Halloween-stamped discs more treat than trick for disc golfers

Disc Nation has a Halloween-themed disc for the fifth straight year. (photo courtesy of Disc Nation)

By Steve Hill — Rattling Chains staff

Ah, Halloween – the one day of the year where tradition and inhibition take a holiday and let exhibition and fright run amok.

In disc golf, which is already an industry that veers away from convention more often than not on a daily basis, it is an opportunity for both manufacturers and retailers to step outside of their usual routine and add a little flourish with unique holiday stamps encompassing both the aforementioned tradition and exhibition.

Take, for example, Innova Champion Discs and its annual pumpkin discs. Each year, the company releases jack-o-lantern-stamped DX Aviars, DX Rocs, and other assorted molds that give golfers a fun way to ring in the season.

The idea was born out of simple fun and spontaneity, according to the discs’ creator.

“I believe it was 1997, and I was a hot stamper at the time,” said Russell Schwarz, director of special projects for Innova’s east coast office. “I was stamping some orange Aviars, and off the top of my head I went, ‘Hey, I could put a pumpkin face on these things and it would look like a jack-o-lantern.”

Schwarz took the idea to his boss, received the green light for the project and designed the inaugural pumpkin stamp. But it wasn’t something that was a big deal at the time.

“I drew it about 25 times to make it look like a little kid drew it and I made a stamp,” Schwarz recalled. “We stamped, oh, I don’t know, 100, 150 of them? It wasn’t anything formal, we just did it and we sold them. That was all there was to it.”

Jump ahead a decade and a half, and pumpkin-stamped Aviars are a yearly staple for Innova that customers look forward to.

Continue reading

Wysocki to team up with Rattling Chains

By P.J. Harmer — Rattling Chains staff

Disc golf has gone through quite an evolution.

Even to those of us who are newer to the sport, there’s a history to be celebrated. From the early days of Frisbee to discovering disc golf and “Steady” Ed Headrick, the history is much longer than one might think. There are tournaments and historic courses. Players such as “The Champ” Ken Climo are known for all they’ve done in the sport.

Saying the name Dave Dunipace to many will quickly help turn a disc golf conversation to Innova.

Then there’s the more current names in the game — players such as Dave Feldberg, Nate Doss, Eric McCabe and Avery Jenkins — all recent world champions.

Then there are the young guns.

These are the players who might make people take notice as the next group of fun and exciting professional disc golfers coming through the system.

When discussing that next bunch of players, the conversation often begins with Ricky Wysocki, a 19-year-old out of North Carolina who is a member of Innova’s Star team.

And for somebody who isn’t even old enough to legally purchase alcohol, Wysocki is already making a name for himself in the disc golf world. In fact, he’s won more than $20,000 playing the game this year as a full-time touring pro.

Continue reading

‘Non-Stop’ opportunities, growth on professional tour

It's a non-stop tour for four PDGA pros this summer.

Tens of thousands of miles. Four professional disc golfers. One van.

No, this isn’t the premise to the newest goofy Adam Sandler film. Actually, it’s the framework for the Non-Stop Disc Golf Tour, and it is serious business.

OK, so it isn’t all serious business, but there is plenty of work involved, nonetheless.

The brainchild of 2008 world champion David Feldberg and 2010 United States Disc Golf Championship winner Will Schusterick, the foundation of the tour is simple: The two pros – along with fellow hotshots Nikko Locastro and Cale Leiviska – cross the country in an RV, holding school clinics during the week and closing out their visits with weekend tournaments. From pounding the pavement for sponsorships to cleaning up the remnants of their events, these four and their crew arrange these outings with the common purpose of growing the game of disc golf.

Passing the Torch

The genesis of the tour, according to Feldberg, came from the close relationships the players already had with one another.

“The idea of a tour this year…I think that was a combination of all of us thinking together, because we’ve been traveling together a lot,” Feldberg said. “I’ve been thinking about it for years. I’ve been building my career around the idea of being able to go to schools and teach clinics, so it works out well.”

Dave Feldberg works with another player at a NSDG clinic. (photo courtesy NSDG via Facebook)

Besides teaching new players about the game, Feldberg is also using the tour as a chance to educate the younger professionals and usher in the next era of the game.

“I just figured that it’s almost a passing of the torch,” he said. “I figured I’d take out some young guys and make sure they’re the next best.”

That torch isn’t being passed just from Feldberg to the youngsters, though.

“I think we all have something to learn from each other, even though I haven’t been around as long as everybody else has,” Schusterick said. “I’m definitely picking up a couple of their tricks and a couple of things to add and always build my game.”

Feldberg agreed that even he, as the seasoned veteran of the group, can pick up some tips from the young guys. He also sees this as a necessity to keep up with the rapid acceleration in the quality of professional disc golf currently being played.

Continue reading

Suzette Simons keeps giving back to the game

Suzette Simons at the 2011 United States Women's Disc Golf Championship in Round Rock, Texas.

Family first.

This simple edict may be a gentle reminder about one’s priorities in life, but when reflecting on bringing more women to disc golf, Suzette Simons said she thinks it might be a means to continuing the sport’s growth.

Simons is a key member of the Southern California disc golf family. Through her work as the Membership Director of the Southern California Disc Golf Association (SCDGA), as well as her employment as Customer Service and Promotions Specialist for Innova Champion Discs, she said she understands what brings all players – women included – to the course.

“It seems most women come into the sport, just like most men, through friends and family,” Simons said. “Family play brings not only more women to the sport, but junior players as well. As more families play, more women will play.”

