Modern Disc Golf History in Canada (1970).
Disc golf was first invented in Bladworth, Saskatchewan, Canada in 1926. Ronald Gibson and a group of his Bladworth Elementary School buddies played a game of throwing tin lids into 4 foot wide circles drawn into sandy patches on their school grounds. They called the game Tin Lid Golf and played on a fairly regular basis. However, after they grew older and went their separate ways, the game came to an end. It wasn’t until the 1970s that Canadians would be introduced to modern disc golf at the Canadian Open Frisbee Championships in Toronto and the Vancouver Open Frisbee Championships in Vancouver, BC.
Disc golf play and competitions began in both Canada and the U.S. in the early to mid-1970s.
As of 2017, there are over 7000 disc golf courses. Before 1975 and the invention of the disc golf target called the disc pole hole, there were only a few mapped disc golf “object” courses in the U.S. and Canada. In 1970, you could count the number of designed courses, using the Frisbee to play golf and objects as holes, on one hand. Toronto, ON, Rochester, NY, Berkeley, CA. These were the first designed object disc golf courses, all completely unaware of the other’s existence.
In Canada, beginning in 1970, newly arrived Toronto residents, Ken Westerfield and Jim Kenner, years before the idea of disc golf courses and the forming of the DGA or the PDGA, played Frisbee golf daily on an 18 object hole course they designed in Queens Park, Toronto. In 1973, Canadian Gail McColl (co-founder of Discraft and Women’s World Champion) became a regular player at the park.
Westerfield and Kenner added disc golf to their other tournament events at the Canadian Open Frisbee Championships on Toronto Islands and their Vancouver Open Frisbee Championships (NAS sanctioned event) in Stanley Park. Vancouver, BC.
This was the beginning of modern disc golf and were the first disc golf tournaments in Canada, beginning as object courses, then later on Toronto Islands, the Canadian Open used permanently placed disc pole holes. Beginning in 1975, Mike Sullivan and his Toronto Island resident friends played natural object disc golf on Wards Island. In 1980, a pole hole course was designed and installed. This was the first 18 disc pole hole course in Canada. Through the 1970s and early 1980s, Westerfield produced many disc golf tournaments on the Toronto Islands disc pole hole course. In 1987, Ken Westerfield as Tournament Director with sponsor Irwin Toy and Bob Blakely (Canadian IFA Director), produced the PDGA World Championships on Toronto Islands. This was the first and only time this championship has been held outside of the United States.
Discraft, founded in the late 1970s by Jim Kenner and Gail McColl in London, Ontario, later moved the company from Canada to its present location in Wixom, Michigan. Discraft produces flying disc for all the disc sports including the Ultra-star. This disc was adopted as the standard for ultimate during the 1980s. In 1991 the Ultra-star was specified as the official disc for UPA tournament play and remains in wide use. In 2011, the Discraft Ultra-star was inducted into the USA Ultimate Hall of Fame for Special Merit.
The PDGA Disc Golf Hall of Fame induction for Ken Westerfield:
“Ken Westerfield is an icon of disc golf and one of the strongest overall competitors in flying disc sports of all time. His powerful and accurate sidearm throw is widely acknowledged as one of the best the sport has ever seen. He was one of the top players at the emergence of organized disc golf competition. He pioneered the growth of disc golf across Canada. Many Canadian players trace their introduction to disc golf to being mentored by Ken. His contributions are a huge part of the foundation of our sport”.
“A modest pioneer in a sometimes flamboyant industry, Jim Kenner has proven himself to be a brilliant innovator in the pursuit of flying disc excellence. Experimenting with both new shapes and materials, Kenner’s development of a unique line of flying discs has been punctuated with the introduction of disc designs so radical and inventive that they mark a turning point in the nature of the game. Though he could easily rest on his laurels as a pivotal developer of disc technology, Jim Kenner continues to contribute to the growth of disc golf as a consistent supporter and sponsor of events and players”.
Disc Golf Events, Awards and Timeline in Canada (1970-).
