Team JP - Quarterly Update
One of the highlights of my disc golf journey over the past few years has been the invitation to join the team representing Just Playing Disc Golf Supply. I have big dreams for this sport, and that was one of the steps to getting there. One of the things that drew me to this group of people is seeing how they all treat the game of disc golf. Winning is important. It always has been. However, winning isn’t everything. If you look back at the sport of disc golf, you’ll see that so much of the culture is about enjoying the flight of the disc and the camaraderie of those around you. You can feel this with Team JP. You can see this in the leaders of the team down through the captains and the players.
When I think about my time spent with Mike and Jason, they epitomize everything I love about disc golf. Jason will tell you about his dreams and goals. He’ll tell you all about the things he wants to accomplish with the company and the local community, but he’s not doing it for him. He’s doing it for all of us. He’s doing it for the next guy who comes along and wants to learn about this sport. Jason is determined to take the sport he loves and leave it in a better place when he is done with it. We are all in a better place with guys like Jason thinking about the next big thing and putting the pieces in place to execute it.
Likewise, when I spend time with Mike, I see the desire to grow the community through leagues and events. When asking him what it means to be on Team JP, he said, “I do believe that every team member should be striving to treat the game and others with as much respect as possible.” When it comes to this, Mike leads from the front, remembering people’s names and greeting new players all the time. He grinds over tournaments and events, pouring himself into being an incredible TD. Mike describes himself as a “TD who strives to bring some of the best event experiences possible.” I think we can all agree that he’s doing wonderfully.
With leaders like this, it’s easy to see how well Just Playing Disc Golf Supply is positioned for continued growth and greatness. To that end, I think about my contribution to this machine. I contemplate where I fit into the team. One of the ways I know how to help best is to do things like this! Writing about the team and its members is incredibly fun. I love giving shout-outs to team members and the successes they have had on and off the course. That very thing is why I’m writing this quarterly update for the team. I want to look at the team and how well they have done this year while calling out some of the highlight moments and allowing the team members involved to share some insights. Naturally, this post will be a bit longer than normal, so feel free to break it up!
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a numbers guy. I love looking at statistics, diving into spreadsheets, and seeing what I can find. I decided to get into some basic statistics for Team JP and its members. Here are some of the key insights:
- The average rating of the team is 906.4 which is up from 905.9 at the start of the year.
- So far this year, the MP40 team has increased their average rating from 928 to 930.
- So far this year, the MA1 team has increased their average rating from 924 to 927.
- So far this year, the MA3 team has increased their average rating from 875 to 881.
- Overall Team Numbers:
- Team JP has played in 1,173 PDGA-sanctioned events.
- Team JP has 158 wins in those events.
- 2023 Team Numbers:
- This season so far, Team JP has 58 top-5 finishes.
- This season so far, Team JP has 46 top-3 finishes.
- This season so far, Team JP has 20 wins (counting XC-tier events).
It’s clear that Team JP is off to a hot start this year, taking down some great finishes across the board. Speaking of which, I was able to follow up with some of our amateur team members who took down some big wins and take a closer look at some of those moments.
Big AM Wins in 2023
Andy Hansen – Geibel Classic – 02/05/23
This year’s Geible Classic had a well-established field with 28 solid competitors. Of those competitors, only 5 of them didn’t finish under par, forcing the field to be incredibly competitive. One of the unique features of the Geibel Classic is that it’s a one-round event at Buchmiller Park. Anyone who knows this course understands that it’s a Birdie festival. At the MA1 level, all 18 holes are birdie-able with good tee shots. This was definitely on Andy’s mind as he approached the round.
When asking him about it, Andy said, “Buchmiller is definitely always a ‘must birdie’ course, but since switching to MA1 this year, I have had to adjust my strategy in general at most courses if I want to be competitive. However, I did definitely feel like this was one where I needed to shoot hot to have a chance.” Andy’s feelings about the course played out exactly as he predicted with only 6 holes having an average score over par, and of those holes, the largest average was only +0.14. Also, every single hole was birdied by at least 3 competitors. As I said before, the field was solid.
Andy started his round on hole 8, which is one of my favorites at Buchmiller. Depending on how you play it, it’s a great high spike hyzer shot. Andy ended up getting par on the hole. That certainly didn’t slow his momentum as he would move on to birdie 9, 10, and 11. When he missed the birdie on 12 and took a bogey on 14, Andy said that he started to feel like a podium finish wasn’t going to happen. Little did he realize at the time that he would go on to birdie 15, 16, and 17 with the birdie on 16 being his first time ever doing that. Andy said it was thanks to a great drive.
