HESSTON, Kan. (KSNW) — Disc golf is offered as a sanctioned sport at over 220 colleges and universities in the United States. Several Kansas schools have disc golf programs, including Wichita State University, University of Kansas, Kansas State University, Pittsburg State University, Fort Hays State University, Emporia State University, and tiny Hesston College.
Only three of the Kansas schools are headed to next week’s College Disc Golf Nationals; Wichita State, Emporia State and Hesston.
Hesston’s disc golf program started two years ago.
“We talk about it all the time on our team. How we’ve been able to see the growth over time the last two years and just watch it grow from our little crew of four people to where we’re at now,” said Hesston Head Coach Christina Wankum.
Hesston is the only Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (KCAC) school or small college in the state that offers scholarships to play men’s and women’s disc golf. Every time the Larks go out, they compete against NCAA Division I and DII teams.
“A lot of pride, and I’m very proud of what we’ve done this season and this past year. And I’m grateful and thankful for our coaches Christina, Larry and Russell for all the time they’ve put in,” said Hesston senior Toby Yoder.
The practice time in the Kansas wind paid off at the Mid-American Regional Championships in Winfield last week. Both the men’s first team and the women’s duo of Sadie Oesch and Alyssa Burkholder qualified for the College Disc Golf Nationals.
“It was a really great experience. This is actually the first time we got to play with two other teams. Other times at other tournaments, it’s just our team or one other team,” said Hesston sophomore Sadie Oesch.
While the sport is growing, the number of women playing disc golf lags far behind the number of male disc golfers.
The men’s team needed a top-four finish to qualify for nationals. They were in sixth, heading into the final day of team competition and needed to shoot a low round.
“And that’s what we did. We shot nine-down on Sunday, which ended up being just two behind the hot round of the day,” said Yoder.
The top-four teams to qualify out of the Winfield regional were Oklahoma State, Oklahoma Baptist, Arkansas, and Hesston. The Larks will drive to Marion, North Carolina, on Sunday to compete for a national championship.
“We went last year. We didn’t qualify last year. We went to see the experience and see what we’re working towards this year. It feels very grand. They say last year was the first year it completely filled up. So, they had over hundreds of players out there,” said Wankum.
“Me and my partner are both looking forward to playing with more women. It’s been quite eye-opening to be out there, and there’s like four women and a lot of guys, which is really cool that the sport is growing. But definitely, the opportunity to get to see more women playing,” said Oesch.
“The courses there are amazing. They’re so beautiful,” added Yoder.
“I’m very proud to be a part of this team and to be going to nationals to represent Hesston,” said Oesch.
The College Disc Golf Nationals will be played April 5-8 in North Carolina.