1926 – Disc golf was first invented in Bladworth, Saskatchewan, Canada.
1970 – Queen’s Park, Toronto. Ken Westerfield and Jim Kenner design their first object disc golf course.
1972-1985 – Canadian Open Frisbee Championships, Toronto and (1974-1977) Vancouver Open Frisbee Championships introduced Frisbee and the beginning of competitive disc sports.
1976 – The Canadian Open Frisbee Championships on Toronto Islands and the 1977 Vancouver Open Frisbee Championships, Vancouver, BC, NAS event in Stanley Park, presents the first disc golf tournaments in Canada. First as an object course, then using disc pole holes with chains and baskets.
1978 – Gail McColl is the Women’s World Disc Golf Champion
1979 – Discraft Company begins in London, Ontario. Today’s largest disc manufacturer for all disc sports, including disc golf.
1980 – First disc golf pole hole courses are designed and installed. Played as an object course since 1975, 18 pole holes were installed on Wards Island, Toronto, ON and later 9 holes on Pender Island, BC. In 1976, Winskill Park, Tsawwassen, BC, installed a 9 hole disc golf course. The pole hole baskets were homemade by locals. In the 1990s they were replaced with official Mach II pole holes.
1987 – World Disc Golf Championships (PDGA), Toronto Islands. This is the only time this annual championship has been played outside of the U.S.
Modern Disc Golf History in the U.S. (1970)
Two early coordinators of the sport are George Sappenfield and Kevin Donnelly, who, through similar backgrounds and the help of Wham-O, were able to individually spread the sport in their California cities. Donnelly began playing a form of Frisbee golf in 1959 called Street Frisbee Golf. In 1961, while a recreation leader and then recreation supervisor for the City of Newport Beach, California, he formulated and then began organizing Frisbee golf tournaments at nine of the city’s playgrounds he supervised. This culminated in 1965 with a fully documented, Wham-O sponsored, citywide Frisbee golf tournament. This highly publicized tournament included hula hoops as holes, with published rules, hole lengths, pars, and prizes; an event in which Walter Frederick Morrison, Frisbee inventor, attended.
Despite having never heard of the International Frisbee Association (IFA) that Ed Headrick and Wham-O had put together, or ever seeing a copy of the IFA Newsletter, Jim Palmeri, his brother, and a small group of people from Rochester, NY, had been playing disc golf as a competitive sport on a regular basis since August of 1970, including tournaments and weekly league play. By 1973, they had even promoted two City of Rochester Disc Frisbee Championship events which featured disc golf as the main event. In 1970, the Berkeley Frisbee Group established a standardized 18 hole object course on the Berkeley campus in California. Also in 1970, north of the border in Canada, an object disc golf course in Queens Park, Toronto. University of Michigan Nichols Arboretum in Ann Arbor had a mapped out Frisbee golf object course, designed in 1973.
1976, the introduction of the standardized disc golf target and the first players association. Ed Headrick of Wham-O introduced the formal disc golf target with chains and a basket called the disc pole hole. Also in 1976, Headrick formed the Disc Golf Association (DGA), then later the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA). Headrick abandoned his trademark on the term “Disc Golf,” and turned over control and administration of the PDGA to the growing body of disc golf players. “Steady Ed” Headrick began thinking about the sport during his time at Wham-O Toys where he designed and patented the modern day Frisbee. Headrick designed and installed the first standardized target course in what was then known as Oak Grove Park in La Cañada Flintridge, California. (Today the park is known as Hahamongna Watershed Park). Ed founded “The International Frisbee Association (IFA)”. Headrick coined and trademarked the term “Disc Golf” when formalizing the sport and patented the Disc Pole Hole, the first disc golf target to incorporate chains and a basket on a pole.
In 1979, Wham-O’s $50,000 Disc Golf Tournament was a significant turning point for disc golf. Held in Huntington Beach, California. The tournament was groundbreaking, first and foremost because of the cash involved, its massive payout right in the title, but also because the competitors had to qualify for an invitation. 72 qualifying events were established around the country, bringing in the best disc golfers from across the United States.
