Life as a women’s player can be tough

By Jenny Cook — Rattling Chains staff

Some of us are more competitive by nature than others.

I, for one, was born with a competitive edge. Just ask my father about the countless board games we’d play when I was a kid, or the many nights of staying up late just to play “one more game.”

Playing different sports growing up — including my favorite, soccer — taught me about perseverance and the determination to win, learn, and be challenged.

Jenny Cook getting her tournament game face on.

Which brings me to disc golf. Although I wish I would have discovered this sport in my early twenties (better knees back then!), I am grateful to be playing it now. Shortly after my first few rounds of disc golf, I heard from a friend that there was a governing body for disc golf, local leagues and even official tournaments.

They had me at “leagues,” and I was on board right away.

I immediately began playing in a local doubles league, which was an excellent place to meet people and to learn more about the rules that would later prepare me for the tournaments I’d play in.

I remember my first attempt at a tournament.

Jenny Cook was late to her first tournament and ended up spectating — but it turns out being in the gallery helped more than playing.

Yes, attempt.

I woke up late that August morning and rushed down to the course. I was too late to sign up and play that day, but honestly, I was a little relieved. I’ll admit I was nervous for my first competition in a non-team sport. I said hello to some friends and, instead of going back home, I decided to stick around and follow the women’s intermediate card.

Walking around in a tournament setting really calmed my nerves — all of my expectations and preconceived notions were set straight, because this was reality. And I loved every moment of it.

Of course, when I did make it (on time) to play my first tournament, I expected to see a handful of other women ready to play, just like before. Unfortunately, there were zero women signed up.

That didn’t stop me.

I checked in, switched my division to men’s recreational and began warming up for my round.

That hot summer day was beautiful, unlike my scores. I carded two of the highest scores of the tournament and finished dead last. Regardless, I walked away with my head held high, hoping I would perform better in the next tournament and, hopefully, there would beat least one other female to compete against.

Jenny Cook watching a shot at Blue Ribbon Pines (Minn.).

As a woman in the sport, it’s easy to become discouraged when, weekend after weekend, I was the only one competing in my division. Sure, it was a little awkward at times accepting a trophy and “funny money” for my “win.” At the same time, a huge perk was the more amateur tournaments I played, the larger my disc collection grew, regardless of the division.

But there were other reasons I kept showing up every Saturday or Sunday. For one, the courses would be in pristine, tournament-ready condition. These events also gave me the opportunity to play up a division, and with people better than me (it’s the only way to become a better player), all while testing my skills in a pressure situation.

Still, I get excited when opportunity knocks and I get to play against the course and a group of other women. When the numbers are really low, the best-case scenario is the pre-registration shows three women signed up, besides me, to make up a full card. It’s rare, and I feel lucky when it happens. The camaraderie is great, and I feel like there’s an unspoken bond between all of us because of the small percentage we make up in the world of disc golf.

The ultimate is competing in a maxed-out women’s division at Worlds or at an all-women’s disc golf event. I’ve had the opportunity to play in Women’s Nationals and a few other all-female events where there are so many women playing, there’s a group on every hole.

The trophy from Jenny Cook’s international tournament victory in Germany.

When the Women’s Global Event took place for the first time last summer, the turnout was much more than expected. There were attractive incentives for playing that day, and the level of competitiveness in each player varied drastically. Essentially, we all showed up to compete against every other woman on the planet but, all in all, we were all there to support women’s disc golf.

It’s a blast to be surrounded by, and to play with, so many other women disc golfers, especially in a tournament setting. We all have our own styles, techniques, and strategies. As rare as the opportunity is, it’s good for me to see how other women play the sport.

Like I said before, it’s essential for my game to play with people who are better than me, and I especially welcome the opportunity to play against women who are better than me and who will truly challenge me and my game.

Jenny Cook is a women’s Open-division player based in Illinois. She can be e-mailed at You can see some of her disc golf photography at her website.


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