After missing the birdie putt on hole 1, the curiosity of where he was at seemed to be too much as he said, “I again missed a short birdie putt on hole 1, and then started checking scores. I realized I was in the hunt, but definitely still behind a bit.” He picked up a few more birdies on holes 2 and 4. Coming into the last hole of the round, hole 7, Andy decided to check the scores again. This is when he found himself in a 4-way tie for the lead.
Anyone who has played Buchmiller would know that hole 7 is not the easiest hole. The teepad is slanted slightly uphill and the ceiling on the shot is forcibly low. This causes a lot of people to pull their shots to the right and into early trees or early release into the brush on the left. I’ve seen many hot starts end right here. With confidence, Andy threw what he described as “the best drive I ever had on that hole.” He found himself with an uphill Circle 2 look at the basket. At this point in the round, I was finishing up and watching his card play the hole. Any was easily at least 55-60ft out from the basket.
With one other competitor finishing on 10, Andy knew that he had a chance, especially with a made putt. Plus, he didn’t want to deal with a 4-way playoff. He decided to run the putt, but he was going to put it on a safer hyzer line to keep it close. I was lucky enough to watch the next part. If you can’t guess it, the putt went in. I saw my friend Andy, who is typically a bit more reserved, turn into a Ricky Wysocki as he jogged up the hill in celebration of a great shot. When asked to describe the moment, Andy described it as “One of the most insane adrenaline rushes I have ever experienced. Can’t beat it.” We then walked over in enough time to see the only other competitor still playing miss his attempt at birdie to tie Andy. Just like that, Andy Hansen was the 2023 Geibel Classic Champ.
This was Andy’s first MA1 win, and I couldn’t be happier to see him take it down. I asked Any what it means to him, and he had this to say: “Felt crazy. Anything can happen in a one-rounder, especially at such a short course, but I definitely did not expect to win any MA1 tournaments this year. I feel like I’m playing above my skill level at the moment, and in general, I’m happy with making the payout line, so to actually take one down was insane.”
Andy finished at -9, and his round was rated 983. Well Andy, between you and me, I don’t think this will be your last this year. Keep crushing it man!
Gary Daddario – Wehr Upshot – 02/11/23
I promise not to spend long talking about myself, and I debated including this one. However, it was the highest moment of my playing career, and my wife told me I had to write about it. This tournament in general was something I had been looking forward to playing for months. In 2022, I embarrassed myself at the Wehr Upshot. Aside from blowing a first-round lead and throwing one of my worst competitive rounds ever in round 2, I decided to slip on ice during the warm-up and tear up my leg. Believe it or not, I have scars from that. I wanted redemption.
I stepped up to my first hole in round 1. It was a temp hole 19 added to get extra people in the tournament. I got a double bogey. For a moment, the feelings of last year rushed over me. I felt instantaneous doubt. On the walk to hole 1, I reminded myself that I had just practiced this course, and I was going to come back from it. I then proceeded to capture 9 birdies over the rest of the round, to put myself in 2nd place going into round 2.
The field was pretty tight going into round 2. There were 7 people within 2 strokes of the lead, so the pressure was on. After a pretty decent round and fixing the mistake on the temp hole, I found myself at -5 coming into hole 8. I had missed some birdies I was hoping to get, but I was in a pretty close battle with Eric Boyer, who was originally leading at the start of the round. We were tied with 7 holes left to play. That’s when something happened. A switch was flipped.
It all started with the tee shots on hole 8. Mine was about 15 feet from the basket, and Eric found himself about 25 feet away, putting downhill back at the basket. Up to that point, he had missed a few putts, so I was curious if he was going to layup or not. He ran the put, and he wound up at the bottom of the hill. In the end, I took the birdie and he took a bogey. I now had a 2-stroke separation on him. There were still 7 very birdie-able holes left, so I needed to keep my foot on the gas.
That is exactly what I did. 2 more birdies later, and I was standing on the tee pad of 11 with a small lead over the field. As if to seal the deal, I aced the hole with my Berg flying right down the center. This was the 2nd ace of my life and it came at a perfect time. Following the ace, I birdied the next 2 holes, finishing the round by going -7 on 6 holes. That was plenty to win the tournament and have a score good enough to beat the entire event field.
