Disc golf gives Telluride teacher an athletic outlet

Joe Rovere, from Telluride makes his short birdie shot on the 13th hole at Riverbend Park Disc Golf Course in Palisade during the Grand Valley Disc Golf Open. Today and Sunday, 90 disc golfers will take on challenging courses in the Grand Valley.



Joe Rovere is a good example of what happens when an athlete combines hard work with natural ability.

In a span of four years, Rovere went from first picking up a disc golf disc to becoming one of the up-and-coming players in the world.

The 31-year-old Rovere is up for the Professional Disc Golf Association’s Rookie of the Year honors for the 2008 season. The award is given out at the PDGA World Championships next month in Kansas City, Kan., where Rovere will be competing.

“I have no idea how I got nominated,” Rovere said. “I didn’t hear about it until someone from the PDGA called me looking for a picture.”

A science teacher at Telluride Middle School, Rovere was in Grand Junction on Saturday as part of the Grand Valley Disc Golf Open. Rovere competed against 11 other pros in the open division during the two-day tournament at Palisade’s Riverbend Park.

The third round of the tournament begins at 9 this morning at Riverbend Park.

Rovere is entering his second year of playing at the professional open level after winning $2,115 in 14 tournaments in 2008. He finished fifth in the Colorado State Championships and was in the top 10 in 12 of the 14 events. He won the Colorado Open.

Because of Rovere’s teaching schedule, he’s been able to focus full time on disc golf tournaments during the summer. He has also made it a second source of income.

“I started playing these tournaments because I had all this free time,” Rovere said. “Then I started making money doing this, so it allows me to not need a second job in the summer, I just do this.”

Rovere grew up in South Dakota, and came to Colorado to teach at Rifle Middle School.

During one of his first summers in Colorado, he was taking a science class at Colorado Mountain College in Glenwood Springs. While there, he ran into some friends who invited him to play disc golf.

With his first throw, he was hooked.

“I started playing like crazy,” Rovere said. “I had played a lot of ultimate Frisbee throughout my life, so I had the dynamics down.”

Along with ultimate Frisbee, Rovere was a baseball pitcher when he was growing up. Both activities gave him natural arm strength.

“I’m a hard thrower,” Rovere said. “If you asked anyone, that’s how they would describe my game.”

Fellow pro Pete Wade has seen Rovere’s strength firsthand.

“Joe has a cannon of an arm, and is an brilliant putter,” Wade said. “But he’s also a great guy to be around.”

Like most athletes, Rovere was able to grow and progress in the sport with a lot of practice.

To get better, Rovere said he played 72 holes of disc golf in one outing. With that, he was able to fine-tune his throws.

“There are all kinds of different tosses,” Rovere said. “There is so much finesse in this game.

When I first started I was just whipping it, but over the last couple years I have started trying more finesse shots.”

In addition to a lot of practice and playing a variety of tournaments, Rovere said he was able to improve by mentally slowing the game down. Rovere tries to remember all of his shots when playing a course.

“I think disc golf is not so much about perfect physical execution, but to remember what you’ve done,” Rovere said. “If I throw a disc and it goes way out there, I have to remember that shot, and what I did wrong.

“It’s cataloguing all those shots, because you could be the hardest thrower in the world, but if you make the same mistake every time, you’ll be no good.”

Rovere said he will continue to get ready for the Disc Golf World Championships by practicing at the soccer field in Telluride. He’s using the world event, which attracts more than 1,000 disc golfers, as a measuring stick.

“These are the guys who can throw the farthest and most accurate,” Rovere said. “I’m excited to go there and it’ll be good to gauge where I’m at.”


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