Grand Rapids hosted the PDGA (Professional Disc Golf Association) Amateur World Championships in 1997. Almost 20 years later, it will host another PDGA championship in 2017 – the first PDGA Masters World Championships – solidifying West Michigan’s reputation as a disc golf destination.
The PDGA Masters World Championships will take place Aug. 12-19, 2017 at multiple courses in Kent County, with Riverside Park as the main course. The PDGA estimates it will attract up to 500 of the world’s best professional competitors at 40 years and older hailing from across the United States plus other countries, and generate approximately $600,000 in direct visitor spending.
“This bid win is a testament to West Michigan’s diversity as a sporting event destination,” said Mike Guswiler, president of the West Michigan Sports Commission (WMSC) who submitted the winning bid with Local Organizing Committee River City Disc Golf LLC. “Our quantity and quality of disc golf courses plus Michigan’s high number of PDGA members made us a desirable candidate for this world championship, and we’re honored to host the first one for the PDGA.”
The PDGA is the professional organization and governing body for the disc golf sport,* sanctioning competitive events for men and women of every skill level from novice to professional. The PDGA created a PDGA Masters World Championships starting in 2017 separate from its annual PDGA Professional Disc Golf World Championships to allow more qualified players to compete. The Masters World Championships will be open to qualified male and female pro professional disc golf players at 40 years or older, whereas the World Championships is open to any qualified player, regardless of age. Some competitors may qualify for and compete in both championships.
“The Grand Rapids team submitted an exceptional bid to our selection team and board of directors to host this Major Championship,” said Michael Downes, national events director for the PDGA. “Grand Rapids (and Michigan) has always been seen as a hotbed for disc golf, and we felt it was time to showcase that energy and enthusiasm once again.”
In addition to Riverside Park that also will host the preliminary schedule and finals on the last day, the championship will be played at several courses across Kent County including Fallasburg Park in Lowell, a new course at Grand Rapids Rotary Park North in Belmont, two courses at Earl Brewer Park in Byron Center, and Johnson Park in Walker. Each competitor will play four preliminary rounds prior to a cut for the semifinal and final rounds of the event. Spectators will be encouraged to watch the free World Championships either via a live streaming broadcast or at the courses where fans can watch at a particular hole or follow a favorite player.
The PDGA Masters World Championships will be hosted by a local organizing committee called River City Disc Golf LLC with members from multiple local disc golf groups, and promoted locally by the Grand Rapids Dogs of Disc, one of the oldest disc golf clubs in Michigan. Ranked amateur disc golf player John Norkowski of Mount Pleasant will serve as tournament director, with consultation from Kalamazoo-based ranked professional disc golfer Larry LaBond and Grand Rapids-based ranked amateur disc golfer Rick Marrit Jr, all of whom have experience hosting PDGA events. The West Michigan Sports Commission, City of Grand Rapids Office of Special Events, City of Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation Department, Plainfield Township, and Kent County Parks and Recreation Department also will play roles in ensuring the championship’s success.
“Grand Rapids is an ideal venue for this PDGA Major, with great courses for the players to compete on and an excellent variety of other activities to do when not competing,” said Tournament Director John Norkowski. “With the help of the amazing team that was instrumental in bringing this event to Grand Rapids, we look forward to providing a world-class event.”
Grand Rapids and Michigan have long been destinations for professional disc golf, with 249 courses across the state and 15 in Kent County alone. Michigan is the third state in the country in terms of the number of disc golf courses and number of PDGA members (1,666), behind Texas and California. Michigan also has on average 146 disc golf events annually, second only to Texas.
Disc golf as a sport has grown exponentially since the first course opened in 1975, today boasting 5,500 disc golf courses worldwide (4,344 of which are in the United States). An estimated 8 to 12 million people have played disc golf, and two million are estimated to be regular players. Membership in the PDGA has grown 216 percent since 2005 alone, from 9,629 active members in 2005 to 30,454 active members in 2015.
(Source: PDGA and Disc Golf Demographics)
* Disc golf is played much like traditional golf, but instead of a ball and clubs, players use a flying disc, or Frisbee®. Similar to “ball golf,” the object of disc golf is to complete each hole in the fewest strokes or “throws.” A golf disc is thrown from a tee area to a target, which is the hole – typically an elevated metal basket. (Source: PDGA.com)
About the West Michigan Sports Commission: The West Michigan Sports Commission, a non-profit 501 (c) (3), works to identify, secure and host a diverse level of youth and amateur sporting events to positively impact the economy and quality of life in the region. Since its inception in 2007, the WMSC has booked 489 sporting events and tournaments that attracted 650,000 athletes and visitors, generating $190 million in direct visitor spending. For more information, visit westmisports.com.
About the Professional Disc Golf Association: Founded in 1976, the Professional Disc Golf Association is the professional membership association and governing body for the disc golf sport. The PDGA is dedicated to the promotion and sustainable growth of disc golf as a globally-recognized competitive sport and recreational activity through player participation, tournament development, course development, spectator participation and public education. For more information, visit www.pdga.com