Celebrating 20 years of disc golf excellence
Special to the Daily
It’s a career that is envy-inducing in any sport. As a Division 1 softball pitcher for the University of Northern Iowa, Des Reading got into disc golf as a break from the rigors of athletics and studies. She fell in love with the sport and over the past two decades has garnered an impressive list of accolades: She’s a four-time Professional Disc Golf Association world champion, five-time United States Disc Golf Champion, has 202 wins and has been inducted into the PDGA, Texas and Iowa Disc Golf Halls of Fame.
As she returns to the GoPro Mountain Games to defend her 2018 gold medal, Reading is ready to deal with the rigors that come with playing at altitude. However, she has another new title to focus on as well — that of the PDGA’s youth and education coordinator.
She started the new position in April but sharing the game of disc golf with students and youth isn’t a new thing for Reading. She co-founded the Educational Disc Golf Experience, a program that teaches disc golf fundamentals and allied skills in schools and youth programs, with her husband Jay in 2002. The first curriculum that integrates lessons from disc golf into math, science, citizenship, fitness and environmental studies, EDGE is now in all 50 states and abroad.
Now, Reading has a chance to shape youth outreach at a higher level through the PDGA.
“I feel like by taking this position I can explore and strengthen ideas and other concepts on how to introduce disc golf to youth,” Reading said. “I think evolution is a nice word for it. It’s a nice fit.”
It’s also an opportunity to grow the sport. Kids who learn to play share it with friends and family, thus exposing a larger audience to this affordable, accessible sport.
Invented in the mid-70s, disc golf can be considered a kissin’ cousin of regular golf with a few added benefits. Disc golf teaches self-respect through self-regulated play, Reading explained, and has the ability to be played with a wide and diverse section of people at the same time. By virtue of its varied courses, disc golf gives players the opportunity to stay healthy and serve as stewards of the land.
“Disc golf at its heart is a recreational game that can be played and enjoyed by anyone,” Reading said. “There are currently over 8,000 courses worldwide with most free to the public to play; there were less than 700 courses when I started in 1993. Which means a family of four for only $50 total can purchase disc golf equipment for the family and enjoy a social and healthy activity anywhere they might travel.”
And while Reading has this new position to focus on, she’s not losing her competitive edge.
“Moving forward, I want to continue to inspire individuals and families to try the game of disc golf,” Reading said. “My competitive play is waning with age, but a long-range goal for disc golf would be to win a World Championships in each of the age divisions, which increase every ten years.”
Look for Reading at the GoPro Mountain Games’ Mountain Masters Disc Golf Tournament which takes place June 7-9. Each athlete will participate in four qualifying rounds, to include both skills challenges and stroke play. Venues include two 18-hole courses at Maloit Park in Minturn and 4 Eagle Ranch in Wolcott; one 9-hole course and long-drive challenge at Willow Creek Par 3 in Eagle-Vail; and putting and MPH challenge venues in Vail Village.
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