DAVE FELDBERG IS A CHAMPION OF HIS CRAFT, BUT NOT WITH A CLUB.
Gusts of wind reaching 45 miles per hour could not prevent the Colorado State Championships of Frisbee golf from taking place this past weekend in Palisade.
According to tournament directors, Dave Feldberg was the first person in Colorado history to successfully defend his title as he shot an even-par-80 in three rounds. Valerie Jenkins, the top-ranked woman’s player in the world, shot a 232 to win the woman’s title.
Feldberg, 31, turned pro eight years ago and has been making his living on the road ever since. It wasn’t easy for Feldberg, who is on the verge of cracking $40,000 for the Professional Disc Golf Association tour money list this year.
Feldberg went pro after placing seventh overall in the Amateur World Championships. He joined a group of guys traveling the country in a Winnebago.
“They were the first group of people to try to make a living out of disk golf,” Feldberg said. “They asked me if I wanted to go. They chose me out of all the people they could have chose, and I lived in a luggage rack in the back of a motor home for a year. I didn’t even have a bed.”
Feldberg’s role has swapped from rookie to mentor since then, taking six other golfers, as Feldberg calls it, into a motor home for this past trip across the country. The group ranges anywhere from novices trying to push their game to the next level to top-ranked pros. Feldberg’s girlfriend and pro Melody King accompanies him on all his trips. King placed second for women in the tournament.
After the group arrived in Palisade, several of the pros, including Feldberg, Jenkins and up-and-comer Cale Leiviska, gave roughly two hours of lessons Thursday for any player interested. Spectators were amazed at the thoroughness of the lessons, as well as the accessibility of the players throughout the tournament. Unlike professional golf, the players joked and talked strategy with the gallery that ranged anywhere from two to twenty people during the weekend.
On the fifth hole of the second round Sunday, Feldberg left his drive along the out of bounds line of the left fairway and turned to one fan he made eye contact with.
“It didn’t feel right in my hand,” Feldberg said. “I should have backed away.” The two then talked for several moments as if the fan was Feldberg’s caddy, speaking about the importance of sticking with your pre-shot routine.
Several holes later, that same fan received a tip from Leiviska regarding different shot techniques depending on hole location and wind direction. Leiviska offered his tip after the fan asked a question while Leiviska was walking to his shot, something that would never happen in another sport.
Feldberg and Leiviska don’t know how long they will play for, but both folfers understand they will not be able to play forever. Feldberg graduated from the University of Oregon several years after becoming a pro, and Leiviska is on pace to graduate from the University of Minnesota at the end of this year.
“It was awesome getting a degree,” Feldberg said. “Some people have tried to chase the dream, and when its over they have nothing and they end up in a trailer somewhere.”
Feldberg took home over $1,000 for his victory in the tournament, although on Saturday the tournament directors weren’t sure how the tournament was going to be finished. Fierce winds forced co-tournament directors Josh Fritz and Jason Gaskill to change the format. It was originally supposed to run two rounds of twenty holes Saturday and one round during Sunday, but only one round of 20 holes was played Saturday due to weather. The final two rounds were changed to 18 holes and played Sunday.
Crowd favorite and Colorado native Joe Rovere from Telluride placed fifth in the tournament, shooting 197.
Peter Shives won the Grand Masters class (50 years old and up), shooting 209. Geoff Hungerford won the Masters class (40 years old and up) with a three-round total of 216.