USDGC Still a Go!

This October, the US Disc Golf Championship is expected to return to Winthrop University for the 22nd consecutive year from October 7-10, 2020. The road to the 2020 USDGC has taken more detours than anyone could have imagined, however, it has increased the desire to see a United States Champion crowned this fall. 

Women's National Championship Returns to Winthrop

We are also honored to announce the return of the Women’s National Championship to Winthrop. The US Women’s Disc Golf Championship was unfortunately canceled earlier this year due to COVID-19. Our goal with the Women’s National Championship is to provide top professional women an event of their own to look forward to and to crown a Women’s National Champion in 2020 as well. 

This will be a homecoming of sorts, as competition for the Women’s National Championship returns to Winthrop for the first time since 2000. The first three PDGA Majors used to determine a Women’s National Champion took place at Winthrop alongside the USDGC from 1999-2001. The event name transitioned to “USWDGC” in 2001 and is still in use today. 

USDGC Qualifying Back On

USDGC qualifying resumes this weekend at The Majestic in East Bethel, MN. In addition to the 14 remaining qualifying events, we also anticipate our traditional Monday Qualifying rounds to take place at Winthrop on October 5th. Click here for an updated look at 2020 Qualifying Events

More details will be coming soon, specifically regarding the registration process for the women’s event. If you have any questions before then, please contact USDGC Event Director, Jonathan Poole. Updates will be available here and on the official USDGC Facebook page.

From the first USDGC Qualifier early in the season to the last one in early fall, The Road to the Championship is going to be a journey filled with incredible performances, premier events, and for many that qualify, the realization of a disc golf dream. Starting in 2020, USDGC representatives will be on hand at nearly every qualifying event (including three international qualifiers) to personally award the qualifying invitations to players.

The USDGC would like to acknowledge that E.R.I.C. (Early Recognition Is Critical) - Flying Disc Week has graciously agreed to join us as the Official Partner and Presenter of The Road to the Championship for the 2020 season. 

Here is USDGC Event Director Jonathan Poole previewing the 26 USDGC Qualifiers at the season opener, the Las Vegas Challenge. 

You're Qualified!

Qualifying for the USDGC is a feat in and of itself and USDGC officials believe it’s time to show these players in-person the significance of their achievement.

Chris Shotwell and Kevin McCoy represent the USDGC at qualifying events and each of them knows what it’s like to qualify.

“From before the tournament starts, you’re reviewing every scenario to get in. You’re doing the math. Who do I have to beat to get that spot? It’s a big deal for most players,” said Shotwell, who qualified twice for the USDGC.

First Five Spots Earned in Vegas

Five spots to the Championship are up for grabs at each USDGC Qualifier including the first qualifier, the recent Las Vegas Challenge (Feb 20-23). Wasting no time, were Garrett Gurthie, Ricky Wysocki, Tristan Tanner, Simon Lizotte, and Kevin Jones, who all earned invites there. Gurthie talks about his Round 2 performance, which included an ace, in the following video. 

Who’s Next to Qualify?

Shotwell said another bonus to having USDGC representatives on hand will be to add some Major event atmosphere to the qualifier event. At the end of each one, Shotwell or McCoy will make a presentation announcing the players earning USDGC invites.

McCoy, who has qualified nine times for the Championship has had this honor before. “It's especially rewarding handing an invitation letter to a USDGC rookie, seeing the absolute joy of accomplishment,” said McCoy, whose best USDGC finish was 3rd in 2005. 

Follow Along with UDisc Live 

UDisc Live  is also going on the road with the USDGC. They plan on covering 17 USDGC Qualifiers, possibly more. For each qualifier, UDisc has created a special toggle so users can see who is in position (in real-time) to earn one of the five USDGC invites up for grabs. 

USDGC Fundraiser Discs & Official Merchandise

At many of the qualifiers, expect to also see the Innova RV on hand and with it special USDGC merchandise to fundraise for the Championship.

Chris Shotwell loads up in the Proto Van prior to the Las Vegas Challenge

All Roads Lead to Winthrop Arena

The Music City Open in Nashville, TN, (Sept. 25-27) is the final stop on The Road to the Championship. Until then, be prepared for athletes laying it all on the line to secure their spot at each qualifier.

