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Arts, Sports & Culture

From Frisbee To Golf: Flying Disc Exhibit Opens In Pittsburgh

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The Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum in Pittsburgh will be the first host of a traveling exhibit created to showcase the history of the flying disc. The exhibit coincides with the PDGA Professional World Disc Championships, which take place in Pittsburgh this August, according to The Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA).

J. Gary Dropcho, board member of the Pittsburgh Flying Disc Society, said the exhibit will tell the story of the Frisbee, “a faddish toy that evolved, and flew higher into the realm of sport.”

The exhibit will display memorabilia from the disc golf hall of fame and other collections and will include items such as different discs throughout the years and the very first target invented by “the godfather of disc golf,” Ed Headrick.

Dropcho said the exhibit will encompass all aspects of the flying disc’s history, from pie pans tossed around by college students in the 1930s to modern discs that can travel more than 800 feet.

“Disc golf truly has arrived,” said Anne Madarasz, co-director of the museum. “It’s no longer just part of future thinking, it is a sport that’s actively part of our heritage and part of our legacy in the Pittsburgh region today.”

Madarasz said since its opening in 2004, the museum has had a section dedicated to disc golf. The sport has experienced a recent boom in popularity, with the PDGA membership count doubling in the last five years, according to champion disc golfer Red Whittington.

“It is truly the people’s golf,” Whittington said. “[It] does not require any expensive equipment, it’s relatively easy to learn and most of all, it’s a whole lot of fun.”

This August, the world championships will take place at four different courses throughout the region: Deer Lakes Park, Knob Hill Park, Moraine State Park and a new course at Slippery Rock University.

Whittington said Pittsburgh’s courses are among the best in the nation.

“Disc golf was made in California, and I have people from there tell me they wish they had courses as beautiful as the ones in our region,” he said.

The elevation changes, the multiple pin placements on each hole and the organization and quality of the tees all make the area courses stand out, according to Whittington.

Whittington, who is from Pittsburgh and has been playing disc golf for 35 years, will go for his 4th title when the tournament begins in six weeks.

“You don’t have to be an athletic person to play disc golf,” he said.

In fact, he said he witnessed a young couple pushing a baby stroller through the course while playing at Schenley Park a few weeks ago.

Dropcho said the projected regional economic impact of the tournament is $1.5 million.

The championships begin on August 1, where players will compete for a purse of over $100,000.