The Community of Disc Golfers and About All Things Disc Golf
By: Bill Ashton
My fascination to disc began back in the year of my high school graduation. It was the summer of 1976. My friends and I would gather at Oak Park Mall in Austin, Minnesota late at night, and play Disc Golf under the parking lot lights. We designed a course that went completely around the mall using obstacles and such. Those were the days of your basic Wham-O 165G, or 141G discs. Of course the "Super Pro" was also a great disc of it’s time too! Golf plastic hadn’t been introduced yet. My favorite was the Wham-O 141G disc for "Disc Golf" and the Wham-O 165G disc for "Jammin". As time went on my interest with disc golf grew and I was literally hooked on the sport. Since we didn't have an actual permanent course, I began lobbying the Austin, Minnesota park department and later helped to establish the Austin Disc Golf Course at Todd Park with local Austinites Scott Schied, Tom Hinkle and Greg Huckaby.
The Austin Course was originally set up as a 12-Saucer Golf style basket course. Saucer Golf was a basket manufacturer that started here in the Minnesota area back in the late 70's. I believe they were the only other basket manufacturer besides the Disc Golf Association back during that time frame. The Saucer Golf baskets were quite different than your typical DGA Pole Hole. They were cone shaped. During the late 70's and early 80's, the Saucer Golf style cone basket courses were predominately installed here throughout the state. At least up until 1987, half of the courses in Minnesota were Saucer Golf Style cone baskets (9 of 18 courses were cones). Since then, the Saucer Golf style basket courses have been slowly disappearing or replaced by the more modern style chain baskets available today. Some of the early Saucer Golf Courses in the state were vandalized and some were pulled due to lack of interest. So with that in mind, I personally contacted the communities that
were having problems with their courses about purchasing the old saucer golf baskets. Over a number of years, I had purchased four different Saucer Golf Courses here in Minnesota (Bayport Barkers Alp's, Minnehaha, Buck Hill & Taylors Falls) that allowed me to recondition the old parts and equipment to help start additional courses in Austin, St. Cloud and Winona. I have always felt a strong urge to salvage equipment that has been damaged. It's a personal vision I've utilized to help restore and replace courses in new areas.
I went to college at Winona State University and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communications in November of 1981. I remember freshman year, I met Tim Mackey who lived next door to me. I tell you meeting Tim and living across the hall from him was quite infectious. I’d never seen anyone Freestyle like Tim before? I was like instantly hooked at learning the moves in Freestyle. I believe Frisbee became a double major for me actually! Not really, but I did spend one hell of a lot of time out of class playing disc. Tim designed an 18-hole obstacle course around campus and also started an Ultimate Team called the Winona State University Kling-Onz. So naturally my interest in Frisbee exploded at that point.
The Kling-Onz Ultimate Team started over 31 years ago and throughout its history has always put together strong teams. I remember traveling on many road trips with only nine or 10 guys. We ended up winning the right to travel to three UPA Regional Tournaments during my years with the Kling-Onz (East Lansing, Michigan 1977, Lexington, Kentucky 1980 and St. Louis, Missouri 1981).
Through my years of playing Disc Sports, I have met many people whom I have enjoyed a common camaraderie in this great game. To many names to list, but this common camaraderie is another aspect of disc sports that harnessed an appeal and respect for the game for me. It’s also what’s known as "FRISBEE FAMILY". I have traveled extensively throughout the United States competing in many tournaments. My most memorable events to date were probably the U.S. Open Frisbee Championships sponsored by Wham-O back in late 80’s. I worked on tournament staff and learned quite a bit about administrating an event back in 1984-1987.
It’s great to see that the MFA is one of the oldest running Frisbee Clubs today. It's been an organization that has really harnessed an interest in the sport for me. Running an organization can be tough, especially a club which depends on volunteers to get things done. I remember the Sky of 10,000 Frisbee Tournaments back in the 80’s during the Minneapolis Aquatennial at Lake Nokomis were some of my favorite tournaments too. The club has done a tremendous job of hosting and promoting Disc Golf and other disc events throughout its 33 year history. The 2001 PDGA World Championships were definitely the most prestigious tournament the MFA has organized to date. The MFA has also been hosting Minnesota's largest disc golf tournament, the Minnesota Majestic for the past 21 years.
Some great things are happening right now within Disc Golf. The idea and concept of the PDGA International Disc Golf Center in Augusta, Georgia is a huge step in gaining national exposure to the game. The Highbridge, Wisconsin Disc Golf Project is also an interesting step in course development. The sport of Disc Golf is definitely gaining notoriety. In Minnesota alone there are currently over 95 Disc Golf courses. I believe Minnesota ranks third overall in terms of total courses per state. I know in 1988, when I sold my third course to St. Paul Park and Recreation for the Highland Park area, there were only 18 courses in state of Minnesota. So since then, over 97 new courses have been installed within the last 17 years in Minnesota alone. On average that's 5.7 new courses a year. Not bad!
I am currently promoting the game of "Sure-Putt" and will be donating a complete game package to the International Disc Golf Center in 2008. I hope to install "Sure-Putt" at area courses utilizing the practice baskets as well.
I am excited to get involved with the PDGA this year with being the State Disc Golf Coordinator for Minnesota. I look forward to helping out where needed and can’t wait to meet old and new friends. Best of luck to all this 2008 season!