Kristy King inks her connection to disc golf’s past

By P.J. Harmer — Rattling Chains staff

Disc golf is largely an individual sport.

Though there are sometimes events with a team aspect — such as the Collegiate Championships or a doubles tournament — the sport is highly individual.

Kristy King shows off her "Steady" Ed Headrick tattoo. (photo courtesy of Kristy King)

Kristy King shows off her “Steady” Ed Headrick tattoo. (photo courtesy of Kristy King)

Whether one competes against a course, another player, the field of a tournament or against themselves, there’s not a lot of room to blame others for things that happen during a round.

It also leaves the opening for people to show off their personality. That type of expression can come in many forms, whether it be clothing, bags, disc designs, the way they act on the course, or, even, tattoos.

In the professional ranks, individual expression is there, but it’s often tame. Some top-level players may have a tattoo or two, or wear a certain type of clothing. Others may be known for outspoken comments or actions on the course.

It all depends on the player.

For Californian Kristy King, her expression is on her right forearm.

That’s where, adorned for all to see, is a tattoo of the signature of “Steady” Ed Headrick, the father of disc golf. As a DGA-sponsored player, the tattoo makes sense.

What makes a disc golfer go that far? Being connected to the game and to the sport.

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Women’s disc golf clinics attract wide range of participants, create young fans

Wearing a journalist hat makes one think differently when at an event. But at a recent disc golf clinic, I was just really excited that my wife and daughters had not only agreed to attend, but were even looking forward to it. Being in dad mode, I at least snapped a lot of photos.

The event, a women’s disc golf clinic led by Prodigy Disc team members Sarah Hokom and Paige Pierce, was held in in Santa Cruz, Calif., three days before the Masters Cup National Tour event.

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My excitement came because I had waited a long time for my wife and daugters to show interest in my favorite sport (or activity, hobby or obsession). My wife used to play many years ago, before the kids came along, but it was always more about wanting to share something I loved. The kids have played a few times, but hadn’t gotten hooked yet.

Scheduled for 5 p.m., the clinic was held on a particularly windy (and cold, for Santa Cruz) day in April. As a disc golf instructor, I assure you that these are not ideal conditions for teaching or learning the basics of flying disc sports.

We arrived a little before 5 and, aside from one lady, were the first on the scene. Slipping into journalist mode, I asked her what brought her there. She told me she was from San Francisco (a 1- or 2-hour drive, depending on traffic), and had played a week earlier in the amateur Masters Cup event. The clinic was promoted during that week and during the Daisy Chains women’s tourney, held in Santa Cruz County the week between the amateur and professional Masters Cup weekends.

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Ragna Bygde looking beyond Sweden to make her mark on the sport

By P.J. Harmer — Rattling Chains staff

Life as a professional disc golfer isn’t the most glamorous of career choices.

Especially for women.

The fields are smaller, which, in turn, makes the prize money smaller than in men’s tournaments. And that’s just in the United States. Add in being a professional women’s player in Europe and it’s even harder.

Ragna Bygde is one of the newest members of Prodigy Disc. (photo courtesy Ragna Bygde)

Ragna Bygde is one of the newest members of Prodigy Disc. (photo courtesy Ragna Bygde)

Such is the life of Ragna Bygde, one of the newest members of Prodigy Disc. A resident of Stockholm, Sweden, the 23-year-old Bygde has been playing on and off for eight years and comes from a family of disc golfers. Her father, Peter Bygde, is also a professional.

Being a professional wasn’t much of a choice for Bygde, though, as she made that move when she played in her first tournament.

“In Europe, there’s only pro for women,” she said. “So as soon as you get into the game, you are a pro.”

Though she had a father who played disc golf often, it wasn’t her first love. She did spend a lot of time with her father at Järva Discgolf Park, but it was just to hang out with her father.

“I never joined him though,” she said. “I was to busy working on my career in show jumping and synchronized swimming as most young girls did at that point.”

Something changed, however. During her teenage years, she started throwing plastic. Bygde said she saw another teen playing and wanted to give it a chance. The love of the sport didn’t take long to set in and she soon left the pool and horses behind.

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Women to take over Rattling Chains from May 12-18

Women’s Week has returned to Rattling Chains.

Before I continue, allow me to wish a happy Mother’s Day to all you discin’ mothers and any others who happen to come across the blog.

If you have been a follower of us since the early days of our blog, you’ll remember us declaring one full week last year as Women’s Week. Our plan was simple — to dedicate a full week to write about or have stories written by women.

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We did it in conjunction with the PDGA’s Women’s Global Event. For the week, we changed the look of our blog and ran stories that seemed to be a hit among disc golf fans.

Still, we did it in our early days. We had only been going at it for about two months and didn’t have the connections or contacts we do now. We had some pretty solid stories, but there were some about the Women’s Global Event and things like that.

The PDGA decided it wasn’t going to hold the WGE this year. It’s not a permanent thing, though. After all, the WGE drew more than 600 women worldwide playing in these events and it is a smart and strategic move for the PDGA to be involved in the advancement of women’s disc golf.

Despite that, we made a conscious decision last year to make this a permanent part of our site. As long as Rattling Chains is an active blog, there will be Women’s Week each May.

This year, we’ve started the week on Mother’s Day, which seems like the most fitting time to start our week to honor the women in this game. We’ll, once again, be changing the look and colors on our site and our stories this week are about or written by women.

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Poll 57: Growing the women’s game

This upcoming Sunday (May 12) is Mother’s Day.