Since first trying disc golf in 1996, Simons has dedicated herself to her local scene, be it in Iowa where she first played, or in Minnesota, where she served for two years as president of the Minnesota Frisbee Association. At each depot in her disc golf life, she has always made time to give back to the community.

“I was hooked immediately, especially to the competitive side, including league and tournament play,” Simons said of her origins with the game. “I also became active right away volunteering with local clubs and running events.

Suzette Simons at the table of the 2009 United States Masters.

“It is just my nature to volunteer.”

Her work in giving back to the game has centered mostly on attracting women and children to the sport through hosting clinics, tournaments, and league events. Simons’ desire to contribute also finds her on the PDGA Competition Committee and as a major supporter of EDGE, the Educational Disc Golf Experience that helps put the game in kids’ hands.

And while Simons is a competitive player by nature, she doesn’t necessarily see competition as a need for attracting women to the game.

Continue reading

Rattling Chains with Avery Jenkins: Getting aggressive at the Memorial

With my first PDGA-sanctioned tournament of the year behind me, it was time to leave Las Vegas behind and make the six-hour ride to Phoenix, Ariz..

Nate Doss, Val Jenkins and I set out early in the morning to travel the six hours to Phoenix, Ariz., for the Memorial Championship, an event on the National Tour. In the back of the Sprinter Van, I took naps and watched movies. That’s how you travel!

The Memorial is a four-round, four-day event, beginning on Wednesday and ending on Saturday. That gives players two days to practice. It really only gives one day to practice if you stay the night in Vegas and use Monday as a travel day.

Arriving at Fountain Hills at about 4:30 p.m., we met with Discmania stars Jussi Meresmaa and Seppo Paju. I looked forward to rooming with them for the rest of the week.

The Holiday Inn were stayed at was conveniently located across the street from the course. It’s one of the main reasons we have stayed here the past two years. That means we only have to travel to the Vista Del Camino course twice and the other days we just have to walk across the street. We were less than 400 feet from the basket on hole 15. The final round and awards were also held at this course.

I grabbed my bag as Val, Nate, Seppo and I headed out for a quick practice round in limited daylight. It was less than two hours until sundown. This is a course I have played for the past 10-plus years. They have altered some of the holes throughout the years, but it’s basically the same layout that we play each year.

With winds gusting at more than 35 mph, it made for an interesting round. We avoided many of the approach shots to the baskets near the water as it wasn’t worth it to lose a good upshot disc a few days before the event. I still ended up losing a Star Teebird and a Power Driver 2 on hole 17, which is one of the longer downhill holes. The wind came from the right and carried them left and sent them into the water. I didn’t want to lose those crucial discs before the tournament, but I always carry backups for each of my go-to discs.

Avery Jenkins putts during the Memorial Championship. (Photo courtesy Marble Jones: http://www.marblejones.com)

The Fountain Hills course is gorgeous and it’s in my top-10 list for courses. It has a great layout with rolling hills surrounding a lake. In the center of the lake is a huge water fountain. It’s the fourth-tallest fountain in the world. It can reach heights of 560 feet, which it does on select holidays and celebrations.

The course is challenging because there’s a chance to throw out-of-bounds in the water on nearly every hole. It’s especially difficult when the winds are ripping. On the other hand, nearly every hole is reachable in one shot, so when the wind is down, the scores can go really low on this par-56 course.

Continue reading

Avery Jenkins to blog with RattlingChains.com

The staff of Rattling Chains is proud to announce that 2009 Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) World Champion Avery Jenkins will be blogging with RattlingChains.com during the 2012 season.

Avery Jenkins will blog with RattlingChains.com for the 2012 season. (photo courtesy of Avery Jenkins)

Jenkins will bring his views, thoughts and reactions to being on the road this year. It will be a good view of life on the road from the eyes of one of the top pros in the world.

Jenkins, as of Feb. 14, is a 1027 rated played by the PDGA. In 2011, he played in 24 PDGA sanctioned tournaments (plus the National Tour series). Of those 24 tournaments, Jenkins had one victory, five runner-up finishes and one third-place finish.

Jenkins, one of the most well-known and easily approachable professionals on the tour, won the 2009 World Championship and is a member of the 12-player Innova Star team. The 2012 season marks his 13th on tour.

According to the PDGA site and Jenkins’ player profile, he has won 42 tournaments since 2001.

His first blog post, a wrap of his 2011 season, will appear Friday (March 9) on RattlingChains.com.

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!

News roundup: Locastro joins Innova; several new discs out

It was recently announced that Nikko Locastro would be joining Innova this year.

The news seems to be piling up early in 2012.

We’ve gathered some of this news over the past few weeks, but with not launching until this week, we had to keep it as a bunch of briefs. Though much of this is all out there, we still wanted to share.

Locastro now with Innova

One of the top professional players in the world, Nikko Locastro, has left Gateway and joined the Innova Star team for this season.

Locastro is the 12th member of the Innova Star team. He joins Avery Jenkins, Dave Feldberg, Des Reading, Josh Anthon, Paul McBeth, Paul Ulibarri, Ricky Wysocki, Sarah Stanhope, Steve Brinster, Val Jenkins and Will Schusterick on the team.

On his personal website, Locastro said the decision wasn’t anything against any other company and that he was now focused on this year and beyond.

“After trying out new products in the off season and over looking my options I decided to go with Team Innova for 2012. … Having a mixed bag had its ups and down but at the end of the day it was something that happened for a reason.”

Nikko Locastro, on his website.

Locastro won last year’s National Tour championship, edging Nate Doss (Discraft) by one point.

Continue reading