At the beginning of the year, Raimo Sokka, of Turku, Finland, had his calendar out planning which tournaments he wanted to attend. Written on that calendar in big letters was “Get that spot to the USDGC.”
“I set one true goal on which tournament I really wanted to attend. It was Disc Golf World Tour’s last (stop), but in my opinion, the biggest tournament in America,” said Sokka, who earned his invite to the USDGC with a solid 14th place finish at the European Masters.
Sokka is part of a bigger overseas contingent of players this year at the USDGC. 29 players registered from overseas, up from 21 last year and 15 in 2014.
No doubt, that increase is due to the USDGC’s partnership with the DGWT, which strives for a global awareness of disc golf. The USDGC serves as the tour’s finale for 2016 and 2017. All of the DGWT’s stops (three of the four were overseas) were USDGC qualifiers and each granted 10 invites.
Like Sokka, Silver Lätt of Estonia, is also enjoying his first trip to the USDGC and the United States for that matter. Lätt has risen quickly as a European contender and gained respect with his impressive play at the Konopiště Open, where he earned his USDGC invite.
Both Sokka and Lätt agree that the USDGC and disc golf benefit from more international players.
“I think we all want the sport to be bigger and bigger and this is very important for the growth we want. I noticed that there will be players from eight different countries, which is great. They will share their passion for the sport via many pictures/videos for their friends to see,” said Sokka, who hopes to be one of the top Finns at the USDGC – not an easy task since there are 18, the largest number of players from any country outside the U.S.
Though the USDGC is well known stateside, word apparently hasn’t gotten out throughout Europe. Lätt said prior to this season, he hadn’t heard of the USDGC. But he believes that since there’s now an Estonian in the field, more of his countrymen will naturally take notice.
“Every single tournament, what gets more international – grows fast and loudly. USDGC will get so much more attention that's for sure. For example, I believe that having one Estonian at the tournament for the first time, will make it popular for us as well and next time there will be more of us!” said Lätt, who got funding for his USDGC trip through a special fundraiser tournament organized by his friends and his local Chilli Disc Golf Club.
With their enthusiasm and talent, players like Sokka and Lätt are ideal ambassadors for the sport and for the USDGC. They will likely inspire friends, family, and others following the USDGC from home to pick up disc golf and, who knows, maybe one day compete for the Championship in Rock Hill, SC.