The USDGC Celebrates Our 25th Anniversary

3328 0

25 Years as Disc Golf’s Premier Tournament

Since 1999, the United States Disc Golf Championship has been the pace-setter and role model from which other tournaments pull inspiration. It not only exceeds expectations for a disc golf tournament, but would exceed expectations for any professional sporting event. From the level of competition, to the media coverage, to player amenities, to spectator experience, the USDGC grows and improves each season. This year, we proudly celebrate 25 years as the premier event in disc golf.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Jeff Panis (@innovawombat)

Setting the Standard

The USDGC has been a trailblazer in our sport since its inception. Designated an Experimental Major, we regularly introduce new and sometimes controversial elements to advance the boundaries of the game. Some changes stick around for just a couple years, but many get permanently adopted not only by the USDGC, but by high-level tournaments across disc golf. 

The triple mando originated at USDGC

Ideas pulled from traditional golf such as having to qualify, playing one round per day, staggered tee times, and requiring tickets for spectators, gave the early versions of the USDGC a feeling of professionalism that no other tournament had. Selling the Championship Edition Roc to fundraise provided the resources needed to carry out the many big ideas from our expanding tournament staff. 

Small, but significant details such as roped OB lines made competition more fair. Spotters with red/green OB flags helped with pace of play. Designated spectator areas made the player and viewer experience run more smoothly. 

The USDGC set the standard for media coverage in disc golf as well. The first live streamed tournament was 15 years ago, broadcast from Winthrop. Some of the best early disc golf tapes came from the first few Championships. 

Winthrop Gold

Another sport-changing idea that the USDGC brought to disc golf was a Major event that returned to the same location every year. The accumulated history over 25 years at Winthrop has allowed the Championship to become the most prestigious event in disc golf. 

What makes the USDGC so special is playing at Winthrop Gold, a puzzle which all of disc golf’s greats have tried to solve. Small changes from year to year adapt the course to improving technology and player skill levels, but the essence of Winthrop has been the same for 25 years – Andy Greene announces players’ names on Hole One; Hole 5 gives an early test of nerves and a first look at the lake that will decide the tournament; Hole 17 stands guard at the gate on the way to victory; upshots on 18 land on the same treacherous green where a winner has been crowned every year since ‘99. 

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Team Innova (@teaminnovadiscs)

Magic Moments 

With the best players in the world competing at disc golf’s most compelling venue, the USDGC has been host to many of disc golf’s most magical moments over the last 25 years.  

In the final round of the 2003 USDGC, Barry Schultz erased a six-stroke deficit and hit a clutch 40-foot downhill putt on the final hole to extend the match against Ken Climo. The most epic playoff in disc golf history would follow. Ten holes between two legends of the game, ultimately ending with Barry Schultz taking home his second US title. 

Last year, at the age of 17, Gannon Burr became the youngest player to ever become US Champion. After tapping in the winning putt, with tears in his eyes, Gannon said that the USDGC was the first tournament he ever watched and was the event that he wanted to win most. 

Gannon Buhr, Winthrop Gold, Hole 18

Each close finish and touching storyline contributes to the rich tournament history that makes the Championship special. 

The Team at USDGC

Behind the magic on the course is the most dedicated, hard-working team in disc golf off the course. While there are too many people vital to the success of the Championship to name, Jonathan Poole, Dave Dunipace, and Harold Duvall are the main innovators and executors behind the USDGC. Andrew Duvall is responsible for some of the best course changes of the past decade. Thousands of volunteers have been integral, carrying out the countless jobs that need to be done to make such a large event run smoothly. 

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Jeff Panis (@innovawombat)

Festival Experience 

Since the early years, the USDGC has aimed to be more than just a disc golf tournament. We have added vendors, clinics, spectator courses, giveaways, music, and chances to meet the players. The USDGC Doubles, Monday Qualifiers, Dean’s Cup, and US Distance Championship offer chances to watch your favorite athletes compete in different formats. The USDGC is a full week of activities, well beyond just the Major tournament. 

This year, the addition of the Fresh and Now concert series is taking the party at Winthrop to the next level. Each night in the Championship Village, big name acts will take the stage after the last putt drops. All ticket holders are invited to hang out into the night to eat, drink, and party with the amazing USDGC community. 

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by The Championship (@usdgc)

The Future of USDGC 

It is great to take a look back at 25 years of success, but the USDGC is more focused on looking forward. The addition of the Throw Pink Women’s Disc Golf Championship has been the most significant change to Championship Week of the past 25 years. Running concurrently with the USDGC, the TPWDGC is a showcase event of 40 of the top female athletes, playing on behalf of women everywhere struggling with breast cancer. We treat the event like a Major and the players value the title like a Major. We hope to grow TPWDGC so one day it has 25 years of history too. 

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Innova Discs (@innovadiscs)

In addition to building up the women’s event, many of the biggest opportunities we see for the Championship are off the course. The team in Rock Hill wants to create an experience worthwhile for disc golfers and non disc golfers alike. We hope that the Vendor Village and Fresh and Now concert series become a draw for the surrounding communities.

We envision exposing new people to the sport who bought their ticket more to hear the music than to see the disc golf. At the same time, we will share some amazing, up-and-coming bands and throw an epic party with the disc golf community. 

See You in Rock Hill

The USDGC is the ultimate spectator experience. Come see your favorite players, dance with the disc golf family, shop for collectable merch, take clinics with pros, and more. Tickets are still available for the 25th Annual USDGC. It is a destination for disc golf fans and has become an event that even people who have never heard of disc golf will love. We will continue hosting and improving the USDGC for 25 years to come and beyond. See you in Rock Hill soon! 

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Jeff Panis (@innovawombat)