When Ron James entered the advanced senior grandmasters division at the Professional Disc Golfers Association (PGDA) Amateur Disc Golf World Championships he knew he wanted to leave the tournament with at least 10th place.
He’d done well enough during the first six rounds spread over four days to enter the semifinals July 13. Of the 40 who entered the category only 14 made it to the semifinals with the top four going to the finals at the Emporia, Kan.-hosted tournament.
Going into the semifinals, James was in ninth place. On the course the man in eighth place was five strokes ahead. He knew the man in eighth place from other world championships and knew the pair had similar games with really close scores.
“I’m going, ‘you know what? Eighteen holes, making up five stokes, that’s not going to happen. So I’m not going to get to eighth,’” he said.
Looking at the person in 11th place, James knew unless he played really poorly he would be able to get the 10th place finish. James shot a 63 in the semis and left the tournament with a total of 440 and +39 par, giving him 10th place.
The world championships also provided him a chance to meet other advanced senior grandmaster disc golfers and to have a lot of fun.
“The people that I’ve met and just the experience, it was just great,” James said.
James enjoys the sport because it allows him to go into wooded areas and enjoy nature.
“Especially if you’re playing by yourself, you can get back into these areas and I’ve seen cranes 15-20 feet away, I’ve had deer almost walk up to me, bald eagles – I’ve seen them flying overhead – I just love nature,” he said, “it’s just a very relaxing sport for me.”
He has only been playing disc golf for a bit more than a decade. When in his 50s he was looking for an activity that wouldn’t cost a lot and could be done alone.
“Plus I was pretty good with a Frisbee growing up so I thought I would just give it a shot,” he said.
James discovered disc golf 10 years before he became active in the sport through playing softball.
“I was playing in the Badger State Games over in [Madison’s] Elver Park and they had the inaugural year of disc golf and I looked at it and thought ‘I could do that,’” he said. “Well, it took me 10 years to pick up a disc and actually throw it.”
The first course James saw in 1992 was also the first course he played. He doesn’t visit Elver Park as much as he used to but still makes stops there along with Hiestand, Token Creek and Capital Springs
Like any athlete, James keeps himself equipped. He usually brings 17 discs with him to a course and has a total of approximately 400 discs at his disposal. The reason for having the large quantity of discs is similar to why a traditional golfer has multiple clubs – for the different terrain and conditions encountered on the course.
In addition to being an avid disc golfer, James is also the course professional at the newly opened course at Capital Springs county park. As the course pro, he changes the pin locations at each hole once a week, takes care of weed and erosion control and other maintenance duties.
James was involved in the creation of the Capital Springs course; he attended several of the site walk-throughs with the course designer.
For those interested in pursuing the sport, James suggests the best way to learn is to play with someone who already knows the game. He suggests people visit the Mad City Disc Golf website to find information on courses and contact the leagues in the Madison area. James, a member of Mad City Disc Golf, said it was through this group that he learned to play.
“You’re going, you’re playing with guys who are usually a lot better than you,” he said, “these guys are more than willing to teach you how to get better.”