In the end, my first round was -7 and rated 937. My second round was -12 and rated 1001. This was the first ever 1000-rated round of my career. I’ll be chasing that feeling for a long time.
Dan Wells – Red Dead @ South Hills – 03/05/23
There are people out there grinding it out on the course, getting in round after round, and honing their skills. Then, there are people like Dan Wells. Dan plays 3 times a week and aims to get in about 15-30 minutes of putting practice in daily. When the Red Dead event came to South Hills, Dan was ready to roll. “I’m trying to treat every tournament as important, whether it’s traveling for an A-tier or a local one-round 27-hole C-tier,” according to Dan. The one-round 27-hole C-tier that he is talking about is a brand new tournament brought to us from the crazed minds of the Hansen brothers, but we’ll get to that later. For this discussion, it was a very hard layout on a very windy day at South Hills.
Dan finds himself starting on hole 5, and gets off to a solid start, getting a birdie on hole 6. Actually, Dan’s birdie was the only one from his entire division. Picking up another two birdies on holes 9 and 10, the first challenge Dan had to deal with started on hole 11. Thanks to a short memory, Dan strung out 3 quick birdies on 15, 16, and 17. Hole 18 was the hardest hole on the day for the field, averaging a total of 1.58 strokes over par. No one was able to birdie it. This is where Dan faced his next challenge. The second triple bogey of the round and a pair of bogies a couple of holes later.
I asked Dan how he handled this. Coming out of a rough first patch, getting the turkey, and then hitting another rough stretch must have been challenging mentally. Most competitors would have let that shake them and ruin the rest of their round. Not Dan. Not today. According to Dan, “A positive mindset can help in all aspects of life, especially in disc golf! The next hole is always a new opportunity to do better. Learn from your mistakes and keep your head in the game. You’re going to go on a hot streak and eventually cool off, but you can only throw one shot at a time. Put your focus into that throw and give it all you got.” It’s one thing to say that, and it’s another to put it into practice. I bet you can guess what our boy Dan did.
After a stretch of pars to right the ship, Dan found himself not in the lead. There were 2 holes left to play. Both holes were averaging over par for the field. It was a tall ask, but Dan was up to the challenge. Stepping up to hole 3, Dan had just witnessed the current leader hit the first available tree. At best, they were getting a par. Dan decided to put it all on the table and take his chance. The distance between him and the lead was 200 feet away through a narrow gap. All those practice rounds. The hours of throwing drives. The Instagram videos destroying gap shots. They all led to this moment. Without any doubt, Dan hit the perfect line and the perfect gap. He describes the feeling as one he “won’t forget” and he’ll be “chasing again and again”.
With one hole to go, Dan had a one-stroke lead after grabbing the birdie on hole 3. The island hole was the only thing left to conquer. Boom. Landed the island. Boom. Opponent misses the putt. What does Dan do? Does he lay up? No sir. He splashes it from 25 feet to grab the victory for himself and be crowned as the winner. Dan won’t forget that feeling and neither will those who saw it happen. This was what Dan had been working towards. According to him, “This was 2 years in the making for me. I certainly didn’t make it easy for chasing a win. I would move up a division when I was starting to reach the top or land on the podium. In return, I was playing with better and better players. This upped my game and challenged myself to work harder on every aspect of it.”
I asked Dan what his biggest takeaway from it all was. He said, “I learned how to win. Now it’s time to push myself farther than I thought was possible. There is always room for more improvement. Keep striving to be the best version of yourself.” Look out, everyone. There is blood in the water and Dan is circling for the kill.
Dan finished the round shooting +2, which was rated 944. Dan decided the title of best beard in Lebanon wasn’t good enough. Now he’s coming for disc golf trophies.
Darian Spece – Battle @ the Hills – 03/18/23
The competition was fierce! The Battle @ the Hills is a tournament we were all looking forward to playing, but one man had his sights set on something else. Darian was looking at the podium. He had been there before. In 2021, he took down the Conrad Weiser Open, but it wasn’t enough. He was chasing that next win. The Battle would be the one. A few major competitors stood in his way, but Darian wouldn’t let that deter him.
