TERRE HAUTE —
The United States is home to more than 17,000 golf courses, according to a release by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, with more than 25 million people playing each year.
While it is not reaching that many people, disc golf is a growing entity that includes heavier driving discs and lighter ones for putting, among other specialty discs. Indiana alone is home to 83 courses, according to the Professional Disc Golf Association.
Director Bruce Rosselli of the Terre Haute Parks and Recreation Department is hoping to expand the reach of the disc golf course at Deming Park. This week, he had the baskets for the 18 holes replaced with those of higher quality, while planning to upgrade the old ones to place on another part of the park.
That would allow for Deming Park to be a host site for larger tournaments. Deming Park was the site of a national qualifying tournament in 2012. Rosselli also plans to put another nine-hole course at Voorhees Park to help grow the sport.
“These [new baskets] allow the disc to hit and fall into the basket. It’d be like playing regular golf where there was a lip in front of the hole or if it was oval instead of circular,” said Jason LaBella, the leader of the Crossroads Disc Golf Club.
LaBella is the tournament organizer for this weekend’s first tournament at Deming Park. LaBella said the tournaments are competitive but also a chance to donate to worthy causes. Cost is $20 to participate, with all proceeds going to the 14th and Chestnut Community Center. Last year LaBella said disc golf raised about $2,500 for charity in the Wabash Valley, including $700 for the Armed Forces Foundation.
LaBella became active in the sport when studying at Rose-Hulman, where was an NCAA Division III All-American in rifle. LaBella, who also tried out for the Olympic team in rifle, now serves as the Rose-Hulman coach in the sport.
He is also passionate about disc golf.
“He’s been educating me on the sport,” Rosselli said. “There’s people that have taken up the sport that can’t walk a regular golf course but can come here and play nine holes pretty quickly.”
Rosselli hopes to be able to attract a couple hundred people to town for tournaments throughout the year, adding to the city’s tourism.
“What we wanted to do is create more baskets here so we can have bigger tournaments,” Rosselli said. “The tournaments, ideal is to have 36 holes in one area for a tournament.”
LaBella, who has been organizing tournaments since 2009, said Deming Park can attract some of the top players in the Midwest.
“We’re bringing in a lot more people. Last year, we held a qualifier for nationals. The state director saw there was some easy spots, some difficult spots on the course. Plus, we’re centrally located. There’s a lot of really good players in Fort Wayne and Evansville so they can meet in the middle. Our courses have a lot more elevation shots than the other courses so people enjoy that.”
The competitors range from casual players to those capable of throwing the disc 300 feet and making a hole-in-one.
“We’ll have that all the way up to people that are sponsored by the disc manufacturers,” LaBella said.