It’s the end of the 2011 Memorial and Paul McBeth tells me, “you were my inspiration to win this one,” its his first National Tour win.
On the day of the flymart I have a booth set up at Duke’s Bar and Grill. My booth is a joke comparatively too the others. I think the hit of the show was Jussi Meresmaa and Avery Jenkins’ booth where they are selling some kind of first run from the DIscmania line. The line forms around their table.
I have a binder full of 8x10 prints at my booth and a shoebox with a bunch of miscellaneous 4x6’s. Paige Pierce and Devan Owens are gracious enough to buy some of my shoebox prints for $.25 or $.50 cents. Paul McBeth comes up and starts looking through the 8X10’s when he asks ‘do you have any of me in here?’ I reply sadly, “no, but I think I have some in my shoebox.” He says “I’m just a shoebox photo guy?” I feel bad, no, no I didn’t mean it like that. We laugh it off but I still feel bad.
The tournament goes on, I go through a period of high’s and low’s. My friend Mert back home lent me his Canon white lens that zooms up to 300mm and I’m in awe of how smooth it is and how it compresses the colors in my images. I’m hired to be here for DiscGolfPlanetTV and it’s a shock driving from Chicago, Illinois in late February to Phoenix, Arizona. The weather is perfect, the desert winter rain has stopped and its sunny and warm.
I’m bounce around from Fountain Hills to Vista Del Camino covering pros and ams alike. One day, when I’m at Vista, Eric McCabe is on the tee near the backside of the course and I’m getting tee-shots lying on the ground when all of a sudden I start getting bit by fire ants. I let him tee and bite my lip. I slowly get up once they are done and shake off the ants and recompose myself. These are the prices you have to pay working as a disc golf photographer. Somehow having that barrier of a camera allows me to put this mask on and my instincts go numb, everything is in slow motion.
I also got food poisoning that week. Again their tee-ing off, this time at Fountain and I’m sitting behind a tree taking their pictures, about to hurl. I tell myself to breathe, drink some gatorade and water and it subsides. Luckily that was the end of that for me, I couldn’t say the same for one of the other crew members.
We’re having a great time and the hotel we’re staying at is in the middle of the mix, a La Quinta Inn that I booked for just over $500 (for the week - that’s a Priceline name your own price deal). I’m staying with my love, Chris, and our friends Dana Vicich and Paul Oman. At night we’re making putts in the hotel trash can setting up obstacles as we go.
I edit my photos on my desk top. I didn’t have a laptop back then and after my experience at the USDGC I knew I needed separation from the media room (at least so I could make time to eat and shower in between downloads). It’s a hefty set up but it gets the job done.
The whole experience is very enlightening, seeing all the pros and fans. Besides seeing the pros, I think the fans are most excited to meet Terry Miller: The Disc Golf Guy. The amateur players are broadcasted through DGPTV just like the pros during their final round. Angel Garcia and Kimmy Jones win the Advanced Men and Women’s division. There was also a well known wrestler that played Advanced Men and was on the lead card, Ben Askren. I’m amazed that he is able to cross over from that to disc golf.
Paige Pierce and Valarie Jenkins finish off a stroke apart, Paige with the win, and it’s her first National Tour win playing Open women. I’m so nervous for her on that final hole that I didn’t even take a picture of that final putt because I’m too nervous to make a sound. I’m so proud of her, she’s young and talented and as the whole world in front of her.
I don’t remember all of the details of the open men’s round, but all of a sudden the gallery is huge and we’re on the 18th green when Paul McBeth makes a final putt to secure the win. It was his first National Tour win. After the dust settles and the crowd has gone away, he tells me “you wee my inspiration to win this one.” It was the shoebox comment, he wanted to be on the cover of the magazine. This is the start of the Paul McBeth that we see today, determined and feeding the the fire that fuels him by holding on to things like that push himself forward.
What I like about these images is seeing the youth and excitement in Paul and Paige’s expression. Especially with Paul, in the image towards the end where its just him (he’s being interviewed by Terry Miller but that information is not given in this particular image). He has the biggest smile and his hand is holding his chest - you know this is a big moment just by the excitement on his face.
The is just a small segment of the history of the disc golf and my life as a disc golf photographer. These are stories that I've wanted to tell for a long time. **If you see a photo here that you would like to use for your own personal purpose because there is a personal connection that you have with these moments, it is okay to post on social but please do not edit them. Photo credit: LEL Photography. "PC: @LELPhotography" and tag me. I’m on social as @lelphotography on all platforms. I'd love to hear your story and what these moments meant to you.** For commercial inquiries please e-mail me firstname.lastname@example.org.