For the 2017 season we were excited to add our first team member from New Zealand, James “Hemi” Te-Awhitu. Fresh off an 11th place finish at the New Zealand National Disc Golf Championships, Hemi shared a little bit about himself, and some perspective on disc golf in his home country.
So you are from New Zealand originally… how and when did you first discover disc golf?
Yes, originally from New Zealand. I first discovered Disc Golf at the Queenstown Gardens Disc Golf Course. Friends of mine invited me to play a round of this frisbee game they had discovered, in the gardens. I went along to check it out. I am a competitive person, so naturally I was hooked after the first round. Now I play almost everyday.
Do you remember the very first disc you threw?
The very first disc I threw was a yellow Ultimate disc, which I named ‘Big Yella’. I still have it. The first golf disc I purchased and threw was a 172g blue Star Valkyrie. I called it ‘your my boy blue’, and I still have this also. Although I no longer throw it.
Have you played disc golf in the United States, or in any countries other than New Zealand?
I lived in the USA many years ago. At the time I was a ball golfer and was yet to have discovered disc golf. I’m kicking myself now. Oh well, I’m playing catch up. I have played disc golf in Australia and all throughout New Zealand.
Are there any bucket list courses you would like to play?
There are definitely courses that I would love to play outside of New Zealand. Jarva Disc Golf Park in Sweden is up there. In the USA, I would love to play Riverbend DGC at Milo McIvor State Park, and the Maple Hill DGC in Massachusetts. Also the Japan Open course at the Nasu Highland Golf Club would be cool.
How would you describe the disc golf scene in New Zealand, compared to other places you have been?
The disc golf scene in New Zealand is thriving. There are new courses going into the ground every year. Our tour calendar grows every year and currently we have 17 events on the New Zealand tour. These are all very popular. The Tucker beach ‘Rush’ disc golf tournament is one of the two held in Queenstown (the other being the Queenstown Classic), that I currently TD.
Queenstown is known as the ‘Adventure Capital’ of the world, and disc golf is one of the must do things when visiting. It is the ‘Mecca’ of New Zealand disc golf. We are a small country in size but big in reputation. With last year coming in a respectable second place, at the World Team Challenge in Canada.