Deaf Nationals, how did it start?
If there ever was a time to dare, it was the summer of 2001. Two guys set out to make a difference. Having been removed from their house due to termites and living out of their cars or the beds of their fellow friends to complete the last 4 weeks of their semester at the only Deaf university in the world – Gallaudet University at Washington, DC; it was time to roam the land and embark on something worth doing. Something was tugging on our heart but little did we know what was in store during the journey in the summer of 2001.
We owed it to ourselves to dig deep and aspire to make a mark. The things worth disc golfing were not easy back then. We were equipped with a rand mcnally atlas and a textbook pdga directory of 200 pages. Seeking out the courses during our trip was a challenge. There were times when we wanted to quit. Instead, we pushed ourselves and learned by trying. With detours, we were able to tack on courses pre-DGCR style with the PDGA book. How many of you remember those old PDGA handbooks? Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas.
It was in Colorado that we decided to tour. We played 30+ courses in June before discovering that Texas Deaf folks were proclaiming a “national deaf disc golf tournament” through the Deaf disc golf Yahoogroups. For those of you who are new the game, Texas Deaf Disc Golfers, specifically Austin, are in their own world of big challenges. There’s Austin deaf disc golfers and there’s everyone else. (To date, Austin has 7 of the last 11 male pro open deaf national champs)
Kevin Harrer and Kent Schafer looked at each other and said let’s go find out what’s this all about. Game on. Armed with Kevin’s ford ranger, Fry-guy, a camping tent, jugs of water and determination. We marked out courses enroute to Texas to conquer.
Memory evades me of all the courses we conquered but definitely remember this one. At one course somewhere in Texas (Georgetown?), we arrived in the dead of the night. Unable to find any baskets with our flashlights bobbing on our heads, we set up the tent to sleep a couple hours on the course. Much to our chagrin, Kevin woke up to an officer holding a gun ad immediately woke me up. (deaf people are harder to wake up) Turns out our tent was blocking a fairway and we were 50 feet from a basket. Man! We couldnt find a basket the night before and there we were literally a putt away. Lucky us, the officer knew sign language and we were able to talk our way out of the experience and back onto the course with nary a trip to the clink or a hole in our wallets.
After a couple more courses, campsites, and hairball detours.. We arrived to Austin. 3 courses, deaf disc golfers, and competition awaited!
During this competition.. Deaf Disc Golf Hall of Famer, Stevie Campbell, dropped an idea in Kevin’s mind. With determination and the right tools, we can do anything. It was there during the competition, camaderie and long discussions between Kent and Kevin, that the 2nd “national” deaf disc golf event was going to happen and it was going to happen in Colorado. Kevin, the braver soul, at that time made the pitch and earned the support of Austin Deaf disc golfers.
Our 30+ course experience earlier that summer in Colorado set the tone and identified the best mountain experience for our visitors. Frisco or bust. The second Deaf nationals was coming. Sure enough, 100 visitors showed up and the Deaf Disc Golf Association was created with the idea of Nationals being our once a year tradition to get together, compete, and make more memories.