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Webster students dive into disc golf
For the past three years, Tyler Jensen and his group of high school pals have gone on a summer road trip. In 2009, the four friends went to Michigan for a day. The next year, they traveled to Wisconsin.
This past summer, Greg Tovella and Michael Bekielewski drove to St. Louis to meet up with Jensen and Max Powers for a weekend. Next summer, the group is thinking about going to either Peoria or Kansas City.
When the friends arrive at their destination, their activity of choice is the other golf — the one that involves flying discs and is becoming more and more popular in America and around the globe.
But don’t call disc golf frolfing (Frisbee golfing) when you’re around Powers or Jensen, a Webster University junior education major. And don’t compare disc golf to the sport that involves clubs and little white balls.
“It bothers me when they compare disc golf to actual golf,” Powers said. “This is actual golf; it’s just golf with discs. It’s disc golf compared to ball golf. You use all the same terms: birdie, bogey, water hazard, play your lie.”
Jensen, Powers, Tovella and Bekielewski discovered their love of disc golf while they were still at Romeoville High School, near Chicago.
“(During) my junior year, they set up a new park in our town,” Jensen said. “We saw it had a skate park, baseball fields and these baskets. We had no idea what they were for. Then one day, Max looked more into it, and he’s like, ‘Apparently it’s Frisbee golf.’ We played a couple times, then we all started getting discs and playing regularly.”
Jensen was hooked. He said he plays at least once a week during the summer and tries to play as often as possible during the school year. This past summer, Jensen participated in his second disc golf tournament — a one-day, three-course event called the Triple Crown.
“That was with the St. Louis Disc Golf Club, who also call themselves the River City Flyers,” Jensen said. “That started in Creve Coeur, went to Endicott and then ended at Jefferson Barracks — 54 holes total. I ended up placing seventh in the recreational division.”
Jensen — along with Powers, Tovella and Bekielewski — also played in the Illinois State Disc Golf Championship a summer ago. Jensen finished second in the junior division.
Jensen said he plans on playing in the Triple Crown again, and he would like to try the Iron Man tournament. In the Iron Man, disc golfers play 18 holes at four different courses in a single day — 72 holes total.
Jensen has played all but two of the disc golf courses in the immediate St. Louis area, with his favorite local courses being Quail Ridge, Sioux Passage and Endicott. St. Louis is ranked as one of the top five cities in America for disc golf.
Jensen said people are drawn to disc golf because it’s cheap to play and easy to learn.
“I think it’s just really accessible,” Jensen said. “It’s one of the cheapest sports you can play. We started off with like, one disc each and could play a whole round. Once you get more acclimated to it, you start adding discs and stuff. I think that opens it up for a lot of people, and they start playing more and get more serious.”
Jensen isn’t the only avid disc golfer who attends Webster University. Drake Scott, a senior mathematics major, has been playing disc golf for five years. Scott played in the Iron Man this past summer and placed sixth in the intermediate division.
Scott last won a tournament in 2009, when he took home the gold for the intermediate division of the Endicott Open. Scott said he plays three times a week during the summer and once every week or so when school is in session.
“Being the college student I am, I find it hard to part with money,” Scott said. “Disc golf is perfect because here in St. Louis, we are fortunate enough to have no fees for nearly all of our courses. Disc golf also gives me an excuse to get out and enjoy the weather. Something about discs flying through the air makes sense.”
Like Jensen, Scott believes disc golf is becoming more popular because of its inexpensiveness. He added that disc golf is a sport that is here to stay.
“I believe it has to do with the fact that (disc golf) has extremely low start-up costs, as opposed to normal golf,” Scott said. “The players that are more serious about the sport know that the land the courses are on is public, and that it is their responsibility to maintain the courses they play.
“The attitude of the serious disc golfers has a lot do to with how well rookies take to the sport. There are secrets to throwing that are best explained in person and not by the Internet. The sport is also popular in certain parts of Europe and also in Japan. The disc fever is spreading.”