An Introduction Into Disc Golf & Personal Journey of Audrey Wicklander
We had the pleasure of connecting with one of our brand ambassador’s, Audrey Wicklander this week! Audrey gives us a deep dive into the disc golf world and her personal journey in it so far.
“What sport is it that you do?”
“Well kind of… it’s disc golf!”
“Disc golf!! It’s basically the rules of golf… just with Frisbees…. Kind of…”
“That’s a thing???”
This is how 90% of the conversations I have about disc golf start (and end) and usually I cannot get into a lengthy conversation about what the sport is and how I came about it… so I’m going to do that now!
My name is Audrey Wicklander and I’m a disc golfer (PDGA #156781). I am 25 years old and have lived in the Metro-Detroit area all my life. My golfing background is not extensive – my dad and grandpa both played golf and I would go with my dad to the driving range and try it occasionally. We went mini golfing a lot, I understood the rules of golf, and I genuinely liked watching it on TV but I knew that golf was an expensive sport so I did not want to join up and get all the gear just to possibly be bad at it or not like it. I played volleyball growing up but I stopped in 2013 and never picked up another sport after that.
Fast forward to late summer 2019, my boyfriend and I moved into a house in Melvindale (right on the south border of Detroit) and we discovered that there’s a little nine-hole beginner disc golf course two blocks from us. My boyfriend, Pat, had played disc golf a handful of times before and was an avid ball golfer. He bought an Innova disc starter pack from Meijer a week later and he started playing almost every day. I joined him but it definitely was not love at first sight between disc golf and I. Naturally, whenever you start something new you’re likely going to suck at it for a while and I’m a bit of a perfectionist so that didn’t go over all too well. Before I started discing, I could not throw a Frisbee straight so when I started throwing disc golf discs they were going in crazy directions.
Brief story break! So what is disc golf? Disc golf originated in California in the 1960s and the rules are essentially the same as ball golf. You have a tee, you have a fairway, and you have a hole – except the hole is a basket made out of metal with chains that catch the disc and it falls into a ‘bucket’ (but we still call them holes, like “Hole 1” or whatever it is). Whoever has the least amount of strokes at the end wins. We measure holes in feet or meters instead of yards; there is usually one short and long tee-pad available at courses for amateurs and pros; and courses are usually 9-to-18 holes (and they’re usually free!). There is a Disc Golf Pro Tour that travels the world from February through October, the pros play Majors, Elite Series, and Silver Series events, and the top man and woman in the world make $1 million a year just from their manufacturer sponsorship contract. Disc golf is very much a thing!
For the non-disc golfers, disc golf discs are not Ultimate Frisbees. The discs are smaller, more aerodynamic, and denser than Frisbees so that they travel farther and faster. If you want to succeed in disc golf, you cannot throw a disc like a Frisbee because you will likely hurt yourself. The throwing of a disc, much like swinging a club, needs to be pretty precise and if you do it wrong – you will have bad results. Your body and timing have to be in sync to get the disc to go where you want it to go. When I started, I dislocated my shoulder a handful of times because of poor form. The combination of hurting myself and throwing in weird directions made me not like disc golf for a few months, but I kept going because I was in a bad place mentally at the time and it got me out of the house and spending quality time with my partner.
When did you realize disc golf was the sport you wanted to focus on?
It all changed when I threw a disc correctly for the first time. After that shot (which I still vividly remember) all I could think was, “I want to do that again!” I really dedicated time to watching videos of the pros and looking at what their bodies were doing, as well as listening to the critiques my boyfriend had about my form because at that point he was already deep into the disc golf rabbit hole. I spent all of 2020 just playing and enjoying the sport as I was learning the fundamentals.
I started competing in tournaments in February 2021 and my first tournament was the Kent Lake Classic at Kensington Metropark in Milford, Michigan. I really struggle with my mental health, especially with anxiety, so taking this step into playing a new sport in front of strangers was a massive leap for me. I was *very* nervous during that entire tournament but I met some awesome ladies and won in my division! I was hooked after that. I am a competitive person and I’ve only ever played team sports before that event so once I got a trophy that was just for me… that was it and now, I want all the trophies.
Sponsorships and ambassadorships was something I knew about from watching golf on TV and I eventually learned about the various disc golf companies from watching the pros on YouTube. Again for the non-disc golfers, there are many different disc golf manufacturers who produce their own molds of discs. ‘Mold’ refers to the shape of the disc because they are not all the same. Like ball golf, there’s putters, midranges, fairway drivers, and distance drivers. When looking at the four types of discs from putters to distance drivers, the rim of the disc moves from being more rounded to pointier in each step to increase its distance potential. The molds are also made so that the disc wants to fly in a certain direction – left (overstable), straight (neutral or stable), or right (understable). Most disc golfers carry between 12-25+ discs depending on how large their bag is and personally, I carry 20 to 22 discs during a tournament and every single one does a different thing in the air.
