indoor Disc Golf Experience
Standing Rocks Open
Sorry I can’t pick just 1.
How did you learn to be such a smooth operator on the disc golf course?
I married Smooth as Butter himself! But really, the love and encouragement from everyone I’ve met or played with over the years.
What is Carol Correa making for dinner tonight?
Lol! Pork chops, sauteed mushrooms, grilled asparagus with fresh lemon
If you could have an official beer of disc golf what would it be?
You’re a mom to a beautiful young lady! How do you balance motherhood, work and being able to get on the course? Any tips for young mom’s to keep playing disc golf while balancing other aspects of their life?
I don’t know, I’m still trying to figure it out! I DO know that it’s a team effort, because I definitely don’t do it alone. Having a support system is vital and for me, it was about re-evaluating and re-prioritizing my responsibilities. Having a child was a major life change which meant disc golf was no longer my biggest hobby.
Carla & Sergio’s Daughter Giovanna modeling a Ladies First Disc Golf top
I don’t play nearly as much as I used to, and that was hard to accept at first, but it did make me appreciate my time on the course more, and life in general. Things are different now, disc golf has a different meaning for me now too; it’s not about hitting a lot of events and winning, it’s an opportunity to see old DG family, friends, and an opportunity to grow more.
Tips for young Moms? Stay positive, stay healthy, work hard, be brave, be kind, build a support system, and if possible…join a ladies league.
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!