Darian said that he was feeling very calm about the round and had a game plan of playing safe and smart shots, getting aggressive when it was necessary. No matter how good or bad the shot was, Darian was determined to stick to his game plan, and he did! This was easy for him because he was used to South Hills. He’d been there plenty of times before. Having the toolbox of a left hand backhand and a right hand forehand gave him everything he needed to play the shots that were required. As he said, “South Hills is forgiving in different lines to take.”
At the end of the first round, he found himself 1 stroke off the lead. Who else was at the top but the South Hills Slayer, Jeff Bower. That man has more wins at South Hills than Just Playing Disc Golf Supply has discs. Any time that man is in first place, with a cookies and cream protein bar, we are all playing in his shadow. Did that rattle Darian? Not at all. He settled into his strategy and focused on his shots. After battling all second round, knocking down putts and hitting his lines, he found himself with a lead going into the last hole of the round.
For most people, hole 11 red will always be a par at best. Most people wouldn’t have to worry about their card mates getting a birdie. Not this time. Darian was being chased by Jonathan Runkle. I’ve seen firsthand how that man can throw a massive roller and knockdown 60-foot putts like it’s nothing. Darian couldn’t give Jonathan and inch because he’d take a mile. That being said, Darian kept his foot securely on the gas pedal. Off the tee, he found himself in a tough lie forcing a tough decision to be made. He had been calm all day. This moment was no different.
Darian describes the moment like this: “I feel every shot throughout the day led to that one final moment and one final shot. My option was to take a 3-foot gap with my trusty forehand or go open gap turnover forehand with unpredictable winds. I knew the risks, but my gut told me to go turnover. I spoke confidence to myself and settled my mind and body as I was ready to throw. As I released it felt like slow motion watching the disc glide through the air and then right under the basket. There, I realized I won.”
I watched this moment from one hole over, and let me tell you, it was a great shot. Darian, ever the composed man, finished his putt and then let the celebration begin. This was a big win for him, ending the 1st place drought. He said that “A new season and new sponsor have fueled my fire and it is only going to get better.”
Darian finished the tournament shooting -1 in the first round which was rated 926. He shot +1 in the second round which was rated 923. It was a big day for Darian. I’m so excited to see what his next big win will be, and this time, we won’t be waiting two years. I have a feeling it’s right around the corner.
Jonathan Hansen – JP Cup Opener: South Hills Classic – 04/08/23
Coming into the weekend, few were as well suited to succeed than Jonathan Hansen. South Hills is a course that he has played more than any others, by a wide margin. When asked about how his game lines up with South Hills, Jon said, “My game suites park-style golf well. The low ceilings are a good fit for my throwing style, which his flat, straight-pushing drives from the tee. I prefer long must-get pars rather than shorter must-get birdies, and both layouts have plenty to offer on that front.”
If this was all Jonathan had, it would still be enough, but on top of that, he’s been grinding. More specifically, he’s been attacking the putting green. For the last three months, he’s been putting in 1,700+ putt attempts per week. How many competitors could say the same? All of that being said, Jonathan was ready for the challenge going into the first of a series of events hosted by Just Playing Disc Golf Supply. A win would mean automatic entry into the final. The stage was set for a great tournament.
After an extremely clean first round of the event, Jonathan walked off the course in the lead by 2 strokes over the next competitor and 4 strokes over the third-place competitor, his own brother. As we all know, the time spent between rounds can be critical. It’s when you need to mentally prepare to go back out and do it all again or find the will to fight back. Taking a moment to think back to a previous weekend, Jon spent time reflecting on the mindset that got him the lead to begin with. He told himself to throw high-percentage shots and to pick an aim point. Jon said that he told himself those things before every shot and focused more on execution rather than results. This would go on to work for him very well.
At the end of the second round, a hard-fought battle found Jon tied at the top with David Greenawalt. There were going to move to a playoff. As someone who has been in a few of those, I can tell you that they require their own mindset. You can’t sit back and let your opponent make mistakes. You need to reach out and grab the opportunity to win. Walking to hole 11, which would end up being the winning hole, Jon told himself the same thing he’s been saying all day. Throw high-percentage shots. Pick an aim point.
The drive on hole 11 was a bit off the line, but it still made its way to the fairway after a little bit of action on a favorable tree kick. It was at that moment that Jon decided to strike, lacing a near-perfect 200-foot upshot, placing him close to the basket. As the short winning putt hit the chains, all of the rounds played at South Hills and the 1000’s of putts made in practice came together to create two very well-played rounds and the champion of the JP Cup Opener, Jon Hansen!
