Although the world’s first disc golf course is nestled in the Pasadena area, it was Emporia, Kansas, that offered Violet Main an eye-opening experience when it came to the sport.
While competing in the Professional Disc Golf Association’s Junior World Championships in early July, she was surrounded by stunning courses and some of the best disc golf talent that the world has to offer.
“It was almost too over the top,” said Main, a South Pasadena resident. “Most of these girls that I played with have been home-schooled their entire lives. They have stations in their backyards where they putt for 20 minutes, drive for 20 minutes for like two hours every single day. And I realized that disc golf is their life.”
Main’s training is less regimented but proved just as effective. She took third place in the competition, showing that she’s one of the premier amateur disc golf athletes worldwide.
The object of disc golf, whose scoring is similar to traditional golf, is to get a hard plastic disc to its target, a free-standing metal basket strewn with chains, in as few throws as possible.
Ed Headrick, a toy inventor who lived in South Pasadena, is referred to as the “Father of Disc Golf” because of his patents of the Frisbee in 1966 and the Disc Pole Hole in 1975. According to PDGA.com, the origin of the sport is unclear, but seems to have emerged in the mid-’60s as a recreational activity and was later included in the 1975 World Frisbee Championships.
That same year, Headrick built the first official disc golf course, Oak Grove Park, which is where Main practices today.
Although she also dedicates time to shot put as a member of South Pasadena High School’s track and field team, it’s Oak Grove that has become a sanctuary for Main. She first tried the sport in grade school, then took a few years off before beginning to take it seriously roughly four years ago. Ever since, she’s been going to the course as often as she can to throw, practice putting and just have fun.
As the COVID-19 pandemic forced restrictions upon nearly every area of her life, getting to the course became essential to Main’s mental health.
“I would just go to the course and spend time there,” the SPHS senior said. “Every time I was stressed or just feeling isolated at home or just claustrophobic, I would always come here.”
There was always the comforting sight of familiar faces on the course, and people she didn’t recognize usually recognized her. Her disc golf network, which includes local amateur disc golfer Jennifer Janssen, still existed in spite of the chaotic outside world.
Main continued training, almost in a carefree way at times, and Janssen saw her improvements firsthand.
“She’s just so strong and coordinated and she’s done other sports, too,” Janssen said. “So I think it’s just in her competitive nature to try to get better. And she knew she could do it, so she improved pretty quickly. It was just practice.”
Main’s improvement earned her a sponsorship from Innova, one of the largest disc manufacturers in the sport.
Disc golf is accessible for males and females, but the sport remains male-dominated. Men tend to have the advantage of being naturally stronger — although Main can out-throw many she meets.
“I just need more women to get in this sport because it’s amazing watching women throw a disc far and come together,” Main said. “It’s just something about female power. It’s different in this sport.”
Even though she got her start recreationally and not within a league, Main and Janssen hope to grow the female presence at Oak Grove, their home course in the Pasadena area. There is currently no women’s league at Oak Grove, but there is “OG Mamas Disc Golf Club,” a time carved out on Thursdays at 5 p.m. to introduce women to the sport in a fun, casual way.
El Dorado Park in Long Beach also hosts “Sundays Are for the Ladies” and La Mirada has “LaMi Ladies,” leagues that are picking up momentum as COVID-19 restrictions limiting organized play are lifted.
“We’re more engaging. We laugh a lot,” Janssen said. “Naturally, we don’t throw as far as most of the guys, but when we get there, it’s just really cool to encourage each other and see how far we can get it out there. It’s fun to throw with the ladies.”
Increasing women’s engagement in the sport is at the forefront for Main as she continues her disc golf career and personal life. She plans to go to college and perhaps become a firefighter, a career she is considering because the schedule fits with her disc golf routine.
Her next step in the sport is playing professionally, which begins with the La Mirada Summer Classic on Aug. 14. Though practicing at the course is her happy place, she’s eager to show her ferocity in pro tournament play.
“I love having the pressure. I love having good competition,” said Main. “I’m extremely competitive on and off the course and it doesn’t matter what it is. Playing Monopoly or whatever, it doesn’t matter. But I will always want to win, and I think that extra little pressure will definitely help excel my game.”