Hear this – deaf disc golf is booming | SummitDaily.com

Hear this – deaf disc golf is booming

Jane Stebbins

FRISCO – The 60 or so deaf people who gathered at the Frisco and Copper Mountain disc golf courses this weekend had a lot more in common than hearing loss.

There was the joy of being in the mountains.

They spoke – with hands flying in the air – of the fun they had at a banquet the night before.

They compared disc-throwing styles, talked about their hometowns and bemoaned the difficulty of playing golf at altitude.

“I liked meeting the people,” signed Jennifer Hickey of Maine, who took eighth place. “And I like playing. It’s my first time here, and I did well.”

Teams gathered around the tee pads, mentally gauging the distance to the first basket. They smiled and gave enthusiastic thumbs up when a disc was straight and true, and shook their heads and grimaced when discs arced wide over the trees – or worse, struck one with a hollow thunk their ears couldn’t hear.

All the while, they socialized, talking with fingers in the air about other disc golf courses, the advantages of one disc over another or how well they threw on the last hole.

Steve Fournier of Frisco – the only local player – said he’d hoped to do better than the 23rd place he garnered in two days of competition. He attributed Copper Mountain’s mountainous terrain during pro competition Saturday – and a bit of beer drinking that night – to his less-than-stellar performance Sunday.

But it didn’t dampen his enthusiasm for the day’s events.

According to Kevin Harrer, chairperson for the event, the organization was founded a year ago to provide a venue for deaf people to participate in the increasingly popular sport. The new organization selected the Frisco and Copper Mountain courses as venues because Harrer used to live here and the Frisco course, in particular, is known to be one of the best in the state.

Lance McWilliams of Longmont said he learned how to play the game only seven weeks ago – and still he garnered fourth place in playoff play Sunday afternoon.

“I think I played very well,” he said, adding that he scored only six over on both courses. “But the course at Copper was very steep. It was very hard to breathe.”

First place went to Chauncy Donaldson and John Bird. Bird is a hearing man from Longmont who worked with McWilliams this past month to improve his game.

“It’s a fun group to be with,” Bird said. “It’s been a really fun weekend for me.”

Bird has played disc golf for the past 30 years, but never with a group of deaf and hearing-impaired players. His vocabulary consisted of little more than “disc golf” and “thank you.”

There are numerous deaf disc golf organizations throughout the United States, but why they are so popular in that culture is anyone’s guess, Bird said.

Play wound down on Sunday, and players mingled around the parking lot signing and making plans to return home. Harrer distributed prizes to the throngs of golfers that gathered around the back of a pickup truck at the course on the Frisco Peninsula. He signed numbers that corresponded with teams, and a wave of fluttering hands – applause – went up in the air.

“I thought it went really well for a first time,” Bird said as he and Harrer totaled the scores. “It’s a different culture, but when it comes to disc golf … we all speak disc golf.”

Jane Stebbins can be reached at 668-3998 ext. 228 or jstebbins@summitdaily.com.

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