Back in 1978, about 40 people got together on the old Libbey Owens glass property in Kanawha City to play frisbee golf.
Johnny Sias, of Wayne County, knew frisbees were to be thrown. Sign me up, he said. He loved frisbees. He ended up winning the thing. And he’s been throwing what he still calls frisbees at baskets in the woods ever since.
He is undoubtedly West Virginia’s crown prince of disc golf, though he still uses the word “frisbee” as often as “discs.”
“A lot of disc golfers get aggravated if you call it frisbee golf, but I was playing before they were even born, so they can get over it,” jokes the good-natured Sias, 70, who in addition to winning five world titles has designed oodles of disc golf courses throughout West Virginia.
Sias is the only member of the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) to win both an Open title (under 40) and four other age group titles, most recently in July when he captured the Pro Masters 70+ PDGA championship in Peoria, Illinois.
He has been hooked ever since that fateful day in Kanawha City, in a career spanning 26 years. Asked why the sport enraptures him so, Sias says, “I just love watching the frisbees fly and float through the air. In 1987, on vacation, I flew 25 brand new discs into the Grand Canyon just to watch them fly. Those discs are worth at least $50 each now. … I do feel bad about littering. I don’t litter anymore.”
What is disc golf?
As its name implies, the sport owes half its origins to traditional “ball golf.” As in the traditional sport, a player “tees off” at a specified point. Instead of drawing a club over his or her head, the disc golfer takes a few steps and flings a plastic disc.
The target is a basket on a pole, with a circular rim on top and chains draped from it. Bars block the top of the structure. The basket is on the bottom and catches discs that make it through the chains, the equivalent of putting a golf ball into a cup.
Disc golf courses can be as topographically and length-varied as their ball golf brethren. Because only Thor could fling a plastic disc hundreds of yards, disc golf courses are measured in feet.
Top-flight pros can be expected to “drive” a disc anywhere from 400 feet to 600 feet. A drive in disc golf is the initial throw from the tee, just as a golf drive is the initial contact. Trees and hilly terrain…