Look for updates regarding The Road to the Championship from our USDGC crew through Innova social media.

The US Disc Golf Championship is not just the nation’s ultimate disc golf test. It’s the world’s as well. And the USDGC is making steps to bring more of the world’s top competitors to Rock Hill, South Carolina to compete for the US title.

This year, six qualifiers, the most in the USDGC’s history, take place outside of the United States including, Norway, Finland, Estonia, the Czech Republic, and two in Canada.

26 Qualifiers

Each year it’s a challenging task to construct the perfect number of qualifiers that provide the USDGC with disc golf’s most talented field and at the same time provide the world’s best players a fighting chance to compete. In all, 26 events were chosen as qualifiers to find the USDGC’s ideal field size of approximately 130 disc golfers.

Official Details

Look at the Official Qualifying Document to find your best shot to Rock Hill, SC, and for qualifying exemptions and other details.

College Disc Golf Exemption New for 2020

College disc golfers will have extra incentive to bring their “A+” game this year because the Men’s Collegiate National Champion (individual) will earn an invite to the USDGC. It’s an exciting new era for College Disc Golf, with the event moving to Rock Hill, SC, and utilizing two different courses (“Lakefront Course” and “Coliseum Course”) that traverse Winthrop’s legendary recreational complex. 

USDGC Expands Overseas Opportunities

Two international events were given the nod to be first time qualifiers this year including the Sula Open in Norway.

Sula Open Player Coordinator Jostein Håland said they are excited to be a part of 'The Road to the Championship', and promise that this year’s Sula Open will be the best one in its 15-year history.

“An opportunity to host a qualifier has made us even more inspired to make a great event ...”, said Håland, adding they’ve already noticed an increase in 1000+ rated players registering.

With the USDGC seen as the premier event in the world, Håland says it’s important to have an international presence.

“International qualifiers assure that you get to gather the best players in the world, not only the Americans,” said Håland, who’s seen disc golf explode in his country. Norwegians seem to instantly fall in love with the sport, he said. Plus, the country’s picturesque landscape makes it a perfect fit for courses. Having big events like the Sula Open draw even more attention to the game, he added.

More International Qualifiers, More Overseas Talent  

A great example of fresh international talent is Albert Tamm, of Estonia, who qualified for the first time last year at the European Open. Later, at the USDGC, he climbed his way to the final round’s lead card and finished a respectable tie for 10th - the best international finish for the year.

More international qualifiers mean giving skilled golfers like Tamm, who spend at least part of their year overseas, more shots at making it to the Championship.

Tamm finishing up on Hole 18 during last year's event.

For Tamm, the chance to play in the USDGC not only means playing in one of the most prestigious events in the world, it also creates opportunity for lesser known players to step into the limelight.

“For many players it might be a chance to stand out in front of many players and perhaps find a future sponsor as well,” said Tamm.

2 Shots in Canada

The other new international qualifier is the Foxwood Open in Ontario, Canada. Though, the Foxwood Open is new (both as a qualifier and as a first-time event), qualifiers in Canada are not. Since 2017, the USDGC has had two qualifiers in the country – usually located on the east and west sides of the country.

Canada's Thomas Gilbert takes aim at one of the holes used for the Foxwood Open at the Foxwood Golf & Country Club.

Foxwood Open TD Darrell Bankes said it’s important for Canada to have these qualifiers because of the high amount of Canadian talent. “We’ve got a lot of good, developing players that need exposure at big events like this,” said Bankes.

Taking place on Victoria Day Weekend (a Canadian national holiday), organizers plan for it to grow into a festival type of event attracting top Canadian players and future fans of the sport. 

International US Champ?

American disc golfers see the growth of the sport every day at home, but they may not be aware of it’s astounding growth in Europe as well. According to PDGA statistics, European PDGA membership has grown more 200% in the last five years.

“European disc golf has made huge steps in the last couple of years, an evolution that will continue in years to come,” said Håland.

Growth like that deserves attention, which is what the USDGC is trying to provide with extra international qualifiers. Someday, one of those qualifiers could produce the next US Champ.

