The tournament began with 10-year-old Vincent Goodman of Waterloo playing a subpar round of disc golf.
He was not the worst in the 10-and-under junior boys division, but if he continued playing the way he was he could not win at the Professional Disc Golf Association Junior World Disc Golf Championships.
But the second day of the four-day tournament, which was held in Emporia, Kan., saw an improvement in Vincent’s game.
“Going into the first round, I didn’t shoot well and I was in eighth or ninth place,” he remembered. “I just fought back to climb up the leader board.”
By the time the tourney ended, Vincent had climbed up to fourth in his division.
Following that first round, Vincent tied every other competitor at the top of his division in each subsequent round.
His father, Nic Goodman, said watching his son overcome the rough start filled him with pride.
“The first day was a family growth day, that’s for sure,” Nic, who has been playing disc golf for several years, said with a laugh. “It was great to watch him crack down and do what he needed to do to play better. It was so fantastic to watch.”
Vincent played especially well on the final day of the tournament, securing his fourth place finish.
“The golf that he played that day, I’m not sure I would’ve beaten him,” Nic said.
Disc golf resembles traditional golf. Players begin a hole from a tee pad and attempt to throw the disc into a basket in the least amount of throws. Players use various discs for different distances, like golfers use different clubs, and take penalties on their score for throwing their disc out of bounds and other violations.
A disc golf course was installed at Konarcik Park in Waterloo in 2015, attracting many locals to the sport.
This tournament marked the first year the PDGA had separated the junior category into its own tournament. It is the most notable tournament for disc golfers.
A total of 198 children competed in the tournament, coming from 40 states and five countries.
In Vincent’s division, 19 children played.
Disc golfers in the tournament played nine holes in the morning and nine in the afternoon, except on the last day when they played 18 consecutive holes.
Vincent’s journey to the tournament began when he decided to start playing the sport 2.5 years ago. After about a year, he started playing it competitively.
He had previously played baseball, but decided to pursue disc golf as his sport of focus.
“He made the decision that this was the sport he was going to play competitively,” Nic said. “He decided he was going to treat it like baseball.”
Since he started playing competitively, Vincent plays disc golf two to three times a week to practice. This often involves him playing at Konarcik Park or on baskets he has at home.
He has also played in tournaments throughout the area, including a large three-day tournament in St. Louis.
Those tournaments allowed Vincent to qualify for the Junior World Disc Golf Championships.
“Basically, I had to rack up points over all my tournaments,” he explained. “I got points for finishing first, second or third or whatever. So, I got invited to Junior World’s because I racked up enough points.”
Unlike at the world championships, however, Vincent would play against adults with more skill and experience than him at many of those tournaments. This led him to have a different goal at those events.
“With Vince it’s hard to compete with juniors because there’s just not that many of them,” Nic said. “So when he played with adults he wasn’t playing to win, but to just push himself to get better.”
With the world championships behind him, Vincent said he has a few other tournaments coming up this summer.
He and Nic both said they hope more children pick up the sport. To that end, Vincent said he is working to have disc golf as part of the physical education program at his school.