Tyler Tannatt was in college after graduating from Johnston High School in 2005 when he was hit with crippling anxiety and depression.
“I played sports my whole life — baseball, basketball, soccer, football; you name it. All the way through high school. Then I went off to college and just got really homesick,” he said.
He began to suffer panic attacks so powerful that he could barely leave his room.
Relief came when a few friends introduced him to a new game.
“Some friends were playing disc golf and they said, ‘Come out. We’ll give you a couple of discs and just fling them around.’ I was so terrible. I was so terrible when I started playing, like most people.”
But being outdoors with friends lifted the burdens from his mind.
“I just started playing pretty much every day to keep me occupied — to keep my mind occupied,” Tannatt said. “I’ve been playing ever since.”
That devotion and passion, led Tannatt into his career as owner of Wander Disc Golf event planning and sport supplier, and the volunteer tournament director for this week’s Disc Golf Pro Tour stop at Pickard Park in Indianola, Friday through Sunday.
The Des Moines Metro Disc Golf Club is also supporting the event by incorporating their Des Moines Challenge disc golf tournament into the event.
Along with Pickard Park, the Des Moines Challenge will involve the Walnut Ridge disc golf course in Johnston, the Big Creek disc golf course in Polk City and the Ewing Park disc golf course in Des Moines.
World’s top disc golf athletes coming to central Iowa
More than 150 of the world’s top disc golf competitors will be in Indianola for the DGPT this week, including James Conrad, crowned the world’s greatest disc golf athlete two weeks ago at the PDGA Professional Disc Golf World Championships in Utah.
Conrad threw what many have called the greatest shot ever in disc golf, which came after making a hole-in-one earlier in the tournament. The clutch shot on hole 18 forced a playoff against five-time world champion Paul McBeth. Conrad, of course, walked away with the trophy.
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Because both Conrad and McBeth will compete in Indianola, fans are hoping for another match-up.
Also competing in the tour stop is Pickard Park’s disc golf course designer and five-time world champion Juliana Korver.
Another roughly 400 of Iowa’s top disc golf athletes are expected to be in attendance, too.
Because both the DGPT and the Des Moines Challenge competitor lists are full, registration is closed. Current PDGO membership is required to register for the Des Moines Challenge.
Seth Fendley, the director of disc golf administration and operations for the DGPT, said that despite forecasts for rain this weekend, as long as there isn’t any lightning, play will go on.
“We go on lightning delay when lightning is within a certain distance of the course — typically, it is within 15 miles,” he said via email. “Play continues when it is just raining — rain does not really influence the flight of the disc; it has more of an impact on how well the players can grip their discs.”
Wind also won’t cause the tour to be delayed, Fendley said. But wind will definitely change how a player approaches their game, he said.
The professional tour is the premier event for the unveiling of the newly updated Pickard Park gold- and silver-level layouts of the park’s disc golf course. Increased difficulty, length and precision highlight the 9,700-foot par-64 gold layout and the 8,600-foot par-65 silver layout.
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The pros will compete at Indianola’s Pickard Park, which is located at 2205 E 2nd Ave., while other divisions will play at Walnut Ridge, Big Creek and Ewing Park.
Fendley said the tour picked the Des Moines area and Pickard Park, in particular, for several reasons.
The first was timing. Because some European travel is still closed due to the pandemic, planners for the original event scheduled for Norway had to scramble for a second location, Fendley said. DGPT had already been talking with the Des Moines Challenge organizers to partner on an event in 2022, so a call was made in March to see if they could line up schedules for this year.
Another reason for choosing Pickard Park is the park’s history, its challenging layout, and the fact that the course is in excellent condition, Fendley said.
Doug Bylund, the city’s director of parks and recreation, said the course was built in 1999.
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The park also hosted the 2004 Pro World Championships, so the DGPT already knew the course was capable of hosting competitive professional play.
The park is a former farm. The land was donated to the city in the 1970s, Bylund said. Because the park is so large, the disc golf course was designed for a variety of skill levels. Each of the 18 holes has three tee boxes that allow for long, medium and short lengths for each hole. For professionals, the course will be challenging due to that length and the variety in the course including up hills, downhills and obstacles, like a big pond.
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Since the decision was made to move the DGPT to Pickard Park, Bylund said dozens of volunteers have put in thousands of hours of time sprucing up the course.
Fendley, with the DGPT, said one of the most important reasons to bring the event to Indianola is the course’s outstanding condition.
“With the innovations that have come into the game, they have continued to adjust the course to make it competitive for the top-level professionals,” he said.
What is the Disc Golf Pro Tour?
This year’s tour features 11 events across the country, starting in February in Las Vegas. The championship will be held in October in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The tour in its current format dates back to 2016, while the professional association, the Professional Disc Golf Association, has roots as far back as the 1960s. In its current form, the tour is designed to allow athletes an efficient tour format — rather than zig-zag across the country, Fendley said, competitors finish each leg of the tour on Sundays, drive to the next location and begin practice on the course by the following Tuesday. Before coming to Indianola, the tour was in Illinois. After the Iowa leg, the tour heads to Michigan and Minnesota before circling back to Illinois.
