Yohannes Desalegn knows how to draw a crowd. It all started six years ago, at the age of 16, when he first started playing disc golf in his home country of Ethiopia. He and his friends would meet up to play disc golf and curiosity seekers would gather, fascinated by the game.
Since then, Desalegn—recently named an Innova Ambassador—has made it his personal quest to grow disc golf across Ethiopia and other parts of Africa.
The Start of Disc Golf in Africa
Each year more and more disc golf courses pop up around the globe. However in Africa, the game is still being discovered. Of the 6,977 courses worldwide, only seven are in Africa, according to PDGA sources. That includes the one course in Ethiopia, which Desalegn installed with the help of a PDGA grant (the course is now at Assosa University).
Disc Golf Courses in Africa(According to the PDGA Directory)
Primed for Disc Golf
Though the African disc golf scene may look sparse, to Desalegn, he sees Ethiopia and Africa as fertile ground for the sport because it’s inexpensive and promotes community development, outdoor activity, and friendly competition. Plus, those that have tried, love it, he says.
He takes his DISCatcher Traveler targets everywhere, promoting and demonstrating disc golf. “…I love playing disc golf, but I love sharing disc golf with other Ethiopians even more! I want and dream of helping disc golf become part of all Ethiopian’s lives and also African lives in the future,” said Desalegn, an electrical and computer engineering student at Assosa University (Western Ethiopia), who was introduced to disc golf by a friend from Finland.
Growing Disc Golf in Schools
The last few years, he’s focused his energy on sharing the sport at schools and children’s events. He says kids pick up disc golf pretty quick, especially when he likens it to a popular children’s marble game with similar rules.
“My goal is to provide school children and other community groups with the opportunity, in a poor but beautiful country, to become involved with and play our inexpensive outdoor and lifetime activity.”
Besides schools, he’s also hosted demonstrations at venues like the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project (which regularly draws crowds) and the Addis Ababa (Ethiopia’s capital) Golf Club, which agreed to join forces for future disc golf events at the club, he says.
Ethiopian Open in 2018
Desalegn has big plans for the future. Along with continued school demonstrations, he wants to share disc golf with the country’s sizable refugee population and also work to bring disc golf to the rest of Africa through events in other countries.
Taking his event skills to a higher level, he’s organizing Ethiopia’s first big disc golf event, the Ethiopian Open in 2018.
This summer he’s hoping to come to the United States to learn more about disc golf and how events are run in advance of running the Ethiopian Open. He’s confident his trip to America will allow him to bring new ideas back home to help spread disc golf to the rest of Africa.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to raise money for Desalegn’s trip, which is scheduled for August.
If you want to learn more about Ethiopian disc golf or you want to help his cause, visit the Ethiopian Disc Golf Association page.