(Editor’s note: RattlingChains.com welcomes Andre Frederick to the writing crew here. Andre lives in the Pacific Northwest and will provide some interesting commentary about disc golf from his eyes. Welcome Andre to the staff of Rattling Chains!)
By Andre Fredrick — RattlingChains.com Staff
I’ve never been the athletic sort.
My youth saw me as an awkward, chunky lad with limited athletic ability. I tried tennis lessons, and, I even took up junior varsity football, but no sport could maintain my interest. I wasn’t terribly competitive and didn’t find myself motivated to compete against others.
Toward the end of my high school days, I discovered disc golf.
Some friends and I would visit the Burke Lake course in Virginia occasionally on weekends to play a casual round, using old Lightning discs that a few friends had collected.
While I had fun, I didn’t realize then what the game held for me. I honestly kind of dismissed it.
After high school, I moved to Iowa to pursue a college education, and even through those years, I hadn’t thought about disc golf. After graduating, I moved to the Twin Cities to room with a college friend, Matt, and enter the workforce.
These years would re-introduce me to the game that has since changed my life.
Lamenting our lots in the rat race, Matt and I began to play disc golf. We often called in sick to get out and play. It quickly proved to be one of the few activities that would get me outdoors. Matt and I would talk about our woes, share our plans for the future and forget the drudgery of adulthood, all while chasing plastic discs around Kaposia Park.
Parenthood and marriage soon changed many things in my life.
Once more, I forgot about the game of disc golf as I grappled with fatherhood and being a husband. Those weekend jaunts to Kaposia quickly faded into little more than memories.
In the course of my seven-year marriage, I went from being 240 pounds to a whopping 360. I was depressed with my weight and struggled with the pressures of being a parent and partner. In an attempt to salvage things, my then wife and I moved to Portland, Oregon, hoping a change in scenery would improve the state of our union.
It did not.
In late 2007, our marriage had dissolved beyond repair and I was now a 360-pound divorcee.
I began to transform my life at this time, beginning with eating better and working out at home on a daily basis. Still, I was very reclusive. I played disc golf more frequently in the years after my divorce, but it was on a visit back to the Midwest in the summer of 2008 that I officially caught the bug.
Matt had long since become a disc golf fanatic.
He had moved into a house right next to Red Oak Park and played the course there regularly. He took me out to a doubles match there and I was immediately struck by the sense of camaraderie on display. It was a place where people from completely different backgrounds could come and forget their daily troubles over a round of disc golf.
We revisited Kaposia and Matt took me to Blue Ribbon Pines (a course that forever changed my feelings for the game). Friends of Matt’s whom I had never met quickly became friends of mine over the rounds we played.
Still, of all the discs that were thrown over that visit, it was when we snuck out to Red Oak on a muggy Minnesota night, fastened fishing bobber lights to our discs, strapped on some headlamps and played night golf while sipping beers and listening to Pink Floyd that I truly became a disc golfer.
I distinctly remember standing atop a tee pad, taking in the night air and thinking, “I love this game.”
I came back to Oregon intent on buying some new discs and reliving those moments as often as I might.I moved next door to Orchard Park, a small 9-hole course in the Portland suburbs. I also began venturing to other courses in the area. I now play at least twice a week, but more often it’s about four to five times a week.
The game has become a spiritual activity for me, so much so that I refer to my Sunday outings as “church.”
I go out there to rediscover myself and find my center; to forget and to remember; to be alone and to be amongst friends. There is something about being immersed in the beauty of the Oregon landscape and watching a perfectly thrown disc glide through the air that helps to melt away the pressures and monotony of day-to-day life. It is a break from the madding crowds and the confusion of modern living that brings me a great deal of inner peace.
For all the peace and serenity the game brings me these days, it is also a passion that pushes me to excel, which no sport has ever inspired in me.
I sincerely believe it is because I am forced to compete against myself more than anyone else. I am determined to find out how other players get their disc to flex the way it does, or how to get that straddle putt to work for me. Not because I want to beat them, but because I want to get better. I want to beat my last score and I want to see my game improve.
The individual side of the game has given me a great deal more confidence and drive, and that has carried over into many areas of my life outside of disc golf.
However, the social aspect of the sport is perhaps my favorite. I have met countless new friends through the game, learning more about myself through those interactions and gaining new insights not only about the sport, but about life in general. No matter our walks in life, when we’re walking the green, we are, for that moment, very much the same.
Andre Fredrick will be writing for RattlingChains.com. His contact information will be available soon!