The 2014 Amateur Disc Golf World Championship recently concluded in St. Paul, Minnesota. This week-long competition is historically the biggest Amateur event of the year, and this year it hosted 612 competitors in 13 divisions from 14 countries. Women divisions made up 7 of those with girls from under 13 to women 60 years and older, further proving that Disc Golf is a sport for all ages.
At the end of this grueling week of Disc Golf, new World Champions were crowned. So, as these ladies were still floating on Cloud 9, I asked them a couple of questions like how they started and why other ladies should come out to play at next years event. Our World Champions featured in this article include Juniors under 19 Champion, Sai Ananda, Masters Champion, Ann Lundberg, Grandmasters Champion, Lisa Gallagher, and Senior Grandmasters Champion, Lynda Voss.
For our ‘veteran’ in the Amateur Worlds scene, Lisa Gallagher, this was her forth trip competing in this event. Lisa was first introduced to Disc Golf in 2009, when her good friend, Kirk Yoo, told her how to start. “I picked up some discs at a local sporting goods store, went out in a field and tried to throw. I was horrible,” she admits. “But when I went out to the local course the next day, I met Sam Smith from Portales, New Mexico, and he has been helping me ever since.” It was just two years later when she decided to play in her first world championship in 2011 and has competed in the event every year since.
This was the second time playing in the Amateur World Championships for Lynda Voss, who competed in 2013 recently after having surprise kidney surgery. Since she was the only Senior Grandmaster to register, the tournament director had to move her up into the younger Grandmasters division. Knowing that the competition was going to more difficult and her health wasn’t 100%, she set the goal just to finish the six round tournament in the sweltering 105 degree heat of Kansas. Lynda finished in last place that first year, only beating a woman who dropped out. But instead of feeling defeated, the experience drove Lynda to train and practice harder to prepare for the 2014 Am Worlds. Driven with confidence Lynda said, “When I arrived in St. Paul, I knew I was as ready as I could be for the challenge.” And the hard work paid off knowing that she wasn’t the only competitor in her division. “The day that registration opened for the 2014 Worlds, I noticed that Lynn Nelson also registered for Advanced Senior Grandmasters! That meant we would be able to compete in our proper division! Exciting!”
Now Disc Golf is not just for the more mature ladies, there are divisions for even the young girls. Sai Ananda, of Washington, claimed the Juniors under 19 division this year in her first year competing in the World Championships. “I was so excited to get the invite to play in Worlds and signed up as soon as i could. I [initially] got put on the waiting list but thankfully made it in!” she expressed. Like Lynda explained, it is difficult to find other women to compete with in these age restrictive divisions, but the Worlds is one of the best chances to do so. “Its not for faint of heart or weak of spirit but if you think you’re ready for it; its a great experience if you ever get the chance,” Sai insists.
Traveling from across the globe, Ann Lundberg, from Sweden made this Am Worlds her first. Ann describes the tournament as “intense,” “There were many new things to take in, both country and tournament wise,” she reflects. And when asked about her fellow players, she explains that “people have been very generous and kind. I had no problem finding a ride to my courses. I’ve made a lot of new contacts and friends. I’ve been invited to tournaments and festivities and I have also invited people to come and play in Sweden. I spent a lot of time with the same women on the courses and I am surprised and glad that they were so relaxed and supporting of me and each other. I really felt like they took me in.” Ann reflects on the event through her blogs at www.discgolfgirl.wordpress.com.
It is truly a family-reunion-like atmosphere when you arrive at the World Championships, and because there are so few women competitors, it is a great opportunity to met new friends and competitors you may not ever crossed paths with. Lynda says that, “ever since the 2013 Championships, I’d been in contact with many of the women I met there. We became friends on Facebook and encouraged each other throughout the year.”
At this this level of competition everyone is striving to play their best for the chance at the Championships title, but nerves can get in the way. Usually the best player with the strongest mental game prevails. When it comes down to it, Sai simply explains that her biggest strength was the ability to not miss “silly putts and [she] was lucky enough to make the least mistakes.” While you strive to stick to your game, you game also grows from experience. Lisa Gallagher says she learned that she has “more patience than [she] thought.” There were long back-up and delays during the rounds, but she didn’t let it rattle her although she thought it might.
When I asked these ladies to describe in one word their feeling after their last putt dropped in the basket they said “Ecstatic,” “Inspiring,” “Fulfillment,” and especially “Gratifying”. And gratifying it is to finally achieve such an amazing feat like a World Championship title, and once you know you can do it, you’ll come back for more. “This has been my first world championship but, definitely not last,” Sai says looking forward to a bright future in the sport. Lynda plans on playing until she can’t talk the courses anymore, but hopefully make it to compete in the Legends division (80+). “I’d love to have the title, ‘Lynda Voss, Legend!’ Who wouldn’t want to say that they were a legend?”
When asked, “Would you recommend playing in a World Championship to other ladies?” They all agreed with a absolute “Yes!” Lynda challenges any woman who plays disc golf in the Senior Grandmasters division to consider coming to a PDGA Amateur World Championship. “Look at my rating, look at my scores. I’m not an exceptional player. I’m sure there are many women out there who would be able to be competitive with me and undoubtedly many others who could beat me soundly.” And while its not all about the competition, Lisa says “We are such a small community, and it gives us all the chance to meet and compare notes, and build our network even stronger.” And Sai admits that playing in the World Championships was “some of the most fun [she’s] had in a tournament!”
Even though Disc Golf is an individual sport, these Champions couldn’t do it without the support of their friends and family. So I asked each to include who has helped them along the way..
Ann Lundberg would like to thank, “my friends Chasmine Wahlberg, Thomas Pettersson, Karin Schröder and Jennie Gozzi for believing in me. I would also like to thank the supporting members of Södertörns FK and Peter Fredriksson for sharing his wisdoms. I would like to thank Emil for accompanying me to Worlds. Finally I would like to thank Ragna Bygde for the inspiration.
Lisa Gallagher would like to thank, “a very long list, but I’d have to say the entire NM, CO, TX Disc Golf communities have been wonderful to me. Without the support from all of the players these states, I’m sure I would never have gotten this far. My co-workers, they have to listen to me talk about DG all day. Most important of all, my daughter, Jes; she has been there every step of the way. As far as companies, Dynamic Discs have really been in our neck of the woods a lot the last two years. The events they hold and sponsor keep DG growing in this area.”
Sai Ananda would like to thank, “my parents, for all of their help in getting there and my dad, especially, for caddying for me all weekend.”
and last but not least, Lynda Voss would like to thank her family for all their support.
Don’t give up on your dreams, because no matter your age you can be a World Champion, too!
For full results for the 2014 Amatuer World Championships visit: http://www.pdga.com/tour/event/16384