Now that the 2019 USDGC is behind us, let’s take a look at some numbers that did not appear on the Championship leaderboard. Spectator attendance, live stream viewers, and the USDGC charitable donations are all summed up here.

Spectators On-Site

Nothing beats seeing the action unfold in person. This year the USDGC offered more ways than ever to visit the Winthrop Arena Course including the Single Day Pass, VIP Pass, Pink Pass and Gold Pass. A total of 1543 of various ticket types were purchased by fans who were eager to watch the Championship in person. 

Live Stream Figures

The USDGC is known for pushing the boundaries of disc golf in every aspect. This year, in the pursuit of delivering live coverage at an even higher level, the USDGC offered lead group coverage for Rounds 2, 3, and 4 through a Pay-Per-View Live stream Broadcast.

Fans responded. More than 2500 viewers tuned into the Championship during the live stream coverage which generated just over $20,000. This money will be used to help offset the broadcast production cost and as a donation to EDGE, which we'll discuss momentarily.

EDGE Annually Benefits from the USDGC

Established in 2001, the Educational Disc Golf Experience (EDGE) is a non-profit organization that introduces disc golf to students of all ages by providing grade-specific curriculum and equipment packages to schools, camps, and youth organizations.

This year the USDGC donated $15,000 to EDGE, including $5,000 from the live broadcast. Dating back to 2005, the USDGC has donated more than $300,000 to the EDGE program. Among many other accomplishments, EDGE has introduced disc golf to more than two million students throughout the United States. 

Chains for Charity

In its second year, Chains for Charity continued its fun brand of EDGE fundraising. Prior to the Championship, USDGC fans pick a competitor to follow, then donate a contribution based on the number of birdies, eagles, and aces that player produces during the event. This year, Chains for Charity had 70 fan contributors pledge for 24 different USDGC players totalling $2,515.89 for EDGE.

Fan contributors can win awesome prizes by being top contributors or by guessing which player will have the most Chains for Charity Birdie Points or win the USDGC. USDGC game used targets were won by Tom Snyder of GA and Anthony Pugh of Texas. Timothy Johnfroe of Cut Off, LA was our top contributor and won a USDGC Player Package.

Competitor Nathan Queen won the Birdie Points title with 35 Birdie Points on 35 Birdies during the event. Paul McBeth won the People's Choice Award having over $500 pledged for his performance. Paul won $200 for his efforts and has asked to have his award be given back to the EDGE program.

For more info on EDGE, visit their Facebook page.

USDGC’s Charitable Component Alive and Well

Raising money for worthy causes has been a longstanding tradition of the Championship. Since the event began, more than $370,000 has been donated to EDGE, Throw Pink, and a variety of other Rock Hill non-profit organizations. 


Throw Pink Women’s Event

On Championship Saturday morning, 63 women and girls participated in the Throw Pink Event prior to USDGC lead groups taking the stage. Another 11 women helped out at the event that annually brings women together to play disc golf while raising awareness for women’s health initiatives. A portion of the event fee included a donation to the National Breast Cancer Coalition. 

Pink Pass New for 2019

As the USDGC has grown, we’ve recognized the need for more specialized ticket packages.This year the Pink Pass was added. Pink Pass holders not only received entry to all four rounds of competition and other cool perks, but a portion of their fee also went to Throw Pink. In all, $2,500 from Pink Passes went to the non profit. For more info on Throw Pink visit their Facebook page

Other USDGC Events also Help Out Throw Pink

The Sunday Spectator Appreciation Day rounds, in which fans can experience the Winthrop Arena Course for themselves, is one of the most sought-after tee times during the event. The $10 donation spectators contribute for a tee time of their own raised more than $1400 for Throw Pink.

Spectators got another chance to make a difference during the Big Arm Big Heart Distance Showcase. For a $25 donation to Throw Pink, fans could sponsor the athlete of their choice to launch an Innova Star Katana over Winthrop Lake on their behalf. If the throw cleared the lake with the disc that was signed, the fan got to keep it. 

A $40 donation allowed a fan to step up to the Innova Flight Deck and try to clear the lake themselves. The distance showcase itself raised just over $1600. After rounding up the two fundraising totals, the USDGC was ultimately able to contribute $3200 to Throw Pink.

