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Disc golf taking flight

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By Dave Kavanaugh

In New Mexico, flying saucers aren’t just for Roswell anymore.

Thanks in part to Bill and Sue Leslie of Vadito, the sport of disc golf is slowly but surely growing in popularity and spreading across the Land of Enchantment. Through a philanthropic program the Leslies help carry out, West Las Vegas Middle School recently became the latest to join what Bill describes as “the fastest growing sport in the country.”

Working in partnership with WLVMS teacher (and coach) David “Morgan” Montaño and New Mexico Highlands University disc golf club organizer Jonathan Tapia, the Leslies arranged for their statewide organization to donate a $500 equipment set to the school district. Montaño introduced his physical education classes to the setup and the sport this past week.

“It’s an important unit for us to add (to the P.E. curriculum),” Montaño said. He noted that disc golf appeals even to youngsters who aren’t necessarily involved in more mainstream sports like football, basketball and baseball, and it provides them with another physical activity to help develop and maintain fitness.

Disc golf is still a novelty to most, although it is gaining ground in terms of popularity. The sport is played similarly to regular golf — and in many cases along similar courses. Instead of using clubs to hit a golf ball into a hole, a player throws a specially made disc to sink into a regulation-size basket at each “hole.” Anyone who can throw a Frisbee can play, although — as with golf golf — becoming a good player requires dexterity, patience and practice.

“I couldn’t even throw the disc at first,” Sue Leslie said of her first time playing disc golf a decade and a half ago. “If someone back then would’ve told me I’d be doing what I am now, I wouldn’t have believed them.”

Today, the Leslies run their own Two Gray Hares Disc Golf Course near Sipapu, some 20 miles from Taos. They are also self-appointed ambassadors of the sport and have made equipment donations and helped establish school programs over the last five years. As players themselves, they’ve developed into regional contenders since taking up disc golf 14 years ago.

“The great thing is you can do it at all ages,” said Bill Leslie. He noted that in a recent regional tournament, the youngest player was 10 and the oldest was 82.

Tapia has helped to spearhead the disc golf movement at Highlands, which now has a practice basket set up at Melody Park in addition to those on the Gene Torres Golf Course. He said more players are joining the fun.

During a demonstration of the equipment at West’s Herrera Complex, Tapia hurled a disc the length of the football field, showing how his own skills have progressed since he took it up several years ago.

Montaño said he’s looking forward to incorporating disc golf as a regular component of his classes, which introduce students to various sports and recreation activities.

He said he is also looking into setting up some competitive events with other schools.