Disc golf legend Des Reading returning to Vail for GoPro Mountain Games
As a Division 1 softball pitcher at the University of Northern Iowa, Des Reading got into disc golf as a break from the rigors of athletics and studies.
Of course she fell in love with the sport, and over the past two decades, Reading has garnered an impressive list of accolades: She’s a four-time Professional Disc Golf Association world champion, five-time United States Disc Golf Champion, has 202 wins and has been inducted into the PDGA, Texas and Iowa Disc Golf halls of fame.
As Reading returns to the 2019 GoPro Mountain Games to defend her 2018 gold medal, she says she’s ready to deal with the unique environment of the GoPro Mountain Games and the challenges of playing at altitude in Eagle County.
She has another new title to focus on, as well: PDGA youth and education coordinator.
“I feel like by taking this position I can explore and strengthen ideas and other concepts on how to introduce disc golf to youth,” Reading told PDGA.com. “Disc golf has always needed a large network of support to grow. I see the youth and education coordinator as focal point for this growth.”
Reading started the new position in April 2019, but sharing the game of disc golf with students and youth isn’t a new endeavor for her. She co-founded the Educational Disc Golf Experience, a program that teaches disc golf fundamentals and allied skills in schools and youth programs, with her husband, Jay, in 2002. The first curriculum that integrates lessons from disc golf into math, science, citizenship, fitness and environmental studies, EDGE is now in all 50 states and abroad.
Now, Reading has a chance to shape youth outreach at a higher level through the PDGA.
“I think evolution is a nice word for it,” she said. “It’s a nice fit.”
It’s also an opportunity to grow the sport. Kids who learn to play share it with friends and family, thus exposing a larger audience to this affordable, accessible sport.
Disc golf teaches self-respect through self-regulated play, Reading said, and has the ability to played with a wide and diverse section of people at the same time. By virtue of its varied courses, disc golf gives players the opportunity to stay healthy and serve as stewards of the land.
“Disc golf at its heart is a recreational game that can be played and enjoy by anyone,” Reading said. “There are currently over 8,000 courses worldwide with most free to the public to play; there were less than 700 courses when I started in 1993. Which means a family of four for only $50 total can purchase disc golf equipment for the family and enjoy a social and healthy activity anywhere they might travel.”
And while Reading has this new position to focus on, she’s not losing her competitive edge.
“Moving forward, I want to continue to inspire individuals and families to try the game of disc golf,” Reading said. “My competitive play is waning with age, but a long-range goal for disc golf would be to win a World Championships in each of the age divisions, which increase every ten years.”
Look for Reading at 2019 Mountain Masters Disc Golf Tournament which takes place Friday through Sunday. Each athlete will participate in four qualifying rounds, to include both skills challenges and stroke play. Venues include: two 18-hole courses at Maloit Park in Minturn, and 4 Eagle Ranch in Wolcott; one nine-hole course and long-drive challenge at Willow Creek Par 3 in Eagle-Vail, and putting and MPH challenge venues in Vail Village.