In conjunction with that, we’re going to be doing our second Women’s Week on Rattling Chains. We’ll have a more in-depth post this weekend about what to expect and such, but it’s our way of helping to try and promote and grow women’s golf.

weekly_pollThere won’t be a poll next week, so it seems to be a good idea to run a poll that deals with women’s golf and can run throughout next week.

But, we’ll catch up with that poll in a moment.

First, let’s go back to last week’s poll, check the results and see what some people had to say.

We wanted to know what type of disc golf was your favorite? This one wasn’t even close and, honestly, we wouldn’t have expected anything different.

A good mix won easily, garnering 89 (79 percent) of the 112 votes. It’s good to see golfers want that mix and challenge of having to deal with different obstacles, terrains and everything in between.

Wooded came in second, gathering 14 votes (13 percent), followed by doesn’t matter, as long as there are baskets! (7 votes/6 percent) and open courses (2 votes/2 percent).

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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.

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Women’s Global Event attracts more than 600 players

Angelie Hill gets a high-five from her father and tournament director Ray Hill at the JTown Disc Golf WGE on Saturday. (photo by Jenny Cook)

All signs point to the first PDGA Women’s Global Event being a resounding success.

Paige Pierce, who won the 2011 World Championship, earned the overall Open title, according to unofficial results on the PDGA website, as of late Sunday afternoon.

Pierce, who played in the Central Texas Hyzer Honey’s WGE, had rated rounds of 983 and 991 for a 1974 total. Her average was 987.

The Daisy Chains Tournament in Watsonville, Calif., which had 52 players, put on its WGE event with a serious woman’s touch. Everything from men acting as scorers, hand sanitizers, candy, daisies all over the course, poker tables, player bags with interesting items and, basically, a fun atmosphere.

Tournament director Christine Hernlund said the tournament had 18 scorekeepers, four men manning the grill, many volunteers and the group used 48 pounds of meat at lunch.

Women from this event placed in the top two in three classes — Open, Advanced Masters and Intermediate.

On the other side of the country, Jennifer DeVries served as a tournament director for the first time at the Disc Chicks Throw Down at New Quarter (Williamsburg, Va.)

“Wow was it an experience that I really enjoyed,” DeVries said.”It was such a great time for everyone involved.”

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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.

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The time has come: Women’s Global Event to run Saturday

With all the planning and plotting out of the way, the PDGA’s Women’s Global Event is set.

On Saturday, 41 events around the world will take place in conjunction with the Women’s Global Event. Nearly 600 ladies have pre-registered for the event and walk-ups will likely push the number to well beyond 600.

This event could be a crowning achievement for women’s disc golf and the PDGA.

“All of the PDGA events are important,” said Sara Nicholson, the PDGA’s membership manager. “This one will make the biggest ‘field’ of women competing against each other during one event, so this is definitely one for the history books.”

The concept of the event, though it may seem extremely complicated, is actually pretty straightforward.

Women from all over the globe will play two rounds of disc golf at a local event. The scores are submitted to the PDGA and rated. Those ratings equal the “global score.” Two rounds must be played on the same course and layout and include at least five players (male or female) in the field with a rating of 800 or higher. That works to keep the ratings in the event consistent.

Scores and ratings will be updated throughout the day Saturday and eventually will crown an overall champion.

That equals a ton of work, but in the end this could be a massive step for women’s disc golf. As of Thursday night, 597 women were pre-registered for the event.

“It’s about participation,” touring professional Sarah Hokom said. “Get as many women as possible out there competing as one force. This is a huge thing and I think it will be epic.”

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In their words: Nine secrets of the women of disc golf

The ladies who played in the advanced division at the Masters Cup this past weekend. Pictured are: Front -- Anna Caudle. Second row, from left, Victoria McCoy, Michelle Chambless, Lacey Kimbell, Cyndi Baker; and third row, from left, Christine Hernlund, Jenny Umstead, and Crissy White. (Photo by Alex Hegyi).

OK, maybe the title is a little misleading. Calling them “secrets” is overdoing it a bit, and this is about much more than that.

I spent some time last weekend talking to female competitors at the Amateur Masters Cup presented by DGA in Santa Cruz, Calif., and some of their answers might be new and useful information to the guys who play disc golf.

But are they secrets?

What’s definitely not a secret is the fact that disc golf is, and always has been, a sport played predominately by males. The breakdown of competitors in this A-Tier PDGA sanctioned event illustrates this point perfectly, as only 11 of the 158 registered participants were in female divisions. That’s less than 10 percent.

The eyeball test anytime you’re playing a recreational round on your local course will tell you that that ratio holds true in non-tournament settings as well.

So what’s the deal?

After watching the sport grow and develop over the past 25 years, I’ve got my own theories. For instance, in the early days of DeLaveaga — back in the late 1980s and early 1990s — seeing a woman on the course was rare enough to stop a guy mid-throw to ask a playing partner if he saw her, too. They had to make sure she wasn’t a mirage (or an hallucination, depending on the player). I later learned from the first female DeLa pioneers that a main deterrent was the lack of a restroom on site at the time — not even a porta-potty. Not a big deal for the average guy, but enough to keep many women away.

While not all courses are as remote and facility-less as DeLa, back then plenty of them were similarly in open spaces. And besides the lack of basic facilities, there was also an non-policed “Wild West” feel to many courses. I have a notion that many women felt these courses were just unsafe enough — or at least could be — to discourage them from giving disc golf a try.

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