Ted Smethers took over the PDGA in 1982 to be run independently and to officiate the standard rules of play for the sport.
Ed Headrick died in 2002 at the age of 78. As per Ed’s wishes, his ashes were incorporated into a limited number of discs. The discs were given to friends and family and the limited remaining discs are for sale with all proceeds going to fund the “Steady” Ed Memorial Disc Golf Museum at the PDGA International Disc Golf Center in Columbia County, Georgia.
Disc Golf Events and Timeline in the U.S. (1970-).
1970 – The first “Frisbee Club” is formed in Rochester, New York and disc golf is played on a regular basis.
1972 – Rochester, New York becomes the first municipality in the world to hold an Annual City Disc Golf Championship.
1974 – Dan Roddick wins a brand new 1974 Datsun B-210 at the disc golf portion of the American Flying Disc Open in Rochester.
1975 – Oak Grove Disc Golf Course located within Hahamonga Watershed Park in Pasadena, California becomes the world’s first permanent disc golf course.
1976 – Ed Headrick patents the modern chain style target he called the “Disc Pole Hole” and organizes the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA).
1977 – The first PDGA tournaments are held in Mobile, AL and Northern New Jersey. The modern era of disc golf competition begins.
1982 – The PDGA becomes a player-run organization to schedule tournaments and formalize the rules of play.
The PDGA Disc Golf Hall Of Fame is an independent organization dedicated to the promotion of disc golf, its premier pioneers, and players. It was founded in 1993 by Lavonne Wolfe of Huntsville, AL. Lavonne also created what is now known as the Headrick Memorial Museum, a collection of memorabilia that help describe the history of our sport, now housed at the International Disc Golf Center in Appling, GA.
Disc Golf Hall of Fame PDGA.
1993 Vanessa Chambers | Dave Dunipace | Ed Headrick | Tom Monroe | Jim Palmeri | Dan Roddick | Ted Smethers
1994 Harold Duvall | Nobuya Kobayashi | Darrell Lynn | Dan Mangone | Doug Newland | Snapper Pierson | Lavone Wolfe
1995 Ken Climo | John David | David Greenwell | Johnny Roberts | Dr. Rick Voakes
1996 Mike Conger | Patti Kunkle | Rick Rothstein
1997 Steve Slasor | Elaine King | Jim Kenner
1998 Gregg Hosfeld | John Houck | Carlton Howard
1999 Sam Ferrans | Steve Wisecup | Tim Selinske
2000 Tom Schot | Royce Racinowski
2001 Stan McDaniel | Johnny Sias
2002 Alan Beaver | Gary Lewis
2003 Mark Horn | Brian Hoeniger | Dr. Stancil Johnson,
2004 Derek Robins | Geoff Lissaman | Johnny Lissaman | Marty Hapner
2005 Mats Bengtsson | Sylvia Voakes
2006 Chuck Kennedy | Kozo Shimbo
2007 Fred Salaz | Michael Travers
2008 Dan Ginnelly | Juliana Korver
2009 Crazy John Brooks | Lynne Warren | Michael Sullivan
2010 Charlie Callahan | Tomas Ekstrom | Brian Cummings
2011 Don Hoffman | Joe Feidt | Brent Hambrick
2012 Tim Willis | Jeff Homburg | Bob Gentil (New Zealand)
2013 Barry Schultz | Becky Zallek | Jim Challas | Ken Westerfield
2014 Don Wilchek | Jim Oates | Italian Victor Parra
2015 Gail McColl | Anni Kreml | J Gary Dropcho
2016 Joseph Mela | Ace Mason | Tita Ugalde
2017 John Bird | Des Reading | Brian Graham
Note: This information was referenced and time-lined from disc sport historical and biographical articles including U.S. and Canadian Disc Sports Hall of Fame inductions, Disc Sports Player Federations and other historical resources. This article was researched, written and compiled by Frisbee and disc sports historians. The history in this document may change as events and people are added. Linking or reproducing in whole or part is permitted. For more information contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
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