Big Things in Store for 2020 and Beyond

Making the USDGC better is something every staff member has in mind. That includes everything from the Winthrop course itself, to the fan experiences both on site and online, and to supporting the event’s many charitable partners. Expect the USDGC to build upon its rich history in Rock Hill and deliver memorable experiences for years to come. 

Wolfpack Even Score After Loss to Ferris State in Spring

NC State wins the 2019 Dean's Cup at the @usdgc!! It was an epic battle between the two teams. And it wasn't the first time these teams have fought it out. NC State finished second to Ferris State at the 2019 NCDGC. The OB took its toll on the Bulldogs and this gave the Wolfpack all the chances they needed for revenge.

Reporting by College Disc Golf's John Baker.

Check out the final holes here:

Final Round Tee Times

When Charlie McDonald first came to work as a groundskeeper for the Winthrop Recreation Area in 1996, he had no idea what the disc golf targets there were used for. However, over the years he became quite familiar with those metal targets, the sport of disc golf, and the event that has called Winthrop home for so many years: the US Disc Golf Championship.
Before he retired this spring after 23 years of service to Winthrop University, McDonald had become one of the most crucial allies of the Championship and someone that has made the event into what it is today.

Winthrop Crew Keeps It Up

Many know that every year, USDGC staff arrive several weeks before the Championship to spruce up the course with limb trimming, mulch spreading, tee pad adjustments, and other modifications specific to the course. However, for the rest of the year, the tall task of maintaining the entire recreation area’s 300 acres was up to Charlie and his crew.
A lot of it was mowing grass. Mowing the ballfields, the open areas around the lake and the coliseum, the nine-hole golf course, and elsewhere. But there were also regular tree trimming, plantings, and countless other projects.

USDGC Duties

Although the USDGC staff sees to much of the Winthrop Gold Course work, Charlie and his staff still provided much needed help, most notably with precision mowing.
USDGC Event Director Jonathan Poole remembered that Charlie wanted Winthrop looking good for the Championship just as much if not more than everyone from the USDGC.
“From a course visual standpoint, he was our guy. He was always so accommodating,” said Poole, adding that he’d adjust his crew’s schedules to make sure it all got done in time for the USDGC.
Many mornings before the round, Charlie had the crew run the mowers on several of the key fairways to knock the dew off the grass.
In addition to that, he and his crew spread pine needles around trees on the course, helped USDGC staff when they needed a hand, kept a close eye on trash cans, and stayed on top of other housekeeping chores the event couldn’t do.
It was easy to tell that Charlie and his crew took pride that Winthrop was the Championship’s home.

Charlie to the Rescue

Plus, Charlie could always be called upon for any problem that would pop up. Every USDGC staffer probably has a story of Charlie helping them out and I am no different. It was a September evening prior to the Championship, and I was working late applying OB rope to the course. Area tree cutting companies are often contacted to dump their excess mulch to be used on the course. One such truck arrived and after leading him to the complex’s mulch area, he promptly got stuck. There was no getting him out without help, so we naturally called Charlie. And even though it was probably dinner time, Charlie soon arrived with a slight grin on his face and his bright orange tractor. With a few tractor tugs, the truck was freed and Charlie has solved yet another problem.

Charlie’s Winthrop Beginning

Aside from mowing a yard, Charlie had no groundskeeping experience prior to Winthrop. So after landing a groundskeeping job with the university he figured he’d learn as he went. The job proved to be an immediate fit. After only a year, he was promoted to grounds crew supervisor. “They realized I had more talent then I realized I had,” said McDonald with a chuckle, a lifelong resident of Rock Hill, who can remember when the recreation area was farmland.
He worked through some of the early friction from some co-workers used to coasting through their job by instilling a sense of ownership in their work.
“I always thought in order to get people to take pride in what they were doing was to give them their own area to work in. If I spread them out, this one would be taking care of this, and this one would be taking care of that over there. But for big things we would all come together,” said McDonald.