Jon’s first round was -4 and rated 953, and his second round was -2 and rated 943. With the number of putts this man is putting in and the practice he’s doing, it’s obvious that he’s not done yet. Jon said it himself. “Winning the playoff is one of the best feelings I’ve ever had after a competitive round. It also validated the amount of work I’ve been doing on my putting this year. I’m not finished.”
First Time TDs
Another major milestone accomplished by Team JP members in the first few months is seeing team members handling their first-ever events as tournament directors. I took a second to ask Andy and Jon Hansen to tell me more about their experience with the Red Dead tournament at South Hills. This tournament, for those who are unaware, was a one-round 27-hole challenge with extra out of bounds, mandatories, and a sweet layout! The name for the tournament was developed in a brainstorming session by Josiah Hansen and Jeff Bower. Their goal was simple. Make a pro-level course with some danger.
Let’s back up for a brief second and talk about why Andy and Jon helping run a tournament makes a lot of sense. The Hansen brothers have always been some of the first guys to show up and help with setup and some of the last guys to leave and help with tear down. It seemed only natural that they would make a great fit running a tournament. They reached out to Mike Snyder, and they set it up. Andy worked with their brother Josiah to develop the course design, Phil Hansen designed some sweet logos, and Jon helped with the execution of the event. It was truly a family affair. When I asked both Andy and Jon, they said running an event was something they had wanted to do for quite some time.
As expected, the tournament was stunning. Aside from some crazy wind, it was a great day! As a competitor in the tournament, I can personally attest that the layout was incredible, and the brothers Hansen crushed it from start to finish. Jon said, “We wanted to challenge players but not kill the joy of the game, and I think we found that balance.” I asked each brother what their big takeaways were. Here is what each of them said:
Andy – “It was a lot of hard work, but very rewarding. Having other people to lean on for expertise and inspiration was huge, and having someone like my brother Josiah who pushed us all to be ahead of schedule for every deadline was invaluable. I also found out it was hard to get my head out of TD mode when it was time to play.”
Jon – “Running events is a lot of work. Much respect to the guys and gals running events every month around here. I encourage everyone who plays in tournaments to pick a couple of events each year to show up early and stay late. Give your local TDs a hand with things and make their lives easier. You may even get a chance to impact the way an event is run. Put your own little stamp on it.”
From all of us, thank you to Andy, Jon, and the rest of the Hansen clan for helping to create a wonderful event! While we’re thanking TDs, big thanks to Mike Snyder for the incredible work he does to keep events, leagues, and tournaments running. The behind-the-scenes work that goes into these things is insane, and they deal with all of that for us to enjoy ourselves. Huge thanks!
Other Insane Stuff
There are so many other things I could talk about for the first part of the season, but I’m afraid getting to all of it would cause this post to go on endlessly. Some big highlights would include some awesome league night aces from team members like Andy Hansen, Ben Webber, and Elaina Arnold. Additionally, team member Jay Gobrecht hit a major milestone by getting his 100th PDGA win and being ranked number 1 in the Global Masters Series! Don’t worry, we are going to do a big post just on that. Trust me.
One other incredible thing is seeing all of our team members with some hot new jerseys. We look incredible on the course when you can look at a bunch of holes and see everyone rocking the team pride. It’s an amazing time to be playing disc golf, but it’s an even better time to be on Team JP!
In conclusion to all of this, there is so much to be excited about. This is only from the first few months of the year! There are huge events coming up, big plans for Team JP, and lots of new things to be excited about. When asking our fearless leaders about the future, here is what they had to say:
“There are so many things to look forward to, but a lot of work involved to get there. The tournament season is just beginning to ramp up, with some of my favorites like NADGT Exclusives and the Triple Double on that 3-4 month horizon as well as the 42nd Conrad Weiser Open just beyond that. The biggest goal in the next 3 months is to develop the JP brand as much as possible by pushing the website, getting apparel made for the public, and just spreading the name any way possible.”
As a final word from me, it’s a blessing to be part of this team. I can’t be any prouder to be part of something, and I’m looking forward to what’s in store for the team and Just Playing Disc Golf Supply!
- Gary Daddario (www.thumberlife.com)