Getting to talk to all these different individuals and hear their stories is something that I am grateful for. I love hearing the stories that people bring and tell me about their Disc golf lives and careers. Another great story is from Madison Walker who is a sponsored professional from Team Innova. She has an amazing story to tell and this article is well worth the read. Enjoy!
1) How did you get into Disc Golf?
I played on my university’s ultimate frisbee team at Southern Miss. It was a men’s team, but one other girl and I would compete in their division. Since I couldn’t run as fast or jump as high as most of the dudes, and because I had good disc handling skills, I was a handler (I threw passes). Sometimes, I would throw a little two hard and would hurt the receiver’s hand on the catch. A couple of the guys took notice and invited me to come try disc golf, where I could throw frisbees as hard as I wanted! After my first round, I was hooked!
I quit playing disc golf for a few years to focus on graduating and applying for jobs and further education. After working 60-90 hours a week for 3 years at my first serious job, I was laid off and took some time off to travel. At that point, I sort of re-DISCovered my tiny disc golf bag (a recyclable grocery bag with 4 discs), and started playing again. I met a guy at one of my local courses who invited me to the local club’s bag tag round, and then I got into competing in Southern Nationals. This is when I met a group of women in the Southeast that played all the time, and tat that point, there was no stopping me. I played every weekend. Eventually I met Paige at the Southern Nationals Championships in Alabama, where she came and wiped the floor with all the Southern Nats ladies. We kept in touch, and I ended up going to 2014 Worlds in Portland, where I met Elaine King, Jeremy Koling, Zoe Andyke, Kelsey Wilmerding, and a bunch of others that were enthusiastic in coercing me back to future events. Paige invited me to start touring with her in 2015. How could I say no?
2) Who inspires you to continue to play?
I think to keep up in this disc golf world, you have to love it. Most of the inspiration has to come from within. It’s been tough this year with the long-lasting injury to not just give up on disc golf and move on, and THAT’S where other people have helped. The network of support in the disc golf community is immense and so dense. My touring crew, which gets bigger and bigger as time goes by, are always checking in with me. People I’ve worked with over the years are so encouraging and give me hope that all this waiting is not in vain. “Fans” (I still don’t quite believe that’s a thing I have. :D) that I don’t even know have sent messages telling me they can’t wait for my return to competition. It’s made me very grateful that I get to be a part of this community.
3) What made you want to start accepting money and be considered a pro?
I have actually never competed as an Amateur. I played Pro in Southern Nationals because that’s what my friends were doing. And then when I started playing PDGA sanctioned events, I didn’t even think twice about doing anything but Pro. My first Pro event above a C-tier was 2014 Portland Worlds, and I got 11th place. Still, to date, my best finish at a Worlds! Hilarious, right?!
4) What is it like to be sponsored?
I got sponsored pretty quickly after my finish at 2014 Worlds, especially with my big plans to tour with Paige and play 30+ events in a year. It was terribly excited getting picked up, and my first sponsorship was with Team Innova on their Crew level team. It definitely helped to test out a bunch of discs and finally be able to have back-up discs for all the difficult water holes I was playing on tour, but besides that, I didn’t really get much else from sponsorship in my first year. I think that’s how most entry level sponsorships work. Room to move up.
I’d say my biggest initial sponsor was Paige, who literally was the only factor enabling me to tour that first year in 2015. I cashed in about half my events, and that was not enough to make ends meet. I couldn’t have done it without her, and I’m forever grateful for her having my back on the road. If and when I get to a point where I am financially sound in disc golf, I can’t wait to return the favor and help touring players just starting their career.
5) Do you have any pre-tournament rituals? If so, what are they?
I always eat breakfast. And pack snacks. I eat the entire time I’m warming up and throughout my entire round. I also do my Disc Golf Strong Pre-round Warm-up. It gets the blood flowing and gets me prepared for the round, almost like an active meditation. I used to throw all the discs in my bag in a field, but then you’re spending more time shagging discs that you are getting prepared. Now, I mostly prefer to just throw forehand and backhand approach shots and see what my putt is doing that day. I start with short putts and typically stay inside the circle during warm-ups. I also like to chat and goof off with fellow competitors. I’m not a fan of solo, silent, or serious before or during a round.
6) Favorite Disc?
If there was a gun to my head I’d be forced to say my oldest disc in my bag, my flat top Star Firebird. However, I literally cannot live without my stiff Pro Rhyno. I once heard a friend say, “The best way to beat Madison at disc golf is to steal her Rhyno out of her bag.” Please don’t do it!!
7) Favorite course?
First, DeLaveaga, second, Harmon Hills in East Tennessee, and third, Hawk Hollow in Virginia. I also love the Nantucket Island course and Rolling Ridge at Smuggler’s Notch in Vermont.
8) How do you continue to grow the sport?
Right now, I don’t feel like I’m doing enough. When I’m on the circuit, I do events with Paige. We do adult clinics, kids clinics, women’s only clinics, and hang out and volunteer at all women’s tournaments. We also go to Amateur Worlds every year and caddy for the Juniors, which is my favorite event of the year. On my own, I always volunteer at the EDGE Village at the USDGC and occasionally do clinics around my hometown. I’m also the Junior Team captain for Innova, and I hope to get more involved with that this year. I think the best way to grow the sport is through education, and I hope to start doing more demos at elementary and middle schools in the next year.
9) If you were not a professional Disc Golfer, what other kind of pro would you be?
This is a dangerous question. I’m a dreamer and a woman of many hobbies. On long road trips, Paige and I have played this game where we discuss what we would be doing in any of our other 9 lives. Turns out, I actually have plans for more like 15 or 20 other lives. Pro fly fisherman in Montana, SCUBA diver for National Geographic somewhere in the Pacific Islands, Pro longboarder/surf photographer travelling the world looking for the perfect left point break, Pro Spikeballer, Park Ranger in Arches National Park, Bird watching expedition guide in the jungles of Central America, used bookstore owner, part of a motorcycle gang touring North America, potter living on an alpaca farm in South America, organ player in a funk band, this list goes on……
10) What advice do you have for players who want to step up their game?
First, get in shape. I skipped that part and all of my injuries are a direct result of it. Disc golf is hard on your body, prepare for it.
Second, putt. Putt a lot. Don’t copy someone else’s putting style. Pick one that feels natural and comfortable and STICK TO IT. Practice it a lot. There’s no right way to putt. If you practice it a lot, it WILL work even if it’s funny looking.
Third, form is everything when driving. This is where mimicry is key. Watch film of the top professionals in the sport. Put it in slow motion and try to do it just like them. Film yourself and look at them side by side. Study it like you’re about to be tested on it. Break it down and do lots of reps. Also, ask for help from people that are better than you. If they say no, you probably didn’t want their advice anyways. Ask someone else. Go to clinics.
Finally, get a good routine. Not just a routine for practice, but a good routine for every shot. Have a little thing you do with your disc or your feet or your breath before you throw your disc. It helps calm your mind and focus your body without actually having to try.
11) Is there anything you would like people to know about you that they may not?
I still make mix CDs for my friends, I love thunderstorms almost more than sunny days, my favorite foods are pecan pie and carrot cake, and I collect old bandanas.
I would like to thank Madison for taking time out of her day to answer these questions and get back to me when she could! If you would like to learn more about Madison, please go follow her on all forms of social media! Look out for more coming!
Picture credit goes to Madison Walker