By: Ben Brown
Due to the distancing requirements of COVID-19, many people aren’t able to work out their competitive muscles playing pick up basketball at a park, playing football with their friends, or engaging in club sports. For some people, this means they simply lost the will to push themselves in a competitive setting, but for senior Thomas Ortiz, the pandemic only succeeds in aiding his rise to success on the Disc Golf scene.
Ortiz told the torch that his passion for disc golf arose out of the ashes of his former frisbee fondness, ultimate frisbee. Ultimate Frisbee is a very close contact sport, where you’re constantly in someone’s face trying to block them or steal their catch. With COVID-19, ultimate frisbee became a thing of the past, and Ortiz needed a new obsession.
“With a frisbee shaped hole in my heart, disc golf seemed to be the perfect fit, and it was,” says Ortiz. “Disc Golf is the perfect pandemic sport. You can play by yourself and it will still be a great time or you can play with friends. It’s very easy to maintain 6 feet while playing disc golf due to the nature of where the disc lands, it usually forces people to be 6 feet apart.”
To an outsider, it would seem that there isn’t much to disc golf. Simply throw a frisbee into a basket right? It may be a surprise to know that each disc actually has its own set of stats (aerodynamics, glide, tendency of lateral disc motion during first stage of airtime) that are dictated by a numerical value, so each disc requires a different set of skills.
“With so many different combinations of numbers with 4 different defining qualities of a disc, there are a lot of discs to master,” says Ortiz. “Everytime I get a new disc it feels like a challenge to me to see how far I can push the disc to make it do what I need to do.”
A big part of Ortiz’s love for disc golf are the people he plays with. He plays with his friend/disc rival, Dylan Henson, as well as their youth pastor, Colt Stubblefield.
“(Colt) is a big motivation for us to get better, because he is light years better than us,” says Ortiz. “Although, Colt has been playing for almost 13 years longer than us.
This group didn’t exist on it’s own though. Someone had to bring them together. Although Dylan Hensen is athletic, he had no interest in disc golf until Ortiz introduced him to it.
“Thomas is the one who got me into disc golf,” says Henson. “I’d never really been interested in it prior to playing with Thomas, but I decided I’d give it a shot. Thomas inspires me by creating this competitive atmosphere that I thrive off of, Thomas makes a good shot, I have to follow up with a better one.”
This rivalry isn’t one sided either. Both Ortiz and Henson felt the need to comment on it when asked how they improve their game.
“My friend Dylan and I are pretty equally matched,” says Ortiz. “Dylan is most likely going to be a D1 athlete for football or baseball, so having him as my equal is a huge motivation to get better.”
“I feel like his biggest strength is his mental game,” says Henson. “He tries to get in your head, he makes you reconsider how you want to approach the basket, which typically disrupts your next throw before you even pick up the disc.”
Another aspect of Ortiz’s love for disc golf is the community. Since the beginning, he’s loved meeting members of the community and learning what they have to teach.
“Every interaction I have had was very positive,” says Ortiz. “The people I’ve met don’t care how skilled you are, they are just happy that the disc community is growing. People are always happy to help you with any information you could need.”
Thomas Ortiz is living proof that there’s some people a pandemic simply can’t stop. If their passion is restricted because of a virus, people like Ortiz will find a new virus-proof hobby. Not only does Ortiz push himself to get better, he pushes people like Dylan Henson and others in his community to get better alongside him, proving that even from six feet apart, people can still get better together.