It started with a card.
After my first round or two of disc golf, I wasn’t fully hooked. (Can you imagine that?) It was interesting, to be sure. But it’s not something I thought I would catch on as a personal sport or hobby.
I couldn’t see it on TV.
The closest course was a little more than an hour away.
And, truthfully, it was frustrating to throw a disc, watch it sail 20 feet up in the air and then drop a mere 75 feet away.
A few months after my initial exposure to the sport, I was at a baseball card show with a friend. I’ve long been a collector of baseball cards, so I’m always interested in opening new items. During this trip, two of us decided to split a hobby box of 2010 Allen and Ginter cards, a Topps product.
Midway through the box, I cracked a pack and sifted through the cards. I abruptly stopped as I came across an interesting one.
It was Avery Jenkins.
Though Allen and Ginter cards are mainly baseball, the set also features some interesting people — such as athletes from other sports, pop culture items and even odd things from many years ago (such as having a strand of hair from George Washington).
And there, staring back at me, was Avery Jenkins putting. A disc golfer and somebody I had never heard of.
That made me wonder why in the world he was on a card.
Turns out he’s one of the best in the world. At disc golf.
When I started playing, I realized there was some sort of a national tour. I understood there were some major tournaments. And heck, I realized people made some coin playing disc golf.
But was this game big enough that Topps would find a disc golfer to put on a card? And with further research, I found out there were certified autographs and game-used cards for Jenkins.
That intrigued me.
Upon doing some quick research, I soon realized who Avery Jenkins was. And, he appeared on this card because he won the 2009 PDGA World Championship. And, considering he became the first professional disc golfer I ever heard of, he became my favorite by default.
Since then, I’ve found out much more about Jenkins — as a player, ambassador and person. I met him at last year’s Vibram Open and I realized how good of a person he is and how important he is to this game.
On top of that, we were lucky enough in the early going of running this blog to have him be willing to join us and be a writer.
That he’s on a piece of cardboard is a bonus.
And, that card is as cool for him as it is for people collecting, too.
“It’s a trip,” Jenkins said. “It’s an incredible accomplishment. … Having your own signature disc card is a whole new level.
“First off, I’m the first disc golfer ever on a sports card, which is pretty phenomenal,” he continued. “And it’s a true honor to be contacted by Topps when I first moved to Santa Cruz right after my world championship.”
Jenkins said he was originally contacted by a sports agency in St. Louis. A sports-card collector for 20-plus years. His collection includes many hand-me-down cards from his uncle back in the 1970s. Jenkins’ collection includes baseball, football and basketball.
“I still have them to this day,” he said. “I love sports cards and I love the idea of immortalizing players on these card and I’m just a big fan in that way as well.”
Being on a sports card is one thing. But Topps?
“Topps is the top of the league of sports cards,” Jenkins said. “To contact me to make a sports card, I was blown away. I didn’t think it was real at first.”
The image on the card is of Jenkins putting in Texas. Jenkins said he sent Topps a few photos, but they picked that one because it showed Jenkins throwing the disc as well as having the basket in the shot. That image worked better than say a shot of Jenkins throwing a big drive or something like that.
“They had the putt with the basket, which I thought was cool,” he said. “But that’s just the base card.”
For those who might not collect or know about modern sports card collecting, base cards are basic cards showing the athlete or person.
There are also game-used cards and autographed cards.
Jenkins said he sent five of his red Star Destroyers and his Champion Firebird, the disc he won the World Championship with. The discs were then cut into 5/8-inch squares and inserted into the cards.
Giving up that Champion Firebird might not have been too easy for some, but Jenkins said he looked at it differently.
“I might have put (the disc) in a box somewhere and kept it for a long time,” he said. “But I’m immortalizing this piece of disc into a card that will be spread out all over the country, all over the world. And I thought that was pretty special me to do something like that.”
There are also autograph cards.
Jenkins said he did the signing at a disc golf pro shop in San Jose. A Topps representative was there and they arranged a whole media day. The rep came and Jenkins sat there for about an hour, signing 200 mini cards. They take those cards and re-insert the cards into an outside holder case. He signed 200 in blue ink and 10 in red ink, which he said would eventually be numbered and sent out as a special series addition.
There are other variations, such as the actual printing plates used to make the cards.
The breakdown, according to a story on the PDGA website, of his cards include:
- Base card.
- Mini (which include a base, black border, Allen and Ginter ad back, no number (50 released) and Bazooka backs (25 released).
- Framed autograph signature card in blue or red ink.
- Framed sports relic card.
- Framed silk mini (numbered to 10).
- Framed printing plate (numbered to 1).
- Framed wood mini card (numbered to 1).
Jenkins didn’t waste time looking for the cards, either. When the cards were released, he said he went out and purchased five or six boxes of the cards at $100 apiece. He also went on eBay and was purchasing as many of the special-release cards, printing plates or autograph cards.
“This was probably the only chance of me getting a sports card, so I was going to make sure I got some of the better ones being a collector in some sense,” he said. “Who knows how long they will be around?”
Jenkins said he’s spent thousands of dollars accumulating his own cards. He said he is still trying to find them out there.
He gets the cards, often, in letters from fans who hope to get the card autographed.
“They’re real inspirational messages about being fans of me or being fans of the sport,” Jenkins said. “But I’ve also read messages from people getting these cards who have never heard of disc golf. They are collecting a set of cards through Topps because they’re sports fans and realizing I’m a disc golfer and then they try to find more out about disc golf.
“Then they find out what it is and they find out there is a course near them and they start playing disc golf and getting their kids involved and their family involved,” he continued. “All because they saw a card of a disc golfer and they tried to find out more about the sport.”
If a few new players came from this card, then it’s a good thing.
Then there are the others who knew a bit about the sport, found the card and pushed a little more to learn about the sport.
Either way, it seems the Avery Jenkins card became an important piece in the history of disc golf in more ways than immortalizing someone on a piece of cardboard.
RattlingChains.com has several of these cards personally autographed by Jenkins. In conjunction with this story, we’ll give away two (2) cards randomly to fans. There are three ways to win a card:
1. Comment on this story.
2. Like the link on Facebook (note, you must like the actual story link on our Facebook page and you must have already “liked” our page so we can see who has actually liked said story etc.)
3. Tweet the following on Twitter (please do it exact or I can’t guarantee we’ll see that you did it etc. The best way is to copy and paste the following):
@RattlingChains is giving away two autographed cards of Avery Jenkins (@Aviar7495). Go to https://rattlingchains.com/?p=64 to enter! #discgolf
This giveaway will close at 11:59 p.m. April 24, 2012. The winners will be contacted via the e-mail address they put in the comment section.
P.J. Harmer is the lead blogger for Rattling Chains. If you have any comments, questions, thoughts, ideas or anything else, feel free to e-mail me and the crew at: pj [at] rattlingchains.com. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook!