This past weekend marked the 29th Kansas City Wide Open, a fantastic high-profile event in the national tour. Pros from all around the country came to compete, as well as quite a few Amateur players. Although much press followed the top cards in the Men’s Professional division, I found the true spirit of disc golf on the last card of the Men’s Amateur Intermediate division.
I am referring to 12 year old Jake Hebenheimer. This was Jake’s first trip to the Kansas City Wide Open. There wasn’t a Junior division or (ultimately) a Recreational division. Jake instead played Intermediate.
Jake didn’t make any headlines, any mind-boggling scores, or record setting drives (although he did hit the coin on #16’s basket for a near-ace). He didn’t make a scene with loud displays of emotion or call attention to himself at all. However, he played with a sense of enjoyment that we should all be lucky enough to embrace. Jake had fun.
I hope that everyone has an opportunity to play with a player as remarkable as Jake. You could argue that he had less to lose, but that seems like a very convenient excuse. Good shots or bad shots, Jake kept his head up, smiled, and enjoyed the day. He was always gracious with compliments and kind during mishaps. His attitude, professionalism, maturity and spirit were exemplary. I wish I could say the same of my own competition persona.
Too often, I see the sport of disc golf get ugly. Like all things in life, this is what happens when we take ourselves too seriously. I have heard a number of people comment on the “professionalism” of disc golf’s heroes and superstars. We need to ask ourselves what is really important. Competition is important, but it is not what drives the popularity of this game. Jake helped me to remember that. First and foremost, we are there to enjoy ourselves! It is, after all, a game.
Disc golf is fun! And we need young people to have fun playing it. They are the future of the sport that we love so much. I hope our club can start introducing more young people to this game. Some of our club members are already working hard to do so. More so, I hope that this game continues to be a positive environment for young people.