In their final year of high school, Jake LaPutka and his friends simply wanted to wear hoodies to school. LaPutka attended a private school in Utah that required students to wear uniforms. However, members of after-school clubs were allowed to wear hoodies associated with the organization instead of the standard uniform.
LaPutka figured that he could fulfill the requirement by creating a club for disc golf, a sport he had played recreationally with family and friends since he was eight years old.
“That was pretty sweet,” LaPutka said. “We cheated the system there.”
Three years later, disc golf has provided LaPutka with far more than a piece of clothing.
On July 26, LaPutka captured the 2014 Professional Disc Golf Association Amateur World Championship. Exactly one week later, he competed in his first tournament as a professional.
“I always just thought it would be cool to get a top finish,” LaPutka said. “I never thought that would happen.”
Just 15 months earlier, LaPutka placed 90th in the PDGA’s national collegiate championships and had never won a tournament in his career. Nonetheless, he qualified for the amateur championships in July 2013, where he finished eighth. It was at this point, LaPutka stressed, that he began applying himself to a sport that, until then, he had only played for fun.
“I would practice six to seven hours per day on the course the last two summers,” LaPutka said. “It was almost like a full time job.”
His Oregon teammates took notice.
“Jake committed a tremendous amount of time to practice in the months leading up to the amateur world championships,” Oregon disc golfer Paul Fraser said. “He practiced with purpose regularly, spending days doing field work rather than playing a round, and he putted religiously.”
LaPutka’s goals came to fruition, as he collected tournament victories and multiple second or third-place finishes in the four months preceding his amateur world championship.
Though LaPutka’s achievements are individual, they have granted Oregon Disc Golf more prestige.
“Collegiate disc golf is a team effort, but it’s nice knowing the amateur world champion is on our team,” Oregon disc golfer Cory Higdon said.
After conquering the world tournament, LaPutka contacted the director of the Fort Steilacoom Open, a professional event and convinced them to let him play.
“I didn’t think I could because it was a national pro event and a really big one,” LaPutka said.
Although the freshest face on the pro circuit did not fare well in his first tournament, he’s confident that he will be able to be competitive.
As for his long-term future in the sport, LaPutka notes that since disc golfers typically don’t make much income, he will plan future tournaments around family and his career. He supposes that the sport will remain a major aspect of his life.
“I’ll play until I can’t afford it or until I’m bored of it,” LaPutka said. “I don’t think I will quit though, because it’s too much fun.”
Considering how unlikely LaPutka’s current scenario was just a few years ago, it’s difficult to predict what awaits the disc golfer in the coming years.
Follow Jack Heffernan on Twitter @JHeffy13