Full Circle

CSUMB Women’s Disc Golf Bring Home National Championships

champions holding their trophies

(L-R) Bayli Miller, Mikaela Bogdan, Jenn Schopfer and Traci Alger celebrate their championship. (photo by Bob Carey, Gardner-Webb University)

An unlikely powerhouse

There they are, smiling and holding the national championship trophy.

Traci Alger, Mikaela Bogdan, Bayli Miller and Jenn Schopfer just got done blitzing the field by 35 strokes for the women’s championship in the 2016 National Collegiate Disc Golf Championships held in North Augusta, South Carolina.

It’s a good story, sure. But what makes it even better is all those people not pictured, people like Mary Ann Ebner, Merle Witvoet, Scott Keasey, Steve Bonar, Greg Pool and, of course, “Steady” Ed Headrick, “The Father of Disc Golf.” They all played a part in making Cal State Monterey Bay an unlikely powerhouse in this growing sport.

Ebner was the recreation program coordinator for the Wellness Recreation and Sport Institute in the early days of the campus.

“Everyone had an idea, which was great. There was so much energy around opening up programs to serve students,” said Ebner.

A perfect fit

Among those with big ideas were Keasey and Bonar, students in the Institute for Management and International Entrepreneurship, who shared a love of disc golf.

They often drove to Delaveaga in Santa Cruz to play there.

“I think we started talking about it on one of those drives. What if we put a disc golf course on CSUMB’s campus?” Keasey said. Ebner liked the idea, and learned more about it from Witvoet, an early disc golf advocate.

“Merle had a lot of knowledge of the game to share with me. It didn’t take much to sell me on it, it was a perfect fit. It wasn’t going to disrupt the natural environment,” Ebner said.

sharing a disc at a basket

(L-R) Mary Ann Ebner, Bayli Miller and Jenn Schopfer on CSUMB's disc golf course.

“We were talking to Mary Ann about putting a course in,” said Witvoet, who teaches a class in disc golf and coaches the CSUMB men’s and women’s teams. “And then the two students came along – Keasey and Bonar – and said ‘we’re putting a course in, are you with us?’ I said sure.”

The right time

Pool, now the web services lead in technology support services, signed on as advisor to the program and helped it get established.

“We came in at the right time with an idea that would bring students out of the dorm and create more activity in the heart of campus,” Keasey said.

Disc golf – as opposed to its more famous cousin “ball golf” – does not require manicured fairways and greens. The courses often wind through natural areas, marked by pads where players “tee off” and baskets where the discs eventually end up.

As such, it was well-suited to many areas on and around the new campus. But money was short, and even the low- expense sport of disc golf is not a no-expense sport.

However, Bonar and Keasey discovered something interesting. Just up the road – in Watsonville, in fact – was Headrick, who designed the modern Frisbee, invented the basket used in disc golf and designed more than 200 courses.

“Ed was super-generous to us,” Keasey said. Headrick helped design the CSUMB Cypress Course, located along Inter-Garrison across from the University Police Department, and provided much of the material, to be paid back by revenues from disc sales.

Building a reputation

Over the years, CSUMB continued to build a reputation in the sport. The men’s team became a consistent contender in national tournaments. And, two years ago, the women’s team made the trip to the nationals as well.

Mikaela Bogdan was part of that team.

She had played a little disc golf in high school and liked it. “It is a good thing to do when you are hanging out with your friends, because it is a pretty relaxed sport. Nobody is yelling at you to be somewhere. So when I got here I saw there was a class, I said I guess I will try that.”

She ended up joining the women’s team.

“It took me a while to even decide to go to the nationals the first year,” she said. “I said I am terrible, why would I want to go? But it is a great experience, you get to see what it is like to be in the tournament. So I went (to the 2015 tournament), and it was a lot of fun, and our women’s team ended up winning. So that was cool.”

Traci putting at a basket

Traci Alger (LS '12) takes her shot. (photo by Bob Carey, Gardner-Webb University)

Cool, indeed. The CSUMB women won by one stroke over Oregon, and returned in the spring of 2016 to defend their title in emphatic fashion. Bogdan was CSUMB’s top individual finisher in 2016, taking 4th place.

Over the years, a second disc golf course has been built on campus – the Oaks course located off General Jim Moore Boulevard. And last year, a dozen volunteers, mostly from CSUMB, helped create a nine-hole disc golf course at Los Arboles Middle School in Marina.

Men’s and women’s disc golf are club sports at CSUMB, supported by the university’s Sports Club Council and fundraising efforts.

“It is great to see how far it has all come,” Keasey said. “CSUMB is a known entity in disc golf. People in the sport know teams come to compete. I have a ton of pride in them for what they have accomplished.”

A growing sport

Steady Ed passed away in 2002. At his request, his ashes were molded into a limited edition set of flying discs. His son Daniel told Sports Illustrated: “He said he wanted to end up in a Frisbee that accidentally lands on someone’s roof.”

So now, when you call the Disc Golf Association, which was founded by Headrick, and ask for the general manager, who do you get?

Scott Keasey, of course.

He worked in the Bay Area for a while after graduation, but was happy for the opportunity to come back south and work to promote this growing sport.

“It is low-impact, low-cost. The courses fit well into places you might not be able to do other things. Most of the courses are free; families can play together,” said Keasey, who said participation in the sport is growing every year.

Steady Ed would be proud.