He doesn’t have to be.
With Ricky Wysocki’s 250k Bitcoin bonus and Paul McBeth’s 10-million-dollar, 10 year contract still fresh on the mind, it’s easy to forget that Disc Golf is still very much in a transition period. There are more full-time touring professionals than at any time in disc golf’s history, but it wasn’t so long ago that the man known only as “The Champ” was framing houses in between dueling Barry Schultz for yet another of his 12 world titles. Juliana Korver, 5 time world champion and only woman to ever cash at an MPO major, worked as an IT professional. Today’s fans would probably be shocked to see Adam Hammes one cubicle over, and once over the surprise, begin to wonder how office etiquette applies to autograph requests. Even 16 year old Gannon Buhr has a fuller schedule than most touring professionals from 20 years ago. Buhr played 14 tournaments last year at 15 years old, and in 2002 Ken Climo played 18. None of this is meant to criticize Buhr, or today’s players at all, but to show the growth of the professional aspect of the sport.
But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s not write off the weekend warriors just yet. Let’s take one player in particular as our case study: 20 events in 2021 with 8 wins and an average player rating of 1025. Surely a touring professional, yes? Au contraire. Ce n’est pas une tour. This player in fact, has a full time job, and while playing four DGPT events, and a silver series in 2021, mostly stayed close to home. However, this does not prevent him from maintaining a strong public image among professionals. He writes for Ultiworld, has popular Twitter threads about issues pertaining to our sport, and of course appears on tournament coverage wearing his trademark Sublime Doughnuts hat.
As old folks like to say, there’s more than one way to skin a cat, and Andrew Fish presents a potential different lane (read: formerly the only lane) for those advanced level players considering making the jump to MPO. There is an inherent risk in taking on the touring life, as Fish himself says in an interview with Ultiworld in 2020:
If you’re on tour, you’re always one back injury away from walking home with nothing. I had that for Worlds. I had that for Delaware, and then I dropped out of Maple Hill and Green Mountain Championship.
While he (rightly) goes on to say how his choices give him the opportunity to advocate without fear of alienating sponsors or fans, it’s also simply good risk management.
Any 1000 rated player has the off chance of winning a DGPT event. It’s a small chance, but it’s there. But should you bet on it? What if you don’t have to? Take a look at the list of tournaments held for just a single month by the PDGA. There’s going to be one held near you; I can just about guarantee it. The benefits of playing in local tournaments is twofold. First, there is ample opportunity for teeth-cutting against the best players in the region. Second, you are supporting the local disc golf scene, where the courses and clubs are more likely to need the funding and support than those featured on DGN.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with professional disc golfers hitting the road and going on tour. It’s awesome that the sport can support so many of them at this point in time. But for those who can’t afford it, who don’t have the sponsorship money just yet, or who simply don’t want to leave the comfort and security of a 9–5 job, there’s no reason to despair of your chances. You too can someday be filmed scrambling from behind a tree that Jeremy Koling will misidentify. In fact, you can get there by following in the footsteps of some of the greatest players of all time.