Disc golf's popularity climbs in Janesville, region

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Tom Miller
Tuesday, July 30, 2013

JANESVILLE--Kim McVicar's shot flew over the target and settled behind a tree.

The Janesville woman surveyed the scene, stepped up and “sank” her “putt,” curving the plastic disc around the tree and into the metal chains of the basket.

McVicar did a little leap and trotted up to retrieve the disc.

This scene was part of the amateur disc golf tournament at Janesville's Lustig Park a week ago Sunday.

Flying “saucers” flew back and forth; people laughed—and maybe cursed under their breath at times—and generally enjoyed their walk in the park.

Men and women of all ages—the best of the lot was 16 years old—took part in the tournament. The 52 players shot two rounds on the 18-hole course, with top finishers in three divisions taking home merchandise.

“This is one of the hidden gems for disc golf,” said Terry Miller, aka “The Disc Golf Guy,” who ran the tournament.

Miller was in Manitowoc on Saturday running a tournament. The 34-year-old Pewaukee resident makes the sport a full-time job, selling equipment and running tournaments throughout the state.

Ten of the participants in the tournament July 20 were from the Janesville area. The other 42 were from elsewhere in the state, enjoying their day in the park.

 “Ball golf has been around for 400 years,” Miller said. “Disc golf has only been around for 35.”

The sport is gaining popularity, especially in the Midwest.

“We're creeping up on 200 courses (in Wisconsin),” Miller said. “That's top in the country. The Midwest is a hotbed for disc golf.”

McVicar caught the fever in August 2009.

Now she is at Lustig Park every morning, flinging the plastic discs over 36 holes and enjoying life.

“I just added it up yesterday,” she said during the tournament. “I've played 2,418 holes of disc golf this year.”

At first, she could only fling the disc 50 feet.

“The first two tournaments I played in, I finished dead last,” she said.

Now she can send her “tee shot” 200 feet, and she won the Baraboo Open this year. The 57-year-old just returned from a national tournament in Emporia, Kan., where she finished fourth in her division.

It was the best time of my life,” McVicar said. “It exceeded all my expectations.”

The 18-hole course at Lustig Park is maintained by both the city and by the group Friends of Lustig Park. Mike Brose is president of the club and is coming off a week where he had three aces.

The group has league play Tuesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. McVicar is part of the “breakfast club” that plays in the morning.

Most of the holes at Lustig Park are approximately 100 yards. What makes the local course difficult are the trees. Some courses have water hazards.

Miller said some male pros can send the discs 300 to 400 feet. The record, set by a 16-year-old, is a mind-boggling 856 feet.

Just like ball golf, experienced players use more than one disc.

“Just like in darts, some players use bar darts, but some go out and buy their own,” Miller said. “In bowling, some use house balls, but some come in with four of them.

“We have drivers, mid-range and putting (discs),” Miller said.

McVicar uses six discs, but has accumulated many others in her four years of playing. As her arm got stronger, she found her original disc did not perform as well as she wanted.

Both Miller and McVicar would love to see more women get involved in disc golf.

“The concept of the sport is easily learned,” McVicar said. “You can see how you are improving, and it's a great sport to stay in shape.

“It's low impact. It's a wonderful walk in the woods and most of the courses are free.”

And the sport has spruced up Lustig Park since the course opened in 2006.

“Lustig Park didn't always have the best reputation,” McVicar said. “But now I think even the kids have more respect for the whole park.”

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