Meet the Blogger - Part 3
My disc golf journey has been one of the best things in my life. If you would have asked me about it prior to 2020, I would have said that it was fun to play if I had the chance. I didn’t know it was a legitimate sport, and I only had 4 discs to my name. 2020 was a year of awakening to what disc golf truly was. However, in 2021, things went to a completely different level. Let’s talk about how I went from 5 events at some courses only an hour from my home to 27 events taking me to different states.
Coming into the 2021 season, I knew that I wanted to play in more events and expand my horizons with bigger and better courses. I started the year off with my first ever waitlist experience and more importantly, my first time ever meeting Mr. Disc Golf himself, Mike Solt. I found myself at number 1 on the waitlist, so I drove to Philadelphia and stood next to the check-in table, waiting for the time to expire. When it did, I was placed into the event, only to find out that the guy I replaced had been there the whole time, but he didn’t check in with Mike. Valuable lesson learned.
I played another event in March, but April is when things kicked off. Here is what my year looked like broken down by the month, number of events played, and miles traveled:
- February – 1 event – 318 miles
- March – 1 event – 204 miles
- April – 4 events – 650 miles
- May – 4 events – 860 miles
- June – 4 events – 914 miles
- July – 5 events – 859 miles
- August – 3 events – 1,555 miles
- September – 1 event – 114 miles
- October – 3 events – 443 miles
- December – 1 event – 14 miles
- Total – 27 events – 5,931 miles
As you can see, I traveled all over and played as much as I could. Just to give you perspective, that about 100 more miles than it would be to drive from the United States to Greece. This was my awakening to disc golf, and I was totally hooked. I played an A-tier at Ledgestone and 6 B-tier events. One thing was obvious, though. While I was having a blast traveling everywhere and playing disc golf, I wasn’t improving much as a player.
I started the year with a rating of 871 and only grew to 880 by the end of the year. I only had one top-5 finish all year and found myself constantly in the bottom half of the pack. My distance wasn’t much to talk about, and my putting was scary to look at. I was putting scared all the time, leaving everything short, and never putting myself in a position to score well. That would be something that I wouldn’t start to put together until the following year.
Aside from my actual play, I got to enjoy my first big event experience with the Ledgestone Insurance Open. I decided to play in the MA1 (Advanced) division because I wanted to play the courses the professionals played. I wanted to see what would happen when I stepped up to the “big boy” courses. They didn’t disappoint. I had some highlight moments for myself, but largely, they showed me where I belonged. My lack of distance and control hurt me bigtime, but it was worth it just to be there.
While in Illinois, I was able to attend a “Play With the Champs” exhibition at Sunset Hills. I decided to drop some money for charity and buy myself a spot to play with my favorite professional player, Nate Sexton. I was lucky enough to get to play with Nate and Jeremy “Big Jerm” Koling. It was a dream come true, and I didn’t blow it on camera. My drive wasn’t the best, but I almost canned a 75-foot putt for the birdie by hitting just short off the cage.
The only thing that could have made the trip more interesting is that on the night of a disc signing, my friend Erik Springer and I helped push Paige Pierce’s van out of a ditch alongside Terry Miller, a.k.a. The Disc Golf Guy. It was a wild week in Illinois.
What didn’t make things easier was that, during the back half of the season, my wife and I were moving to a new apartment about 90 minutes from where we were currently living. This is also when I started accumulating disc golf bags, discs, and equipment. 27 events means at least 27 player’s packs, so you can only imagine the number minis, drawstring bags, hats, and discs I had.
My other big trip was out to the MVP Open to participate as a staff member. Over the course of the three rounds, I was given the task of spotting on hole 11 (the large downhill shot over the Christmas trees), spotting on hole 16 (the Kevin Jones slip ace hole), and being a Udisc Live score keeper. I got to hang with some of the professionals and spend some time watching incredible disc golf.
Also, if you remember watching the event, you'll recall that on day 2, Adam Hammes threw one of his favorite drivers into the swamp on hole 16. What you may not know is that I was the one who waded into the swamp, almost sinking in the process, and retrieved his disc from the water. In small part, I'm crediting myself with 2% of his win that weekend.
Volunteering at MVP was something I would highly recommend that everyone try doing at some point. It was great to give back to a sport that had already given me so much. One of the best parts was that the day after the event, I was able to schedule a tee time for Maple Hill and play the world's top course. Let me tell you, it absolutely lived up to the hype.
Looking back on it now, it was a year that I didn’t care about my rating and I just had fun enjoying the sport everywhere that I could. By the end of the year, the competitive itch needed to be scratched, and I knew that it was time to work on the game. It was time to start throwing further and putting better. My bag began to evolve and take the form similar to what I’m using now. However, that’s a story for the next part.
Next time, we’ll talk about the steps I took to increase my skill level and start the climb to 900-rated disc golf. I’ll tell you about how I actually played more events, went back to Ledgestone, and even traveled out to Amateur Worlds. It was an even wilder year than 2021, so you’ll want to come back and check that out. Until next time plastic slingers!
Gary Daddario III - www.thumberlife.com