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How I Fell in Love with Disc Golf

Foreward: The idea for this piece formed from a couple of random thoughts:

1. How many disc golfers are peripherally connected to KC’s Pete Cashen? and

2. How many other Pete Cashen types are out there with similar intentions and means to influence the growth of disc sports in their own communities and beyond?

I know they are out there because I have met a few of them along the way. I’d love to collect a public written record of the triumphs and trials woven into the early stages of our development as a sport, and read the stories of the people willing to tell the tales. Each community has its own history and a storied relationship with its heroes. Growth is never smooth sailing, but disc golfers hang in and persevere, no matter the weather or the season. I wrote this piece a few years ago, but I’ve never made it public until now… It seemed like the perfect Mentors Week Blog as I wrestle with adjusting to the physical challenges of a recently detached retina in my left eye.

My ongoing hope for this concept is to create a website so that we can all share our own Disc Golf Origin Stories in one place, regaling how we first fell in love with disc golf, and giving credit to the people who pulled us in and kept us involved…. but this is as far as I’ve gotten with it. If you read through my story, please imagine how cool it would be if each person’s PDGA number was a clickable link to the other stories that mention them… A reminder that we are all Part of the Heart of Disc Golf.

My Disc Golf Origin Story: Early Mentors

My name is Tavish Carduff, PDGA # 23043. I am 54 years old and I have been connected to flying discs for as long as I can remember. My dad, Duffy Carduff 2530 and a lot of his friends played frisbee golf, “Folf”, casually around our neighborhood, establishing the Educational 9 around our school, the Religious 9 around the church across the street, and the Recreational 9 around the neighborhood park–and those were just the ‘courses’ close to home.

My mother, Cynthia “Cid” Carduff began playing ultimate before I was 10. She played on at least one National Team and she continues to play to this day - can I mention that she’s 75 and a cancer survivor?! I have always enjoyed throwing frisbees and playing catch, but resisted playing either sport myself for a very long time. The disc sport community, however, was like a magnet for me. I may not have seen myself as a player, but I did feel invested in the people I got to meet through my parents’ involvement with flying discs.

It was the late 1970’s, and while the world was making choices about whether to invest in Ego-based vs. Soul-based pursuits, the disc-minded had already aligned with the underlying intention to nurture and grow their community. I can only imagine how cool it was when you met flying disc people from a different city and realized that they are born of the same heart and mind that resonates through our own disc family. No matter who actually thought of disc golf first, several people were ‘inventing’ it at the same time, and that is what I find most fascinating about disc sports: the type of people who were drawn to its roots. We are connected by an often invisible bond that either grabs you by the heart and draws you in, or you struggle to ‘get it’--there doesn’t seem to be much in between. I feel deep gratitude that I get to feel the power of these connections! They have truly shaped my life in wondrous ways, on and off the course.

My childhood is full of stories from the people I admired, most of whom I now call friends. Dan Cashen’s 2874 smile made him feel like a bright friendly giant, and I still see him that way. Bob Feild 2525 was one of my dad’s best friends, winner of the very 1st Kansas City Wide Open, and owner of my all-time favorite disc golf course-The Buck and Doe. Bob’s childhood best friend, Jim Burcham 2528, stepped into my life with good advice and spiritually-focused guidance when I really needed it, which was often. Ace Mason 1735, Tom Ingle 107, and Steve Ladley 2531 (RIP) were frequent guests of the ‘local courses’. Crazy John Brooks 2022 and Hal Kurz 1195 were part of disc demonstrations which rendered them local celebrities, just as I was entering my teenage years, and simply knowing them made other people think I was more interesting.Because they made a thing out of me in public, I make the joke that they made me popular in high school. I’m happy to report that popularity means something much different to me now than it did then, and I can extend some of that credit to the Magic of Frisbee.

Disc Sports do that for me to this day. Being a part of a disc sport community elevates my sense of self as I connect to other people who love the same sport I do. Even as competitors, we often get to know each other from a rooted, connected base. We care about the sport itself, and we find natural balance with our ego’s desire to win. We observe ourselves in nature, and we are intentional about our enjoyment. That simple but distinct difference is what first grabbed my attention, and what continues to support my growth as a human being in the world. All of my Mentors have value, but those rooted to disc golf, for the most part, teach me to be intentional about Grace itself. At a minimum, we each strive for natural grace in our game.

My brother, Beckett Carduff 12330, is a really good disc golfer and he had been trying to get me to play for a long time, but I was resistant. The shape of golf discs were foreign to me and I didn’t know how to hold them. I was the kind of person who didn’t like doing things I wasn’t already good at, and I believe that kept me from playing for longer than I’d care to admit. My mother was deeply involved in the Ultimate community, and while I blamed my disinterest in playing on a bad knee (a real thing), I’m now more inclined to believe it was my way of creating emotional distance in order to become my own individual person. My dad used disc golf as a social activity and a recreational escape so I think it was easier to enjoy his round if he didn’t have 3 kids in tow! I loved freestyle and fancied myself a gymnast, but I wasn’t willing to practice anything (again, if I wasn’t already good at it….) so my freestyle efforts didn’t go much further than my imagination.

After the birth of my 3rd daughter, at the urging of Beckett and my then sister-in-law, Kristie Svejda 13871, I agreed to go play Thursday Night Girls League at Rosedale Park in Kansas City, Kansas. There weren’t many of us, and we even allowed two guys named Mike (Terry and Sanchez) to play with us. We called them Michaela and Michelle during the round. It was mostly social, so to compensate for my high scores, I made up my own rules: (1) if it hit the basket and made a noise, it counted, and (2) if it left the fairway, I got to retrieve it and place it wherever I wanted. Our co-founder, Tiffany Curtis (RIP), continued with her own rules (she got a three on every hole - always) for every round she ever played, and every shot was played with a Cobra (Cobi-Wan-Kenobi). Rhonda Crosby 47106, founder of The Disc Divas, was among my first ‘coaches’, and LaRon Harris 5703 (LaRhonda) often tagged along to teach us a thing or twelve. On the surface, what mattered to me was enjoying nature in all kinds of weather and finding meaningful connections with others. Underneath my stated intentions, I was developing a fairly decent skill set. From deep within my root system, I knew this time was important for my life every time I stepped on the course.

Competition has never been my focus, but after many years in disc sports, it is clearly my specific challenge. It takes me out of my comfort zone and places me square in the middle of uncomfortable feelings; fostering my growth, both as a player and a human being. The highs and lows I have experienced in my career are different from what my record might suggest. Our score reflects how many times we threw a disc, but says virtually nothing about what actually happened on the course. Our scores rarely capture the magic that we encounter during our rounds. I’ve never felt that my ability to play disc golf was accurately reflected by my rating, my score, or even by my own game on many days, and that has been helpful to my individual mentality. The competitive side of what we do has become important to me because of the women I get to play with, and because of the amazing Kansas City community that loves me whether I win or lose.