If you're not a LADY, you're a CADDY.
There is always a great deal of pressure among disc golfers to compare and contrast traditional ‘ball golf’ to ‘disc golf’. The results are varied. Like all things in disc golf, there are as many opinions as there are players. Some people think we should aspire to the cleaner, more professional look of the PGA. Other people think we should fight to keep disc golf as a unique and individual sport that is more about recreation than competition. I’ve seen some pretty heated forums on this topic, actually, as I’m sure you all have. But in this blog post, I beg you to take a break from the ball golf comparisons to consider what we can learn from another of my favorite sports. I love to run, and I know that’s hard to relate to for most golfers out there, but our sport could use a page or two from the running world. I see you scratching your head, but really, follow me here…
One of my very best friends is a lifetime runner. She’s the typical person you’d picture as a “runner”. She’s tall, lean, fit… And she was always inviting me to run with her because like disc golfers do, she wanted to share her passion. Much like disc golf, though, running being an individual sport is very intimidating. You don’t have a team to rely on most times, and I didn’t want to feel like the chubby short SLOW girl on the street next to her.
But, my friend persisted and one day I finally relented and started trying to run. It was a little embarrassing. What I call “running” is to this day a little more like quickly waddling, but I get a little better each time I go out.
It took me a while before I would start to identify myself as a runner. I mostly pretended I didn’t like running, but that I needed it to stay fit. Meanwhile, I was at home getting my nerd on. I was researching shoes, reading about running theories and nutritional aspects in an attempt to increase my speed. (Not unlike how I watch the pros on YouTube trying to master this tricky putting stuff…) When people would ask me about the miles I was logging and posting to Facebook, I would play stupid.
It turns out though, much like disc golf, running is a very personal thing and you start to fall in love despite your best efforts. Before you know it, you start acting like my goofy (amazing) friend and want to start sharing your love with everyone around you.
Having said this, I still have never felt much like a runner. At 5’3”, I am FINALLY (after 2 years of running) at a healthy BMI. I’m never going to be tall, slender or fast. Just like I’m never going to drive like Valarie Jenkins or putt like Dave Feldberg. But I keep trying to be a better athlete than I was the day before. (Sometimes, I pretend I’m those things. I have an imaginary crowd cheering me on during putting practice in my basement.)
So about now you’re probably asking yourself where I’m going with this. I have a point I promise.
In disc golf, we have many, many opinions about proper ways to do things. This happens in running, too. (It happens in all walks of life, but somehow, that is easy to forget.) Runners quibble about things like whether the heel or the midfoot should hit the ground first during a stride. They argue about how many training miles are actually necessary for optimum fitness. Don’t make the mistake of asking a runner about their shoe preferences. Or their nutritional habits, for that matter. (I happen to have recently become vegan in an attempt to be a better version of myself.)
Runners have many opinions as do disc golfers. What the running world (as far as I’ve been exposed to it) does better than the world of disc golf though, is recruiting, accepting and encouraging new athletes to share their love. All too often I see Facebook posts of one type of golfer slamming another. This has got to stop, ladies. I don’t ask that you all love each other unconditionally, but I beg you to encourage the love of disc golf in anyone other soul who also loves disc golf. (And I encourage you to plant the seed of loving disc golf in any soul willing to figure out what those crazy basket contraptions actually are.)
Runners might become catty in forums, but in the larger world, runners encourage other runners. The best runners in the world will stop at the end of the finish line and welcome each finisher across. They will yell and encourage one another to keep pushing. They will encourage you to join them even if you’re clueless, and then they will create awesome Facebook memes to continue encouraging your progress.
(My best friend sent me this. She smokes me every time we hit the road. She gets so far ahead of me I can’t even see her after about 4 minutes of racing. But she is ALWAYS waiting at the finish line for me.)
As golfers, I feel we can learn from this.
One of my best ever disc golf moments was when Sarah Hokom (world champ, absolute sweetheart) sent me a Facebook message saying I did a great job at a tournament over the weekend. I had played 100 points over my typical rating, but it was still nothing in comparison to what our pros could do. (She’s an amazing athlete, but she took the time to recognize my efforts and it really inspired my playing for quite some time after that. Our pros in this sport are so humble. Val, Paige, Sarah, Des… and so many others. We’re so lucky. They offer us discs and praise and instructions… but that’s for another blog. Support your pros. Support your sport.)
Please ladies (and caddies), think about what you are saying before you post to social media. Ask yourself, before you comment on any other golfers efforts if what you are about to say in any way helps grow the sport. Ask yourself before you pass judgement on another golfer if you actually might share the common goal of wanting every lady to want to love and grow the sport as you do. None of us are going to hit the field and be the next Ken Climo in our first shot. Like running, we all cannot all achieve that typical form and look that is appealing to many other athletes. We all have our individual preferences, but remember this makes our own sports more sacred to us. Celebrate anyone who hits the course and encourage their efforts. There’s enough cynicism and stereotyping among the general public without golfers hating on one another. Let your positivism inspire those around you to be better athletes than they were before they met you.