The tour also works closely with players and event locations to standardize play. For example, some courses will mark out of bounds with paint, a rope or stakes. The tour dictates white paint and white yard whiskers, Fendley said.
Another change to the sport starting in 2016 that has continued to grow and develop every year are the cash payouts to top players. In 2016, the tour doubled the funds added to the overall purse. Since then, the amount has doubled again, to $20,000.
“Before we redeveloped the tour in 2016, players were just barely scraping by,” Fendley said. “We are bringing in more money so professionals can make a living.”
An additional change to the sport, Fendley said, is bringing in more media sponsorships. The tour just closed a deal with ESPN2 to cover some of its events.
The future of the sport
Fendley says he thinks the future for disc golf is unlimited. The pandemic brought thousands of people outdoors, increasing exposure to disc golf courses, and with ever-growing media coverage and corporate sponsorships, he says the future looks solid.
One change coming for the tour is a bidding process so locations can lock in a one- to three-year event contract. Fendley said the change is going to create hot spots all over the country for the sport.
And with the development of a fan base will come better grass-roots feeder channels for developing talent, he said.
“In the next five to 10 years, we think it will be more difficult to get into our tour, but also, we see more lower-tier professional opportunities developing,” he said.
The tour’s local volunteer director, Tyler Tannatt, who now lives in Ankeny with his wife and soon-to-be 1-year-old son, agrees that the sport’s trajectory will only continue to swing upward.
His company, Wander Disc Golf, manages disc golf events and retails disc golf sportswear, including jerseys, hats and socks.
But perhaps more importantly, he is structuring his company around the gifts disc golf has given him — a portion of the company’s profits benefit mental health organizations. Along with disc golf therapy, as he calls it, Tannatt discovered a hormonal imbalance that is treated successfully today.
“I feel great again — that’s my reason for my brand, to share my story, to share my experiences so that if there are other people out there struggling, they can at least see that I’ve gone through it, you can get through it; it’s not the end of the world; you can get to be who you want to be.”
Tannatt is echoing the father of disc golf, “Steady” Ed Headrick, who said in an interview at the 1993 PDGA Professional World Championships that disc golf has been a gift to “the tremendous multitude of wandering souls.”
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Want to go?
Live-streaming: The competition’s three days will be streamed on the tour’s platform, theDisc Golf Network. Daily recaps and streaming of the third day will also be available for free on the Disc Golf Pro Tour’sYouTube channel.
Spectators are welcome to attend the professional events at Pickard Park as well as the events at the Ewing, Big Creek and Walnut Ridge courses. Tickets are required for the professional rounds at Pickard Park. Spectators can attend the rounds at Ewing, Big Creek and Walnut Ridge for free.
As of Friday, more than 700 of the available 1,000 tickets had been sold.
Tickets are available on the tour’s website, DGPT.com. More information about this weekend’s events can be found at DesMoinesChallenge.com.
Ticket packages are:
- A 3-day VIP spectator pass for $107 that offers access to on-course guided pod spectating including all general admission areas as well as a commemorative event disc by Discraft and sticker.
- A 3-day general admission spectator pass for $35.80 that offers access to all three spectator zones viewing of holes 1-5, 6-8 and 18.
- A Friday VIP spectator pass for $30.13 that offers access to on-course guided pod spectating as well as all general admission areas.
- A Saturday VIP spectator pass for $35.80 that offers access to on-course guided pod spectating as well as all general admission areas.
- A Sunday VIP spectator pass for $47.14 that offers access to on-course guided pod spectating as well as all general admission areas.
Details on the DSM Challenge’s schedule can be found at DesMoinesChallenge.com.
Men tee off in the morning; women tee off in the afternoon.
Male and female elite professional division tee times, at Pickard Park:
- Round 1, Friday: 7:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.
- Round 2, Saturday: 7:30 a.m.- 4 p.m.
- Round 3, Sunday: 7:30 a.m.- 4 p.m.
An awards ceremony will immediately follow Sunday’s final round at tournament central at Pickard Park.
Male and female Pool B, Pool C, Pool D schedule:
- Round 1, Friday: Shotgun start at 9 a.m.
- Pool B: Big Creek, Polk City
- Pool C: Walnut Ridge, Johnston
- Pool D: Ewing, Des Moines
- Round 2, Saturday: Shotgun start at 9 a.m.
- Pool B: Ewing
- Pool C: Big Creek
- Pool D: Walnut Ridge
- Round 3, Sunday: Shotgun start at 8:30 a.m.
- Pool B: Walnut Ridge
- Pool C: Ewing
- Pool D: Big Creek
An awards ceremony will immediately follow at tournament central at Pickard Park, in Indianola.
Teresa Kay Albertson is a reporter for the Des Moines Register and Indianola Record Herald. Reach her at email@example.com or 515-419-6098.