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“Grenades,” “scoobies,” and the sport of Disc Golf
By Michael Summers
Fort Wayne Reader
The past several years have seen what were once considered “slacker” sports like snowboarding, skateboarding, and many others go legit, attracting widespread media coverage and some very lucrative sponsorship deals.
Fort Wayne resident Brent Koontz is hoping that disc golf will be the next sport to join their ranks.
Actually, disc golf is practically there already. There’s a national association (the Professional Disc Golfers Association), a few nice sponsorship deals in place or in the works, and a 15 event national tour with qualifying standards and some payouts you wouldn’t sneeze at. “The event with the biggest prize is the U.S. Disc Golf Championship,” Koontz explains. “They’ll pay out between $10,000 – $12,000 to the winner.”
Koontz adds that last year, the top disc golfer made around $84,000 in winnings and endorsements. It’s not a bad chunk of change for a sport that some people might view as traditional golf’s little brother. Koontz takes his disc golf seriously; a former mechanical engineer at International Truck and Engine, he’s working on going pro, with a full itinerary lined up for spring and summer, and he helps organize and promote tournaments and events with the Fort Wayne Disc Golf Club. That said, he’s well aware that many people consider disc golf the purview of hippies and slackers tossing a Frisbee around. “Not everyone that plays is a hippie anymore,” he laughs. “It’s a pretty big misconception.”
Like a lot of sports, disc golf gets a little more nuanced the more seriously you approach it. Basically, the courses are like ball golf, except instead of holes, you’re aiming at metal baskets suspended from poles (there’s been a disc golf course at Shoaff park for about 25 years, in addition to one at Swinney Park and another at Moser Park in New Haven).
But the biggest misconception is that the game is played with a Frisbee. Many players use discs specifically made for the game, slightly smaller in diameter than a Frisbee and made out of a more dense plastic. “There’s three basic types,” Koontz explains. “Driver, mid-range and a putter.” To break it down, drivers feature thick rims (3/8” to 1/2”) with a thin center to help them go farther; rangers are designed to fly straight; and putters made to fly slow, more like a traditional Frisbee… “They’re also made out of a softer plastic, so instead of bouncing off the baskets or the chain, they fall,” Koontz says.
There’s also an arsenal of backhand, overhand, and underhand throwing techniques with names like “scoobies” and “grenades,” all to get the most distance and control out of your throw.
All this, of course, was new to Koontz when he began playing for fun several years ago. When he played his first tournament in South Bend — showing up with five discs in an American Airlines bag — he started looking at the game a little differently. “I thought I was pretty good, but I got beat by 40 strokes for two rounds,” he recalls. “The guy who won that tournament got $2,100 or something like that. It just made me want to get better.”
In addition to traveling to tournaments this spring and summer, Koontz is working with Jerry Seifert of Bikes and Boards on promoting the Fort Wayne Golf Disc Club and organizing some events. Seifert carries a sizeable selection of discs at Bikes and Boards, and says it was a happy coincidence that he met up with Koontz; Seifert was considering carrying the discs, and one of his employees is a cousin of Koontz. “If we could have an enormous store and call this place all-sports, our crew would love it,” he says. “Everybody here has different interests. It was just a natural thing to add this.”
There’s more crossover between disc golf and the people who shop at Bikes n’ Boards than Seifert says he thought there would be. He’s also seen people pick it up just looking for something different. Seifert plays, and says that as much as he loves traditional golf, there’s something very simple about disc golf that he finds appealing. “I’ve always been in to ‘quiet’ sports — hand gliding, sailing, biking — and this is a quiet sport,” he says.
The Fort Wayne Disc Golf Club begins its summer league in April. Last year they had about 30 members, and Koontz hopes to grow that number for 2007. Though Koontz is working on going pro, he realizes that disc golf’s simple fun factor is what attracts a lot of people to the sport. “It’s a beginner friendly league,” Koontz says. “We use a handicap system to generate points for each player. You can cash in the points for discs and prizes at the end of year tournament and party.” Koontz and Bikes and Boards are also hoping to organize a few events this summer, around the time of the Three Rivers Festival.
Fort Wayne Disc Golf Club summer league starts on Wednesday, April 18 at 5:30 pm in the parking lot by Conklin Pavilion in Shoaff Park and continues for 20 weeks, meeting every Wed. at approximately 5:30. Club membership is only $35, which includes 8 in “funny money,” a custom stamped disc, record keeping for your league rounds, voting rights for club decisions, and discounted prices on club discs. For more information on disc golf leagues and tournaments in Fort Wayne contact Steve Kremer at firstname.lastname@example.org or Brent Koontz @ email@example.com
Bikes and Boards
6648 St. Joe Road