The 2008 World Championships were my first experience at a major disc golf tournament. We had been playing a few years and had just started getting into competing in tournaments when a friend asked if we wanted to stay at his lake house for the weekend that was just a few miles away from where the World Championships were being held. I had never been so excited, I knew all of the top dogs were going to be there: Ken Climo, Nate Doss, Dave Feldberg, Mike Randolph, Valarie Jenkins, Des Reading, and all the others I had heard about through the disc golf circuit.
The whole thing was a surreal experience, I had just switched to a Canon Rebel from my old film days (shooting with a Nikon FM2). I had a kit lens, but nothing that could really zoom in on the action. I was star star struck, and looking back now ten years later, this was the foundation of my addiction to disc golf and becoming a disc golf photographer. Looking back at the stats now, there were people that I didn’t know then that are super stars in the sport today like Jeremy Koling who had won the Men’s Advanced Amateur world title that year.
The Professional Disc Golf Association along with the local disc golf clubs in Kalamazoo, Michigan made the Timber Ridge Ski Hill Resort spectator friendly. I remember getting out of the car and seeing players with all of their disc golf bags and gear (we were limited with our equipment back then), and then walking through the lodge to where the skill hill was and there carved out in the grass was PDGA. It felt like the moment I first went to a professional baseball game and seeing the grass cut so pristine. Chris, my love, first shouted out “there’s Nate Doss,” I could barely make out the silhouette at the top of the hill, but he was right. He knew the players better than I did and didn’t need to see them up close to know who they were, he knew them by their form, their rhythm.
The whole experience was awakening. Seeing Dave Feldberg win Men’s Pro Open, a Michigan native transplanted in Oregon comes back to win, it was all so impressive. He was so far ahead at the end of the Final 9 that the fans were cheering him on to try to throw one over the resort building from the top of the hill. He didn’t make it over, but he hit the building really hard because I could hear it loud and clear up top. I think he got a circle three on that last hole. It was also Valarie Jenkins’ second world title, previously she had won the 2007 World Championships, and I was amazed to see the level of support from the Jenkins family, with Avery, her brother caddying for her during the Final 9.
In the gallery during the finals we met Cale Leiviska and Paul McBeth. Chris had recognized Paul from the magazine and said “go get his signature” (on the discs we had bought for the players to sign). I remember walking up to Paul and he said “you know who I am?” With his long surfer hair, I didn’t, but I took Chris’ word for it and excitedly asked him to sign our disc.
The photos I have from this event are just the beginnings of my life as a disc golf photographer and I hope you enjoy the show:
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