When he started playing disc golf four years ago, Bryan Freese never thought he’d become a professional disc golfer, let alone the Professional Disc Golf Association’s (PDGA) 2016 Rookie of the Year. Even right before it was announced and knowing he was in the running, Freese wasn’t confident he had it in the bag. But earlier this week, Freese who works nights, went to bed after his shift and woke up later in the day to what he says is the best thing in the world to wake up to.
“I’m kind of overwhelmed, but I can’t stop smiling,” says the 27-year-old Winnipegger right after being named PDGA’s Rookie of the Year. Being only the second Canadian to receive the title since the first selection in 1986, Freese adds that this is exactly the confidence he needs to improve on his game and to prepare him for this year’s tournament season.
Originally an avid skateboarder, Freese was looking for an activity he could do with his dad. When disc golf was suggested he wasn’t into it at first, but it ended up being more fun than he anticipated, and he has been hooked ever since. An individual sport like skateboarding, Freese enjoys the personal competition, and feels the game of disc golf fits his drive to succeed. After only picking up a disc for the first time four years ago, he credits his ability to quickly pick up sports to his rapid success.
“The feeling of always having something to improve on is next to none,” he says. “Disc golf always gives me something to work on and there is always more to accomplish. It is so intricate and I wish people realized that more. I have more than 20 discs in my bag and each does something different. Throwing a disc at a one per cent angle more to one side versus the other can have a huge impact.”
Disc Golf is a flying disc game that is played in a similar fashion to traditional ball golf. Rather than clubs, players use an assortment of discs with different flight characteristics to get from the tee pad to the chain basket of any given hole. Whereas a traditional golfer might use drivers, irons, and a putter, a disc golfer uses discs similarly referred to as drivers, mid-ranges, and putters. Like traditional golf, a standard round consists of either nine or 18 holes with the average distance range being 250-350 feet. The player who navigates the course in the fewest throws (strokes) wins.
“I would love for disc golf in Canada to be valued the same as it is in the U.S. and Finland,” Freese says. “If it could get anywhere near that so many more people would play it. Although, since I’ve started playing, I’ve really seen the sport grow, not only locally in Winnipeg, but across the country. I think there is a great future for disc golf in Canada. It has a lot of potential,” he adds.
Since the announcement, Freese has been fielding numerous calls of support and congratulations from fellow disc golf pros and local players alike, but his focus is on his upcoming tournaments and becoming a better player. He plans on following up his Rookie of the Year status with a good showing at the various events he’s attending this year on both sides of the border. The next major A-tier tournament for Freese is in Iowa next month.
The PDGA cites Freese’s big win to his strong showing at the 2016 Team Disc Golf World Championships held in Vancouver this past August, which he says is also the highlight of his professional rookie season.
Disc Golf Manitoba is a board of players who work with all available resources to foster and grow the sport of Disc Golf in Manitoba. Representatives work on providing league and tournament play to new and existing players, while working with cities, park stewards, and municipalities on course consultation, design, installation, and maintenance. For more information, visit discgolfmanitoba.ca.
Manitoba Organization of Disc Sports fosters the sport of Ultimate Frisbee by providing opportunities to learn, play, and teach spirited Ultimate in the greater Winnipeg area. For more information, visit mods.mb.ca.