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What's in a Name?

Through most of its 36 year history, the name of our association has been the subject of discussion and debate. In founding the organization, Ed Headrick chose the ambitious name “Professional Disc Golf Association” as a challenge to what the game might actually become. Ed thought that adding money to the game would build interest from the public and make play more exciting. He famously said, “When they’re putting for the cash I want to see their hands sweat.” In fact, all of the early members were actually “pros” who were playing for cash prizes, but the tiny amount of money that was available made the term “disc golf pro” an inside joke for many years. Also, the game was at such a low level of development that there were virtually no opportunities for “working pros” who could make a living in other aspects of the sport. Slowly, over the years, the game actually began to grow into its name. Opportunities for professional play and purse amounts gradually developed to the point that people outside of the sport might actually be impressed by statistics that we could quote when they asked for details on event purses, numbers of events or annual winnings of our top players. And, because of the explosion of course installations, competitive events and the disc golf industry in general, there was an even more impressive growth in the number of legitimate earning opportunities for “working pros.” While we might still suffer by comparison with many other longer-established professional sports, we had our growth very quickly and it turned out that Ed was right; there actually could be “professional disc golf.” 

However, at the same time that the professional aspects of disc golf were growing so rapidly, there was a broader and lower profile aspect of the sport that was developing even more quickly. While many of us were marveling at the dominance of King Climo, lots and lots of people were taking up disc golf just for the fun and challenge of the game. On every one of the new disc golf courses that were sprouting up around the world, amateur players were the vast majority of those new disc golfers. This historical sequence of events was a bit unusual. Take our ball golf cousins for example, there were many, many years of local amateur play before anybody even thought about the idea of organized play for money. (specifics?) We turned that history upside down. Our very first sweaty-palmed shots at PoleHoles were for money long before we had strong local clubs and activities to support the game.  Many of our continuing challenges in developing the sport come from the fact that we’re still filling in the local roots to support our vision of a fully-blossoming professional game.

Through this period of our development, we’ve counted on the PDGA to be the centerpiece of our organizational development. Of course, lots and lots of separate efforts combine to move us along, but PDGA has been our mothership. And, that’s been a key part of the issue that has kept coming up about our name. Much of our explosive growth has been among non-professional players. Obviously, newcomers to the game will not begin as pros. The vast numbers of recreational players enjoying our many courses, represent the awesome potential of our future growth. So, how do we most effectively reach those candidates for our continued expansion? Obviously, we’d like to get them hooked up with our information and activities. Reaching only ten percent of those folks would represent a huge pop in our numbers. Somebody’s got to talk to these people and give them the great news about what’s going on in our sport. There’s a lot more to the game than just hacking around the course with your buddies. Sure, that’s fun, but we can help you have even more fun. But, you can see where this is going, because you may have had this experience yourself. You see a new player at your course and you think that she may be a good candidate to get more involved in the game. So, confident that you’re about to bring another soul to the light, you say, “Hey, you know, you’re pretty good. You should join the PDGA.” Flattered, she says, “Thanks! What’s the PDGA?” And there’s the rub. You reply,” It’s the Professional Disc Golf Association.” You know where it goes from there. The next ten minutes are spent with you explaining why it’s a good idea for someone who has been playing two weeks to join our “professional” organization. And, for most of that time, you’re explaining why she doesn’t have to worry about the “professional” part of our name. “Almost 80% of our members are amateurs. Maybe you succeed with your pitch and maybe you don’t.  And this is with your engaging personality on hand to close the deal. Potential members who are surfing across our website on their own will be even less likely to realize that our organization is for them as well.

It is this very disconnect that has been the catalyst for discussions about the PDGA name over many years. This question has been raised a number of times by the membership and never resolved. It is for that reason that the current PDGA Board has agreed to take another look at the issue. What they are considering is a new approach that may preserve what we like best about our current name while removing some of its apparent limitations for our future growth. What is currently being considered is to retain the Professional Disc Golf Association as an entity specifically dedicated to our professional members. Additionally, we would add an overriding organizational name that would also use our well-established and trademarked moniker, “PDGA,” that being the Players' Disc Golf Association. The point of course is that all of our members are players of the game, but only some reach the ranks of our professional members. In essence, there’s no real change for our professional players. Our amateur members, however, would now fit nicely under the Players' Disc Golf Association.  And... they, like the folks fighting it out on the pro tour, would all be members of PDGA. Of course, growth in our amateur ranks provides more candidates to grow into professionals and a larger and more knowledgeable fan base for the pro tour.

So, think about this a bit and discuss it with your friends. Maybe even ask some non-disc golf people what they think of the idea. The Board wants to hear a wide range of opinions on this proposal before they move ahead. When you’re ready to speak up, go to the PDGA Name Survey and tell us what you think. If you’ve got an idea that you believe will lead us to an even better solution, let us know. The Board will carefully review all the feedback that comes in by January 23rd.