Enter Disc Golf / USDGC

“I didn’t know what the hell they were,” remembered McDonald when he first saw the disc golf targets at Winthrop. The first permanent disc golf course was installed there around 1992, a handful of years before McDonald arrived. By the time the 1997 World Championships arrived, which played partly on the Winthrop Course, McDonald realized disc golf was much bigger than he ever thought.
Winthrop then saw regular disc golf action, when the USDGC started in 1999. By then, Charlie had already developed a relationship with Winthrop Gold Course Designer and Innova Co-Founder Harold Duvall, who always came to Charlie for permission for any course changes. And over the years there have been many like adding trees, removing trees and limbs, new tee pad and pin locations, even tee pad docks in the lake. And Charlie, for the most part would always say yes.
“He had invested so much time and money into that course and I didn’t see that they were doing anything wrong out there. They were making it better,” said McDonald.

Charlie’s Favorite Holes

One of Charlie’s favorite holes is Hole 1 (formerly Hole 3), which is situated near The Winthrop Farmhouse, the home of the grounds supervisor, where he largely raised his two children. He also liked Hole 13 and watching the discs skip off the road nearby. Ken Climo was his favorite player. “I called him Mr. Winthrop,” said McDonald because of how he carried himself and the many US Titles he won.

Retirement

Retirement seems to be suiting Mr. McDonald well. Earlier in the spring, he received an award from Rock Hill’s annual Come See Me festival, for his many years of service to the event that was partly held at the recreation area. Plus, he got to throw the first pitch at a Winthrop baseball game as well this year. Best of all he gets to spend more time at his home away from home, a campground in Augusta.

Winthrop’s Beauty

There’s a sense of beauty that anyone who visits the Winthrop Recreation Area takes with them be it players, fans, or just someone taking in some exercise around the lake. And no person in recent history has done more to maintain that beauty than Charlie McDonald.
“It feels great,” said McDonald when asked how that feels. “I try to tell the guys to try to take a little pride in this because it will pay off in the long run. Try to help out all you can,” said McDonald.
Poole said Charlie made Winthrop so beautiful because he cared so much for the people visiting there.
“I always did look forward to the Championship. I always looked forward to all of the major events out there. The hardest part of retiring is missing all of the people. Of course, I will drop in every once in a while,” said Charlie, who always did love the USDGC’s distance showcase across the lake.

Round 3 Tee Times

 

Please join us on the beautiful Winthrop University campus on Saturday, October 5th for Throw Pink's 6th event in conjunction with the United States Disc Golf Championship.

Women and girls of all skill levels are welcome!

It all starts with a disc golf instructional clinic at 9 a.m that will get new players on their feet and refine the skills of those that have played before. A casual round will follow on the beginner-friendly 12-hole temporary course designed by Andrew Duvall, the current USDGC course designer. Everything will wrap up by noon.

PLEASE ARRIVE BY 8:30 TO GET YOUR PLAYER PACK PRIOR TO THE START OF THE CLINIC. If you don’t have discs, that’s not a problem. There will be plenty available to use. Drinks and snacks will also be provided.

Throw Pink: Fun with a Mission

Throw Pink is a non-profit with the mission of encouraging women and girls to get out and be more physically active through the game of disc golf. The program was established to make a difference to women's health-related charities by raising money through fun disc golf initiatives.

The $20 fee includes the clinic, a round of disc golf, a Throw Pink t-shirt, disc, a ticket to the United States Disc Golf Championship (final round is also Oct. 5th.), a discount to the USDGC pro shop, and a charitable donation to the National Breast Cancer Coalition. Lisa Ann Wheeler an NBBC advocate and Admin of the SC Action Network will be joining us for the event.

The National Breast Cancer Coalition is a grassroots advocacy organization that seeks to improve public policies surrounding breast cancer research, diagnosis, and treatment.

Pre-register online to ensure your shirt size. (Be sure to arrive 30 minutes early).

Event Location

Address for GPS Navigation:
Irwin Belk Track at Winthrop University,
Rock Hill, SC 29730

(If your GPS has trouble locating Irwin Belk Track enter Winthrop Colisum's address 1162 Eden Terrace Rock Hill, SC 29730 and follow the map on the flyer to the parking area. )

The event is located by soccer fields and Irwin Belk Track on a Winthrop Golf Course. Look for the pink tent! See map on the event page for details.