Female disc golfers try to increase numbers

Sunday, July 13, 2008 | 10:13 p.m. CDT; updated 4:55 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

COLUMBIA — The Mid-America Open disc golf tournament has been in Columbia for 24 years, and although it has had much success, organizers are still trying to attract more women to the competition.

Professional Disc Golf Association, which sponsors the tournament, says in 2007 only 7 percent of its nearly 12,000 membership were women. That ratio held true for this year’s Mid-America Open, held this weekend at Albert Oakland Park and Indian Hills Park. Only 10 women signed up, while 142 men entered, even though entry fees for women were set at half of the $90 men paid to encourage more women participate.

Nicki Victor, a 28-year-old who will teach physical education for Columbia public schools in the fall, had to choose whether to enter the women’s pros or amateur division.

“I won intermediate last year so I didn’t want to step down,” Victor said.

She said she thought it was only fair to the other women entered to compete at a higher level, so she joined three other women in the pro group, finishing fourth. Each member of the group said they would like to see more women playing, and some are trying to create disc golf leagues for women.

Victor attends the women’s disc golf league on Tuesday evenings at Albert Oakland Park. Kristin Cherry, 31, started the league five years ago before moving to Tucson, Ariz., but moved back to Columbia a week ago to begin teaching communications at Central Methodist University in Fayette.

Cherry said she was excited to know that her league was still active, and she’s planning to begin another league in Fayette at the disc golf course at D.C. Rogers Lake.

“Once I get to know my students I’ll talk them into it,” Cherry said.

Sarah Moss, 25, competed with Victor and Cherry, winning the $250 first-place prize. She said she hopes to start a women’s league of her own where she lives in Warrenton.

“When you have the opportunity to play with other women who are good,” Moss said. “I would choose that over men any time.”

Moss is gathering the names of women interested in disc golf that might want to join. She said she will talk to women who join their boyfriends to play, or just any woman she comes across that competes.

Cherry said it was difficult to get started when she began the women’s league in Columbia. She placed signs all around the courses in the city and would wait in the parking lot each week on Tuesdays. When no women showed up she didn’t stop trying. She insisted on coming back each week.

The fourth woman in the pro division, Tavish Sanders of Kansas City, plays in leagues near her home, but there isn’t one for just women. Sanders said she is thinking about gathering women to play on Sundays to work on sharpening their disc golf skills, or teaching new women how to play.

The group said an increase in the number of women playing in leagues might persuade more women to enter tournaments such as the Mid-America. They said playing in a league is different than a tournament.

“Here you have to concentrate more, and if you make a bad shot (in league play) then oh well,” Victor said.

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