The same molds of discs are present throughout almost every company but plastic types, stamp artwork on the tops of the discs, and the names of the molds change from company to company. The plastic types are the biggest differences from company to company since the plastic does effect what the disc does when it’s flying. Most disc golfers have their preference of companies, just like ball golfers with clubs and balls, and I instantly gravitated towards Discraft, a disc golf manufacturer started in 1979 out of Wixom, Michigan, which I’ll get to in a minute.
How did you start gaining sponsors as a disc golfer?
I started a disc golf specific Instagram in the fall of 2021 with the hopes of just sharing my experiences as a female disc golfer and connecting with others. It took off a lot quicker than I thought! I became much more aware of sponsorships and ambassadorships that could be attained as an amateur and I set out with the goal of being a sponsored player with companies I align my values with. The first sponsor I gained was Disc Baron, which is a disc golf retail store out of Grand Rapids, Michigan. The second, and yours truly, was ParHopper!
There are some disc golf apparel companies but nothing like the scope of what is marketed to ball golfers. The apparel that is needed for disc golf is basically the same as ball golf with the exception of the shoes. There is a dress code established by the Professional Disc Golf Association for tournaments and in accordance with that code, I like to wear a hat or headband, polo, black yoga pants, and hiking shoes. When I was looking for companies to possibly be sponsored by, I did not think about an apparel company (especially not a ball golf apparel company) until I saw a ParHopper advertisement.
I saw a ParHopper ad about wanting to expand with people who are thinking and doing things outside of the box. I was at lunch with a coworker when I saw it and I showed them the ad and said, “Do you think a disc golfer is outside of the box to a ball golf company?” And they thought about it and said “I definitely think so… just go for it!” After taking a long look at the company and what they stand for, I went for it and the rest is history. I was the first woman and disc golfer on the ParHopper team and I’m so happy to have brought the company closer to the disc golf community. A few of my female disc golf friends are now on the ParHopper team as well! I felt extremely grateful and happy with the two companies I had joined up with so far but there was still one that I desperately wanted.
As I stated earlier, Discraft became my disc manufacturer of choice and that was the big sponsorship I was trying for. A lot of disc golf companies have an amateur/non-touring sect of their sponsored team and Discrafts is called Discraft Underground, and that’s the team I was gunning for. I had applied for it in November 2021 and hoped that eventually I may get it if I tried really hard and put myself out there. After spots were filled in early spring 2022 and I did not receive a call, I was slightly bummed but held out hope that I could be on the team someday – I just have to keep working. Thousands of people apply for that team so I knew it would likely be a long-term goal. In May 2022, I got a call from the Underground team captain and I made it!!! It was an extremely busy summer packed with tournaments and most recently I came in 5th at the Michigan State Amateur Championships. I’m taking it easy for a bit during fall just to enjoy some casual rounds and the beautiful weather. Next is the Michigan States Doubles Championship where my boyfriend and I are competing together! Here in Michigan, tournaments go all year long so my season will never stop.
What is your ultimate goal as a disc golfer?
After being accepted onto the Underground team, I feel like I hit the perfect trifecta of sponsorships and ambassadorships. ParHopper is especially mission-oriented towards using the game of golf to just have fun, enjoy a drink, and wear awesome apparel. I receive compliments on my polos constantly and I love wearing the unique designs that ParHopper comes up with. I also really enjoy the collaboration that happens between the team members and ParHopper – almost every polo that is released has team input on it!
Looking forward into my disc golf journey, my number one large goal is to become a professional. Right now, I play in FA1, which is the Advanced Female Amateur division, so the next step up is the FPO (Female Professional Open) division. Unlike ball golf, disc golf uses a rating system – not a handicap system – so I just need to get my rating higher before I feel comfortable joining the professional division. I also really want to become a tournament director eventually and run events with my boyfriend but right now I’m in a very busy time with my career so that is on the back burner for a bit. My absolute dream goals are to tour the Midwest and Northeast as a professional disc golfer and get a top ten finish at the Discraft Great Lakes Open (the largest tournament in Michigan and an Elite Series Disc Golf Pro Tour event). Trust me; I am not short on any disc golf goals and dreams.
I’m so happy I discovered this sport and I genuinely believe that everyone should give it a try, especially ball golfers! I can’t wait to see where disc golf takes me and having ParHopper with me only adds to the excitement. No matter what happens during this journey, at least I will always be the most stylish one on the course. If you have any questions about disc golf, please send me a message on Instagram or Tiktok (@audreywickdisc), I’m always happy to talk shop!