YORKTON - Yorkton has become a sort of hub in terms of disc golf, with some 20-plus courses now within a leisurely hour’s drive of the city.
The growth locally is far from unique with courses springing up in communities across Saskatchewan, in countries around the world, and a growing professional series of events.
If you tune into a professional tourney, and there is increasing coverage online with fine quality camera work and commentary, you might want to pick a favourite to follow.
One option for Canadians should be Simon Lizotte, who is really a disc golfer for the world.
Lizotte lives in the United States now, but was born in Germany, and has a definite connection to Canada.
In a recent interview with Yorkton This Week Lizotte explained his mother headed to Canada as an exchange student where “she met my dad. They ended up falling in love.”
An older brother would be born in Canada as the couple spend two, or three years here, and Simon said he was conceived in Canada. It was during the pregnancy “mom got a bit homesick and wanted to go home.”
So the couple headed to Germany, the plan being to stay a year, or so.
“But, Dad started liking it a bit more and Mom wanted to stay there,” so they did.
Lizotte spent his first 22 years in Germany before his first trip to the U.S.
In terms of disc golf, Lizotte credits his Dad with introducing him to the game early, having been an avid player in the earliest days of the sport.
“My Dad and his brother both got into it in their early 20s, back in the 80s, before disc golf had really become a thing,” he said.
The brothers had ran into someone with a golf disc, hardly the engineer-designed discs of today, and while they had local courses, started tossing discs.
“They were throwing in parks, on the streets, making up their own courses,” said Lizotte.
Even today his Dad is an avid thrower.
“He’s so in love with the game he probably still plays more disc golf than I do,” said Lizotte.
Given his Dad’s love of the sport it’s not a huge surprise he had his son throwing early.
Simon soon loved the sport as much as his Dad, in part because he was doing something with him.
“It’s always been my favourite thing to do with my Dad,” he said.
By the time Simon was 12-13 he was playing in tournaments, attending six or seven events at courses across Germany.
“We’d drive a couple of hours to play a real disc golf course,” said Simon, adding it was before his Dad finally helped establish a course in their hometown.
Simon said he actually started throwing long before tourney play. He said there are photos of him in the backyard with a disc in his hand about the same time he was learning to walk.
While Lizotte prospered as a player growing up in Germany, the game’s growth there has been somewhat limited based on space.
Germany is a relatively small country, with 80 million people.
“They don’t really have as much room as they’d like,” said Lizotte, adding open space tends to end up as soccer pitches, or natural preserves, not disc golf courses.
In the U.S. the game has exploded.
“The sport has been growing so much,” said Lizotte.
And, Lizotte has excelled, being rated in the top 10 in the world more often than not, and a record setter with a golf disc. He was the first person to throw a golf disc more than 900-feet, and he also holds the unofficial record for the fastest throw ever recorded at 144km/h (89,5mph).
“I was always the showman,” said Lizotte.
But, it is more than showmanship, so what makes him so good?
“The huge reason is because I’ve been doing it my entire life,” he said, adding he is physically well-suited to the sport, tall and long-armed which allows him to be what he termed “a human slingshot” with a disc in hand.
Throwing hard so often, often without proper warm-up when younger, has had its toil on the body.
“Throwing a disc is very explosive,” said Lizotte adding at 29 he feels it now, but he is not ready to leave the competitive game yet.
“I want to hang in there, at least another five years, hopefully another 10,” he said. “It’s just the coolest game. It’s always been like family. I don’t see myself wanting to do anything else.”