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TD Spotlight: John Baker


(This is the latest in a series coming to PDGA.com spotlighting the tournament directors of the PDGA Elite Series and beyond)

Tournament directors are often the unsung heroes of disc golf competition.

Their work begins months before tournament action begins and a lot of the time, their work is done behind the scenes to ensure that a quality event is taking place for the competitors.

In this installment of the PDGA’s TD Spotlight series, we quickly caught up with John Baker, the director of College Disc Golf.

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The record-setting field from the 2022 CDGNC. Photo: Conrad Meyer / PDGA

Baker, who has been involved with College Disc Golf for several years, recently hosted a record-setting field for the 2022 College Disc Golf National Championships in Marion, North Carolina as the event continues to grow year-in and year-out.

PDGA: What was your first experience running a disc golf event?

JB: For me, it has a personal bit when we talk about how I got here for College Disc Golf and my tournament director experience. When I first started getting heavily involved in disc golf, there were a lot of personal problems and trials that I was going through at the time. Disc golf was really that answer for me. I was really able to refocus my life from things that weren't so positive and really shift all of my time and energy at that time into disc golf. That led to me becoming the president of the Augusta University Disc Golf Club and then from there, I stepped up and took on a leadership role. We were traveling to St. Louis, Florida, a lot of places, for qualifiers, and really enjoying the fruits of our labor and everything that we did to gain recognition through the university.

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A record 75 schools were represented at the 2022 CDGNC. Photo: Conrad Meyer / PDGA

How did you get involved with College Disc Golf?

I started volunteering my time at the Hippodrome at the National Collegiate Disc Golf Championships and really committing a lot of energy to everything that Pete May and Alan Kane had going on. Next thing you know, Alan asked me what my future looked like. I was considering pre-engineering, but also business. I soon as I mentioned business, Pete said that's what we want you to do. Next thing I knew, I had an internship offer for not only College Disc Golf, but also ran events at the Hippodrome. That really led to me becoming the sole manager at the Hippodrome and running College Disc Golf National Championships while I was a full-time student.

Full Coverage of the 2022 College Disc Golf National Championship »

What is your advice to TDs?

To any potential TDs out there, I would say to just jump into the deep end and don't be scared, but also don't hesitate to reach out to the resources around you. All the great TDs, organizers and leaders that I've been acquainted with have always been supported by great people.

As a TD, you can run smaller events by yourself and you're going to work hard doing it and you can do it, but once you start bringing in people close to you, let them in your circle and bring them under your umbrella, you almost develop them in the way that you like things run, that's where you lead to great success. That's when you fill multiple courses instead of just one or two and that's when you can step up and running your B-Tiers and above.

Get involved with your local disc golf community, just as a volunteer. A lot of TDs are looking for support and people to help. Reach out to the people around you and learn as much as you absolutely can.

How has College Disc Golf grown with the sport over the past few years?

CDGNC started in 2007. At that time, we had around 10 teams. This year, we've grown to include 75 different schools and 522 competitors. This is the first year for College Disc Golf memberships and we've really stepped up in that area to grow to 850 members strong in our first year.

The growth of disc golf has been substantial across the board. Everyone has seen that. For us at College Disc Golf, it has exploded. This is my sixth year being involved with CDG and never have we gotten emails on the daily about new clubs wanting to start. It's been special to see.

More Information on Starting a College Disc Golf Club »

We put out a development guide and some other resources that teams have really been able to utilize to grow their clubs. For us, we used to hand hold each team and guide them in the direction they need to go to get access to school funding, to really get to the status that we would like to see all the organizations grow to. So instead of that one-on-one approach, we've been able to implement these systems and these resources to assist.

They're enabled and empowered to go seek sponsorship and to gain recognition through their university — everything that it really takes to get jerseys, discs and travel on the school's dollar. That's what we want them to do, to enjoy the College Disc Golf experience and take advantage of what other collegiate athletics get to do.

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