It is only fitting that as I “rebrand” the blog, the first post I speak to where I am at in my disc golf journey personally before getting into events and life as a disc golf retailer. I’ll start with some older stuff, just to get up to speed.
I started playing disc golf in September of 2016. I had heard a little about the game, but never even seen a basket, when a coworker asked me to go. I bought of Innova Champion discs and a Blue Innova starter bag and went out and was hooked.
It took me all of about 5 rounds to decide to start a small disc golf club that was embodied by coworkers at my company. We called ourselves the Big Disc Society and we had an overly complicated bag tag series with challenges and monthlies and it was fun. The dozen or so of us were going out, getting exercise and it really forged some stronger bonds among us. I even ordered our first hot stamped discs – Gateway Wizards and subsequently Voodoos – with the often pilfered Ace your Face logo and Big Disc Society on them. We donated a few as CTP prizes, and still 4 years later I’ll bump into someone with one at an event or find one in a used bin at a Play It Again Sports around the region.
I was a disc golf retailers dream come true – I bought every disc I saw, any brand, and I tried them all. For the most part, in my first year I threw a bag that primarily Innova drivers (that I didn’t have the form for but didn’t realize it), a mix of Innova and Discraft mids, and I really liked Discraft Soft Magnet putters. I also carried a Prodigy M5 because I had bought one and hit an ace (my first) with it the same day, and I thought it was a disc I needed. I played my first PDGA 4 months after I started, and haven’t looked back – I just replayed that same event for the 4th straight year, with 52 events in between them.
Of course I started paying attention to the pros and the tour, and I really took a liking for Paige Pierce. Here was a small woman and she was absolutely crushing. She seemed to exude “winning” and I naturally was interested in the Dynamic Discs that she threw. When I found one with no name or marking at a local park, after asking around with no claimants, I bagged it – and it was a great disc for me. These days I know why – my arm speed was slow and the lightweight and flight was complimentary – I had found a great beginner disc, the DD Breakout.
That Breakout lead me to pick up a Dynamic Discs Convict. It also instantly clicked for me – and thus began a slow and methodical switching of discs in my bag to discs that were all Dynamic plastic. (At the same time I was trying to bag discs that were pink – some molds were harder to come by than others, but I did.)
There are several approaches to building a bag, and I took the most precarious one, I believe. At one time, I had a pair of Judge putters (Classic Super Soft) - and 23 other discs – all different molds for the most part. I tried to locate an old Facebook post where I listed them out – but I had basically every flight number covered with no disc duplication. I admit my thinking was lawed (to most) I had a misconception that like golf clubs, I could just groove a swing and change the tool to accommodate the need.
It was around this time I submitted my first application to DD for a sponsorship / ambassadorship. I had the notion that I was traveling enough, playing enough and buying enough that I’d make a good on the street rep for them. Of course it was politely turned down by Robert McCall – the first of three such letters I would get actually. But Robert taught me a very important lesson in his handling of letting me know that I was not what they were looking at the time; he was upfront with the Team Dynamic Discs focus and strategy – and despite not being a part of that plan offered advice and mentorship none-the-less.
Over the next year I would play more events, TD my first event and do more club stuff. I made friends, I got a little better, picked up my rating a bit and I kept on plodding along from Wilmington to Charlotte. Near the end of the year I applied to DD once again – rejected once again, but not deterred.
In the late summer of 2018 I had an idea – one I still harbor and wont share here – for a disc golf product that I thought the market could use and would give me my own little piece on the industry. But that got derailed a bit when the opportunity to buy Fly Guy Disc Golf came about. Shifting my investment form my idea to the store, I basically bought a small inventory of Trilogy discs (Dynamic Discs, Westside and Latitude 64), as well as some bins and trinkets; the real investment was in the existing web site and the social media accounts. Over the next 18 months I would grow Fly Guy Disc Golf from those initial three lines to 10 – these days in addition to our original lineup we also have Innova, Discraft, MVP / Axiom / Streamline, Discmania and Mint.
It was not long after I bought FGDG that I decided what I needed from a marketing standpoint was a Team – and that given my own attempts to receive sponsorship and the mentorship I had received so far, I thought I knew what I wanted it to look like. I initially sponsored just Am players – a half dozen or so – and the focus was not primarily PDGA but also had a “freewheeling” approach to other avenues.
Here’s a cold hard fact – sponsorship – even on a small team – is expensive. Every disc you give players, every shirt, and every donation to a clinic – that’s a solid bottom line hit. Taken into the simplest view – if you have 10 discs, and you donate 5 – the profit of the other 5 are erased – and you only cover costs – and not make any capital for growth. It became apparent mid to late season that the sponsored players had to be more active in the market place, for brand exposure, if the team was going to survive.
Interestingly enough around this time I made contact with Brian Shintaku and eventually also with Brad Boehmer – both of whom helped me to think through things (that’s what a good coach does- not advice but gets you to make the connections yourself) and I slowly started making some traction towards my personal goal of representing Dynamic Discs. Towards the end of the year I made friends with Alex Bush who has been a great influence also. I started a conversation with World Champion and Team DD Manager Eric McCabe – who had always been friendly and I had bought discs from for a couple years – and felt he was supportive and energized for 2020. I had my fingers crossed.
I look at Dec 31 2019 and Jan 10th 2020 as very pivotal days for me and for FGDG.
For me, on Dec 31 2019 , all the work, the perspiration, the volunteering – it paid off. After some talk that felt it could go either way, I was absolutely floored to finally be reading an email welcoming to Team Dynamic Discs as an Ambassador. I take that very seriously. Of course it is an ambassadorship for the brand – but everything I have experienced as a customer, as a retailer and as a fan tells me that in the heart of it, Dynamic Discs has a core value for growth and sharing the sport – something I value and intend to do at every opportunity. I’m pretty damned proud to be able to wear those DD’s on my shirt.
January 10th was a big day for FGDG – it was the second annual announcement of the members of Team Fly Guy. There were some new faces in the mix, and some that we had lost,. We wish each and every player the best and understand that moves get made. The new team is refocused and through a few events have proven to be very on point promoting the FGDG brand. What I really like is our diversity. Three ladies. Two Youth. A couple Masters. Ams. Intermediate. Advanced. Two former NC State Coordinators. A double title holder in a single year of both the Advanced and Open Women’s crowns of the NC Point Series (Victoria Griffiths). Brand ambassadors for DD (Myself) Innova (Judah Berman) and Discraft (Robert Leonard, Kirk Yoo and Chase Jernigan). A strong team for a strong future.
We set up the tents together. We hang out and talk to players – and everyone offers advice and help. We tear down together. We hug, we support. We are a TEAM.
I get asked – more frequently these days as we get more successful – the same questions I asked just three years ago – “How do I get sponsored?”
A year or so ago I would have told you “Get 1000 rated, play every weekend, and make a name for yourself”. And yes – for the elite that’s the way.
But for the average guy – I missed the point – and now I get it.
Help others. Run events. Stay after the event and load up the TD’s equipment. Be active on social media. Donate your time to bringing others to the sport. If you can help build a course, do it. If you can’t commit to that – take a small bag when you play and simply pick up trash. But contribute.
And it’s crazy – but don’t think about it. Do it for the game, not for the shirt.
Most of all – support those you want to support you, and kind of like finding a girlfriend – when you are least expecting it, you may just be surprised who walks into your life.
Thank you to all of the folks I’ve met so far – I look forward to our next rounds together.
1/22/2020 - Winter Jam 2020
1/23/2020 - ECO 2020 - Richlands