Well, disc golf will always have the problem of having evolved upside-down. There was “professional” disc golf when there were 2 permanent courses. At the time it made sense…the IFA was supporting professional Frisbee players, and professional disc golf was just an extension of that. So long as Wham-O was pumping $$$ into Frisbee sports, all was good. When Kransco bought out Wham-O in ’83 and pulled the plug on the IFA, suddenly “professional” disc golf really didn’t make any sense. There were a couple hundred permanent courses, a few thousand PDGA members and NO
money fund tournament payouts.
So, disc golf was at the crossroads then. The players took over the PDGA and decided to keep chugging along doing what it had always done, holding “professional” tournaments and hoping for a big money company to step in and replace the IFA money. 25 years and counting…still no money. After a few years somebody came up with the idea to let Amateurs join the PDGA, which has helped draw more players in but really is not helping reach the ultimate goal of “professional” disc golf.
Now, I’m not attacking the PDGA here, just giving my opinion. All the PDGA really does is run a tournament series. PDGA events are what we do for ourselves. They are fun events we like to play in and we hold for ourselves. As far as promoting the sport…well, they don’t. They get no media coverage, so no one outside of people who already play disc golf ever hear about them. Attracting the “professionals” who we raise money to add to the purse so they will show up does nothing to help promote the sport …we think it’s cool when Coda Hatfield or Barry Schultz show up in town to take our money, but I guarantee the folks chucking Destroyers at 170 ft holes at White Birch have no idea who Coda Hatfield or Barry Schultz are. The events draw no spectators (except for the Am’s who hang around to watch a final 9) so they don’t help in making the sport more attractive to sponsors. So long as you try to live the PDGA dream, you waste time and resources so far as truly promoting the sport goes. PDGA events are not what we do to help the sport, they are what we do for us.
Now, the PDGA as an organization has glaring flaws and lack of leadership, but I don’t think it matters because the PDGA does not grow the sport. The sport grows at the local level. It’s you and me dragging a friend to the course. It’s giving your backup putter to a noob who is trying to play with a Destroyer and a Wraith. It’s encouraging that noob to show up at a Club event and pointing out the schedule hanging at the kiosk. It’s volunteering to set up a few portables at your kid’s elementary-school field day and letting kids chuck your putters around. It’s setting up a mini course in your office with trash cans when your boss is away and telling your co-workers about the sport. It’s what WE
do all the time every day to encourage more people to get out and try this great sport we all love. THAT
is what is driving the growth of the sport. THAT
is why more courses are going into the ground. The PDGA doesn’t have anything to do with that, it’s you and me and anybody else who is doing things to introduce more folks to the sport.
So, if we wanted to take some attention away from the PDGA events and focus it on really growing the sport, I’d suggest something like finding some folks that had some weekday time available in the summer and contact park departments about going to day camps, setting up portables and teaching the game to kids. The Club could get some 150 class putters and put together some info on where courses are to pass out. Something like that could help grow the sport. Of course, you would have to put away the one hitter and hide your beer if those kids actually DID
show up on the course.
It’s a tough nut to crack. You hear people say all the time…”I belong to the PDGA to support the sport.” But it’s a waste of time. When I was at Hazelwood I had a pretty good thing going…a packed course full of casual players, trophy-only events with 60+ players, full leagues, a concession selling over 8,000 discs year netting over 20 grand for the parks department. I called the PDGA and had a conversation with the then-ED about trying to use our success to help promote the sport to other parks departments. The reply I got was “It’s not my job to promote the sport. It’s my job to run a tour.” I’m not saying stop holding PDGA events because, well, we like them. Just understand that holding PDGA events and promoting the sport are different things.