This time last year I played in the USDGC for the first and only time. I didn’t know it at the time, but I played with a torn rotator cuff. I did know it hurt like heck, though. After the first practice round, in which I managed a +1 and figured ‘this isn’t so bad as long as you play clean golf and hit all your putts, my arm was as useless as those little front appendages of a Tyrannosaurus Rex’s. But I did my best, which was equal to most everyone else’s worse. Still, it was one thing I could cross off my Bucket List. Watching this year from the comfort of my computer via the live webcast, a few observations come to mind:
- Will Schusterick and Nikko Locastro are way clear of the field, battling for first. This continues and perhaps accelerates the youth trend in professional disc golf started when Nate Doss captured first at the Worlds in 2006 at age 19 then proved it wasn’t a fluke with another Worlds title and a USDGC title a couple years after that. Some may conclude that players in their teens or early 20’s have the advantage of fresher arms and quicker recovery from fatigue, and that’s part of it, I’m sure. But I know first-hand that Nate also benefited immensely from growing up with the sport, surrounded by numerous talented players in Santa Cruz. As the number of courses and events grow, players that start in childhood are seasoned by the time they are in high school. The trend mirrors that in nearly all other sports. The one possible exception, ironically, is ball golf, although younger players are breaking through there more than in the past as well.
- If you watched the live webcast on discgolfplanet.tv, you surely noticed the counter that showed how many viewers were watching at any given time. It seemed to range from a low of 800 or so to a high of 1500. Right now, as I write, Nikko and Will are locked in a close battle for first in the final round, and the counter is at 1,187. To me this clearly illustrates that disc golf is still far, far away from attracting the major sponsors that the sport’s top promoters hope will result in much bigger prize money and live TV coverage. As I pointed out last year, those who think we’re close to this kind of breakthrough are ignorant to the development of just about all other sports. Think of it this way: How many people that watch golf on TV have never swung a club? Not many. Golf only became worthy of broadcasting on TV when golf industry advertisers knew that the millions of players and devotees to the sport (who buy golf stuff) would be watching. 1,187 people are still exponentially less than what is required, so the focus should be on introducing more people to the sport.
- Last year, to watch the live webcast, a fan had to pay a fee. This year, it’s free (although donations are encouraged). I’m sure the logic was that increasing the viewership is the most important goal, and they wanted remove the cost barrier. Did it work? Doesn’t look like it.
- After having played the course a handful of times last year, I’m really enjoying the webcast this year because I recognize every scene captured on the screen. If you ever get the chance to play the course in the ‘Winthrop Gold’ setup, do it. The video coverage will mean so much more if you’re able to put it in the context of having played it.