For the last month or so, anyone slightly familiar with the disc golf world has been made aware of the shakeup between some of the game’s top touring professionals and their company sponsors. Both Innova and Discraft had (and still have) some incredible names on their roster, but one by one, many of the game’s best announced that they would be leaving their respective sponsors, only to join on with an unannounced disc golf company at the time. As of January 1, 2013, that company was announced to be Prodigy Disc out of Georgia.
Prodigy Disc made a splash in both the disc golf and social media world with a simple video that was shared by the newly acquired pros; then many disc golf companies and casual players followed suit. While the company is continuing to raise the bar in disc manufacturing, they have assembled quite the team of sponsored players. Their roster now includes: Will Schusterick, Nikko Locastro, Ricky Wysocki, Paul Ulibari, Cale Leiviska, Cameron Colglazier, Jeremy Koling, Garrett Gurthie, Catrina Allen, Paige Pierce and Sarah Hokum. Pretty impressive start!
While the company has provided information on the four drivers that are set to release this January, there is little known about the discs other than the information posted on their Facebook page and the Professional Disc Golf Association’s website. A piece of information that has been brought to our attention, though — and something we will focus on in this article — is the stated “vested interest” of the players on the roster. “Vested interest” is simply defined as: “A personal stake or involvement in an undertaking or state of affairs, especially one with an expectation of financial gain.”
We, personally, don’t know much about sponsorship packages with professional players, but we do know that they not only get a bunch of free gear, but monetary compensation for tournament entries and clinic appearances. Making a life as a professional disc golfer must be an incredibly tough living, as the exposure to the general public is still limited and the winning purses aren’t much. That being said, what other than “vested interest” would make you jump ship from disc golfer powerhouses like Innova and Discraft, who pick up the tab on several expenses?
Not having any affiliation with Prodigy Disc or their sponsored players, we are hard pressed to know what exactly “vested interest” is means, but we can speculate. Is each player a shareholder in the company? That would sum up “vested interest” pretty well for us! Then not only are the players getting free gear and paid expenses, but they actually have a real obligation to want to sell the Prodigy Disc brand and their discs — as the more revenue the company creates, the more money that goes into the player’s pockets! Maybe this is completely incorrect, and “vested interest” simply means that they have an interest in growing the company by growing the game. These players are highly in tune with what the disc golf world likes, or maybe better yet, needs. They could just simply relay information back to the powers that be at Prodigy Disc, and define that as “vested interest.” We may never know.
As amazing as playing disc golf all over the world would be, some look at the disc golf touring professional as a labor of love. There isn’t a ton of money in it and there are a lot of traveling expenses incurred along the way. Not to mention you are away from you family and friends for a good bit of the year. While the purses to some tournaments are quite impressive, there are many instances where the majority of touring professionals probably lose money playing in, and traveling to a tournament. If these players can’t make money and a living, will they keep doing it? If the professional circuit doesn’t continue to thrive, will it hurt the sport? Will Prodigy Disc’s “vested interest” continue to attract more players and disc golf companies that help leverage the brand to new heights, ultimately promoting the sport and cutting bigger checks to those that are in the inner circle? Once again, who knows, but it’s a neat concept to think about.
Our opinion is that the growth of the sport on the recreational level will continue to leverage the sport into the direction of mainstream recognition. While the touring professionals are incredibly talented and fun to watch, how many Will Schusterick’s are out there? Now, how many casual disc golfers are out there? Disc golf in schools, a positive impact on the environment, and high amounts of usage of disc golf courses by the casual disc golfer will help spearhead this movement; not the professional tour. More demand of courses by disc golfers will result in more supply of courses. More courses should eventually provide the framework for more players — and more players are what we all want for this sport.