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"RASTA BILL" in the News

From: Arts and Lifestyle | Health |
Tuesday, January 08, 2002

No Mulligans Allowed
An old and battered Ultimate Frisbee
player becomes a disk golfer

By JOE DZIEMIANOWICZ
Daily News Feature Writer

rowing up on W. 12th St., Bill Newman never got keyed up or teed up about whacking golf balls. But when the guy had a Frisbee to toss, he was very happy.

Now 40 and living in Mount Kisco, Newman, a lawyer and family man, still gets a kick out of flinging the flying saucers. He does it every weekend when he plays disk golf.

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Bill Newman plays disk golf, his new favorite sport.

It's like traditional golf but much more affordable. While traditional golfers use balls and clubs and count strokes, disk golfers use inexpensive plastic disks (figure $7 to $12 apiece) and tally the number of tosses needed to flick them into wire targets mounted on poles.

"There are dozens of golf disks to choose from depending on a player's style and level of experience," says Brian Sullivan, publisher of DiscLife.com.

Like woods and irons, disks are crafted for specific purposes from long line-drive flight to short, stable flight. Some fade left. Some fade right. Some float.

Like Bill Newman, lots of disk golfers come to the pastime after years of playing Ultimate Frisbee, a fast, rough-and-tumble team sport that combines catching and throwing with elements of soccer and football.

"As Ultimate players get older or injured, they turn to disk golf," says Rick Rothstein, who heads Disc Golf World News. "It's easier on the body."

The Park Is Your Fairway

Then again, Frisbee aficionados have played informal versions of disk golf ever since the toy appeared in the 1950s. Early innovators aimed disks at trees, headstones, street signs and other stationary objects. Disk golf was formalized in the 1970s when a chain-and-metal basket in which to catch the disk was designed. "Nonplayers sometimes mistake the targets for oddball bird feeders," says Sullivan.

Until recently, disk golf was something of a secret. "Now," Newman marvels, "it's really catching on."

The Professional Disc Golf Association, a 7,000-member group that organizes pro and amateur tournaments, estimates 250,000 disk golfers play at least once a month. And there are 1,035 known courses in the U.S., approximately a 12% increase since last year. Most courses are in public parks, are free of charge and feature 9, 18 or 24 holes, as well as hazards trees, water, hills, squirrels.

New York City is surrounded by disk courses, according to Newman, who spends most weekends hurling disks at FDR State Park in Yorktown Heights or Leonard Park in Mount Kisco. There are also courses at Rutgers' Douglass College in New Brunswick, N.J., and Cranbury Park in Norwalk, Conn. (Go to www.pdga.com for more locations.)

'No Wimps, No Whiners'

"It's a walk in the woods and a chance to enjoy the outdoors and your friends," says Newman, when asked to describe the health benefits of disk golf.

Brad Keller, 40, an avid disk sportsman who lives on the lower East Side, agrees. "Depending on the terrain of the course, the game can be physically demanding," he says. "If you play two rounds of 18 holes, you'll definitely be ready for a rest."

What's it take to be a Tiger Woods of disk golf? "Some say it's all in the wrist," says Keller, who set up a temporary course on Randalls Island a couple summers ago. "It's not. It's all in the mind. When I'm in the zone, I feel like a part of me is flying with the disk. It's one of the great things about the game."

As for game wear, "jeans or sweatpants are par for the course," Newman notes.

That said, disk golfers who play in cold-weather competitions called Ice Bowls probably wear long johns under their dungarees. The events began in 1987 as a way for intrepid players ("No Wimps, No Whiners" is the motto) to thumb their noses at nature. Since then, they've been used to raise money for food pantries and charities.

Ice Bowls will be held between Jan. 12 and Feb. 18 at hundreds of U.S. courses, including Leonard Park on Jan. 19 and FDR State Park on Feb. 9. "It's a fun day and very satisfying," says Newman.

Almost as satisfying is the signature sound a disk makes when it's swallowed up by a target. Enthusiasts describe it as a loud, clear ching! "There's just nothing better," says Rothstein.

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