Wow! What an amazing week in Pittsburgh I had during the 2015 PDGA Pro World Disc Golf Championships. I met amazing people, saw fabulous golf, and came away even more inspired to grow the game of disc golf.
One of the four goals of the planning committee of the World Championships was to enjoy the game of disc golf after it was over. I’m not going to lie, the year and half leading up to this event was a lot of work, many long nights, and even longer conference calls. But it was all worth it. With so many details that needed to be discussed and ultimately completed, those meetings were a necessity.
To hear Brian Graham, the executive director of the PDGA, say during the awards ceremony that “the Pittsburgh World Championships was the best Worlds he’s ever seen,” was such a compliment to the entire planning committee and staff of the event. The number of people who gave up a week of their time, many using their vacations, to serve the players that week was amazing.
My role leading up to the tournament was that of sponsorship director. Asking for money and/or product from corporations and individuals is never an easy thing and even more daunting a task when those same people aren’t familiar with the sport of disc golf and the legion of passionate players it brings. However, collectively, we were able to work with 48 different businesses and promote their brands in the sport of disc golf through the World Championships.
We were able to install new baskets at all four courses courtesy of Innova Champion Discs, Discraft, Prodigy Disc Golf, and the Disc Golf Association. This, in addition to the countless hours of volunteer course maintenance, helped to make these the best four courses for a World Championship.
During the player’s meeting, I sat on stage with the members of the PDGA staff along with co-tournament directors J Gary Dropcho and Chas Ford. I even spoke and thanked the individual sponsors by name.
I had dinner with Lavone Wolfe, who created the Disc Golf Hall of Fame in 1993 and who was the tournament director for two previous World Championships. To listen to he, J Gary, and Chas share stories was enlightening and inspiring. I also enjoyed talking a little (okay, a lot) of SEC football with Lavone as well. Go Dawgs!
I played a doubles round with my partner Bob Julio of Discraft, Scott Keasy of DGA, and Mike Wagner also of Discraft at Deer Lakes. Bob and I had a one shot lead through 16 and we both missed our birdie putts that would have given us the win on #17. On #18, again, we both missed our putts but this time it was for par and the win. After 18 holes of golf, we ended up all square.
During the first day of completion, I walked with Avery Jenkins, Nate Doss, Matt Orium, and Jerome Braun and provided live scoring for PDGA Live.
Wednesday, I walked with the women’s (FPO) lead card of Valerie Jenkins Doss, Ragna Bygde Lewis, Sarah Cunningham, and Jennifer Allen and again provided live scoring for the PDGA.
While on my way to Deer Lakes, I came upon the wreck that had only happened minutes earlier involving Sarah Hokum. I stopped and briefly spoke to her. I asked her if she was okay. She looked at me puzzled and said, “yes.” A few seconds later she continued, “I’m not going to win a World Championship and my car is totaled.” It was a horrific and scary scene to say the least. Steve Gantz of the PDGA was on scene and informed me that he was handling the situation and told me to go on. Again, following the FPO lead card and updating Twitter, Instagram, and PDGA Live, I watched as Sarah arrived after missing the first two holes. To watch her play, knowing what she had just experienced was nothing short of speculator. If there was a courage award in disc golf, Sarah certainly deserved it. Ultimately, Sarah did indeed not win the World title and lost to Paige Pierce by one.
As the week progressed, I continued to do live scoring, provide Twitter updates, and post photos to Instagram through the PDGA account. As I was in awe of the eventually winner and four time Defending Champion, Paul McBeth, I was able to capture a beautiful image of his drive with the sun glistening off his disc. The PDGA used it in their story featured at PDGA.com
There were so many more stories that I’m not touching on but I know this experience was one of those moments in time that I will look back upon and know that changed my disc golf life. Disc Golf is meant to be fun. It’s meant to be rewarding and for me that means growing the game. I’m never going to be a World Champion and I’m okay with that. However, I am going to continue to promote and inspire others to play the game that so many of us love.