I met Dustin at Westmoreland Park in west Eugene. He was holding a stack of putting discs and throwing them into the chains of a basket one by one. After greeting each other we walked over to a concrete runway and teed off. The first hole consisted of two parallel rows of pines that went down the left and right sides of the fairway for about 75 feet. The basket was centered just beyond the pines. Dustin came down the runway and let his disc fly; it sailed to the left of the pines in a wide arc and then curved back to the right and landed near the basket. I was amazed. I had played a few games of Disc Golf before and never seen anything like that.
Dustin first picked up a disc in 2005. He had no clue that competitive Disc Golf existed until 2007 when a friend dragged him to a tournament in Sisters where he placed 8th in an intermediate-level tournament. “Ever since then I’ve been hooked,” he said.
Dustin spends 10 to 15 hours a week working on his game. Although Dustin is a laid back, soft spoken guy, he is very competitive, and he means business when he plays. You can see the intensity in his eyes when he’s putting. Yes, they putt in disc golf too. He’s always working to get ready for his next tournament.
He recently returned from a trip to the Monteray Bay in California where he competed in the Pro Disc Golf Association’s (PDGA) World Championships. Since he isn’t sponsored he used his financial aide money to finance his trip to the 5-day tournament. He missed the final cut by two strokes so he wasn’t able to golf the last day, but he did walk away with some prize money for placing seventy second: “I got 30 dollars,” he said.
Aside from being a profession athlete Dustin could be considered a model citizen of Eugene. He is studying renewable energy at LCC and loves the outdoors. He has no car, so he rides a custom made chopper-style bike painted in Oregon Ducks colors, everywhere he goes. He even enjoys a round of “Ball Golf” every now and then (Ball Golf is a term he uses for traditional golf).
Although Dustin loves Eugene, he may have to relocate someday. He feels that the Disc Golf in Eugene is holding him back. There aren’t enough courses and the two courses in Eugene have their own problems.
There are only 3 baskets at Sladden Park in the Whitaker neighborhood, so it’s just too small. Westmoreland Park, which is Eugene’s largest Disc Golf course only has 10 baskets and one of them is a putting basket. The biggest problem with Westmoreland is that it was built upon an old airstrip, which was converted into a garbage dump, before becoming a park. This causes serious drainage problems that turns the park into a muddy mess during Oregon’s rainy winters. Dustin doesn’t even bother playing there in the winter because it gets so swampy. Dustin often relies on friends to give him rides to different courses all over western Oregon.
Dustin thrives on the competition that Disc Golf challenges him with. He’s played team sports but he feels that this sport is between him and the course, he can’t blame anybody else, and he likes it that way. His goal is to win the PDGA World Championship someday, but he also believes in setting realistic goals. He knows that won’t happen for a few years at least, so he is currently working on getting sponsored for next summer.
After finishing 9 holes I thanked Dustin for coaching me. My ability to throw a disc had improved drastically. His cell phone went off and he answered it; it was a brief conversation and when he hung up his face lit up, “I’m going to the best Disc Golf course in the world, well its considered one of the top two.” He jumped on his bike and started peddling home. His friend would be picking him up so they could go Disc Golfing at Milo McIver State Park near Estacada.
Kevin Baird, EDN