We are excited to announce that three-time Junior World Champion, Valerie Mandujano, has officially become a member of Team Innova. This move enables Valerie to join her younger sister, Alexis Mandujano, who joined Innova’s Junior Team in 2015.
Valerie and Alexis are entering their fourth season of tournament disc golf, however they have wasted no time putting the Mandujano family name on the map. The girls have a strong family behind them, lead by their parents, Connie and Art Mandujano.
The Mandujano family is typically easy to spot in the tournament setting, even at the larger events like Am Worlds where there are literally hundreds of competitors along with friends and family. The smiles and friendliness is infectious with this bunch, but don’t let that fool you. The family is competitive and takes the disc golf scene as seriously as anyone in the game.
Valerie and Alexis share a very close relationship. Clearly they can be competitive with and against one another, yet they are there for each other no matter what. One thing is for sure, both girls are extremely talented. In just 6 combined years of competition they have racked up 4 Junior World titles. They have served notice that the Mandujano Family intends to be a force to be reckoned with many years to come.
We caught up with Valerie and Alexis this week to see how the transition to being teammates was coming along.
What excites you most about being on the same team?
Alexis: I am most excited about being on the same team as my sister because it adds one more thing we can do together. How many sisters can say that they are sponsored by the same company?! It doesn’t get any better than that.
Valerie: Being the older sister gives me the opportunity to go to Alexis for advice for a change, mainly on my (disc) lineup. I am looking forward to that mostly. Besides that I am really looking forward to the endless hours of fieldwork, learning what discs are going to be my go-to in the upcoming season. I can also now steal Alexis’ outfits!
What division will you be playing in at this year’s Am Worlds? Any chance you will compete against each other?
Valerie: We haven’t decided yet, but we are leaning towards me in Advanced Women and Alexis playing in Junior Girls1.
Who pushes you harder, and who gets more nervous when you are competing… Mom or Dad?
Valerie: The love for the sport is what pushes us. Our parents support us more than push us. Both say they feel like they are having heart attacks.
How did you guys choose which divisions to play at Worlds your first three years? Alexis, you went Junior1 Girls > Junior1 Girls > then back to Junior2, while Valerie took the more conventional path of Junior2 Girls > Junior2 Girls > Junior1 Girls.
Alexis: My parents signed me up for the 13-year old division in 2014 but the PDGA moved me up because I was turning 14 in September. We as a family decided for us to play different divisions to have an opportunity for both of us win. I didn’t want to play with my sister in the same division so I moved up to Junior1 and came in second. In 2015 I played Junior1 again because I wanted redemption. Unfortunately I let it slip away on the last few holes and again I finished in second place.
Valerie had to move up in 2016 and I had my choices to play Junior1, Junior2, or Advanced Women. We decided I would play Junior2. We practiced everyday and we started going to the gym. It made us stronger and improved us both all around. Our hard work finally paid off when I won the Junior2 title and Valerie won Junior1. 2016 was a great year for us.
2016 PDGA Player Divisions, Junior Boys & Girls
How do you think you will know when it’s time to go Pro?
Valerie: When our games are more consistent and our PDGA Player Ratings are at least 920.
Alexis, what disc models are staples in your bag?
And Val, obviously, you have a whole new world of discs available to you now; what models are you enjoying most so far?
Valerie: I am really enjoying the Thunderbird, Destroyer, Wraith, and Nova. I use the Wraith for distance drives, Thunderbird for fairway hyzer shots, and the Destroyer for windy conditions and for my sidearm.
We keep hearing comments from people who are comparing you both to Venus and Serena Williams. Are there any super-sister duos like the Williams sisters that you admire?
Valerie: Not any others come to mind. We think that it’s cool people are comparing us to the Williams sisters. If we could accomplish half of the things in our sport that they have accomplished in tennis… well, that would be a pretty successful career!
Who is the pro women’s disc golfer that you most admire, and why?
Valerie: We don’t really have favorites because they all have different qualities that we admire.
Do you invite your friends out to play very often? If so, for those who say “no” what do you think are the reasons why they either may not want to play, or be intimidated about playing?
Valerie: Yes, we invite our friends to play. Our friends have different interests from us and for the most part they play other sports. Some of them would rather be at the mall or doing other things. We would usually rather be on the course or at the gym .
We see posts all the time about you guys hitting the gym. Is CrossFit your main workout?
Valerie: CrossFit is our main workout because it helps strengthen and condition our game. It also provides a great strength routine before and after rounds. That helps in all aspects of our game from putting to long drives. It also helps when your cousin (Jose Esquivel) is your Personal Trainer.
Besides disc golf, what other kinds of things do you do for fun?
Valerie: Other than family rounds, we love going to the basketball games, movies, playing softball, and just playing sports in general.
Valerie and Alexis will be teaming up together at this weekend’s Amatuer World Doubles Championship in Mount Vernon, Texas. And they are of course looking forward to the 2017 PDGA Amateur & Junior Disc Golf World Championships in July. We certainly wish them both the very best of luck.