Kids Make 1st Throw At USDGC
Over 300 school children paid a visit to the USDGC at Winthrop Gold this week through the E.D.G.E experience and received a crash course on the game at its finest tournament.
EDGE, or Educational Disc Golf Experience, works to bring disc golf into schools as an actual classroom subject. For the sixth year, a sampling of the EDGE program was on display from Wednesday through Friday in an area adjacent to hole 5.
Innova employee John McDaniel said the past few days have been all about getting the kids, mostly from the Rock Hill School District, introduced and excited about disc golf. Students listened to speakers, saw throwing techniques, participated in some putting and driving practice, and even learned the golf clap.
At the clinic, several Innova travel baskets were set out and the children took turns flinging discs. Fifth grader Muhsin Love said he liked throwing it, but he was used to playing baseball and football.
Although he may not realize it, Love is just the kind of person EDGE wants to inspire with disc golf. McDaniel said one of the goals of EDGE is to show kids there’s more to play than just the mainstream sports.
EDGE P.E. teacher of the year Shawnae Somsen, of Idaho, was helping lead the kids around the clinic.
“Our goal is to get EDGE in the schools so they can teach them and get them out playing,” Somsen said.
Once inside the school, McDaniel said disc golf and its many aspects can be used as a model to help teach math, fitness, physics and other subjects.
Throughout the week, disc golf enthusiast Alan Sweeton also assisted at the clinic. Sweeton, who is blind, demonstrated how he overcomes his visual impairment to play the game he loves.
On Friday, as about 40 fifth graders from Sunset Park Center for Accelerated Studies looked on, Sweeton sank a 12-foot putt followed by a round of applause from the children.
Sweeton, 26, was diagnosed with brain cancer about a year and half ago and complications from surgery caused his eye sight loss. After becoming blind, disc golf was one of the few things he could resume, said Sweeton, who started playing seven years ago.
“It’s something that I used to do that I can still do. I didn’t want being blind to stop me,” said the New Jersey resident.
He just needs a little help because he can only see vague images and light contrast. Before he putts, a buddy waves a towel near his face then gradually nears the basket and stops followed by Sweeton putting threw the towel. Driving is similar, except Sweeton throws over the towel, just so no one is hit.
Back at the EDGE tent, more applause from the children as well as a smattering of ‘ooohs’ and ‘ahhhs’ were heard after Sweeton demonstrated a few of his drives.
Sweeton has taken part in similar fashion at other clinics in Pennsylvania, but this was his first time to be affiliated with EDGE and the USDGC. He plans to do more.
“I do like to teach,” he said.
Also Friday, long time pro Joe Mela dropped by the EDGE clinic to speak to students about the game and his involvement with it. Mela, who has been playing since 1983, long before many of the kids were born, told them how disc golf is a great full body exercise, brings lots of enjoyment, and can even bring some prize money.
He told the kids how important it was for the younger generations to embrace the sport.
“We want the children to really make this sport blossom,” Mela said.
The kids were mesmerized as Mela demonstrated various throws especially when he threw a roller that seemed to jog along the grass forever.
Bear the disc diving dog also made an appearance and showcased some of his disc retrieval skills. The kids were enamored with the black lab, who was wearing a yellow Innova jersey. His trainer said Bear once spent 30 seconds under water retrieving a disc at the 2005 Worlds.
After all of the demonstrations concluded, the kids were let loose to throw. Many were giggling and enjoying themselves.
Tyshondria Freeman, another fifth grader, enjoyed her putting experience and managed to sink a few eight-footers.
“I like when I was using my arms and using my eyes,” Freeman said after playing disc golf for the first time.