Once a mere hobby, disc golf gains a serious side
, 2018-07-07 02:00:00,
VASSALBORO — Bobby Harris remembers when disc golf was still a curiosity, and more of an activity than a sport. And according to the Lewiston resident, it wasn’t that long ago.
“I’ve been playing for 20 years, and probably since 2005, it has almost doubled every year,” he said. “It’s only getting bigger and better every year.”
It’s becoming more popular, and it’s becoming more serious. There are now over 60 courses in Maine. They have tournaments every weekend, drawing players from throughout the state. And there are even two playing circuits within the state, the Maine Players Tour and the Maine Disc Golf Tour, the latter of which has started selling out events with 90-100 players showing up each weekend.
The game has progressed, and so have the players. While disc golf still caters to the recreational player looking for a fun afternoon outdoors, more competitive players have emerged, with sponsorships and professional status a possibility for those who make the sport less of a hobby and more of a life pursuit.
Harris is one of those professionals. He’s played an estimated 300 rounds a year, all over the country, for the past eight years. And he’s not alone. Traveling far and wide for tournaments is becoming less of an anomaly with each passing year.
“It’s definitely growing, and you notice there are a lot more pros nowadays,” said Alley Burns, the director of sales at the Burnsboro Disc Golf course in Vassalboro, whose boyfriend, Tyler Grady, is a pro sponsored by Discraft. “There used to just be amateur players, playing for fun. Now people are making money off the sport.”
On Saturday, 28 players showed up at Burnsboro for a qualifying event for the Next Gen Tour (NGT), a circuit geared toward getting more players into the sport. It was an amateur event, resulting in the reduced amount of players, but there was still serious incentive. Winning the Gladiator division, the most advanced of the three skill categories, meant a waived entry fee for the NGT regionals in Pennsylvania.
According to Harris, the game’s accessibility makes it easy for players to first get into the sport, and then to play it enough to excel. Courses offer league competition during the weeks that is open to anyone who wants to play, and with most of them charging less than $10 a round, the sport is a bargain.
“There’s a lack of activities that everybody and anybody can do, regardless of gender or age,” Harris said. “We have kids 4 and…
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