Opinion: One giant step — and statement — by women disc golfers

For something to be successful, it often takes small steps.

This past weekend, the women of disc golf didn’t appear to want to make a small statement. Instead, as a collective unit, more than 600 women made note that they were there to play the game.

Bravo.

Several months ago, when I first heard about the Women’s Global Event, the gears in my brain started to turn. How could we as a disc golf blog help to not only promote this wonderful event, but also work to help get women’s voices out there?

A women’s week came to mind.

I have to be honest, too. I never even connected it with Mother’s Day. In fact, it was Val Jenkins who noted that to me in an e-mail. Though she promised she wouldn’t tell “mom” about my gaffe of not realizing that WGE and Mother’s Day were the same weekend, I’m coming clean.

That just made this week at Rattling Chains more special.

As this idea grew, I spoke with the person who created our logo — Ben Coury — and asked him about switching some colors. He did it quickly. I looked at our blog theme and realized I could change the color to match.

Women’s Week at Rattling Chains was born.

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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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Women to be featured this week on Rattling Chains

Don’t be alarmed by the different look of the website. It’s for good reason, I assure you.

This week is a special week — and one that we as disc golfers need to embrace and help push.

Why?

There aren’t enough females playing disc golf.

And that’s a shame.

This sport is extremely fun and it works so well that people of any age, gender, race or anything else can play it. And with the proper work, anyone can become quite good.

Some of the finest disc golfers I’ve ever seen are female.

At the Vibram Open last year, I had the chance to watch some of the very best professional women — Val Jenkins, Sarah Hokom, Paige Pierce, Catrina Allen and Sarah Stanhope. The list can go on and on.

A few years ago — based on my stellar scores during the first round of a tournament — I was paired up with four women in the second round.

To say they thoroughly whipped me would be an understatement.

But what a difference. They were competitive, yet kept things loose, offered some advice and were extremely nice to be paired with, despite me not being so good.

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