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Disc golf taking off in Western Pa.

| Wednesday, May 7, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Ian Kuehn of Medina, OH throws for a birdie during the 'Ironwood Open' hosted by the Pittsburgh Flying Disc Society Saturday, May 3, 2014, at the disc golf course in Moraine State Park in Butler County.

Since playing disc golf for the first time seven or eight years ago, Matt Rosier has traveled to about 100 tournaments in 14 states.

He has noticed the game becoming more popular in his hometown.

“It's definitely gotten bigger,” said Rosier, 28, of the South Side, and a recent tournament in Moraine State Park sold out more than a month in advance.

Players throw discs at a target that resembles a pole with a basket, in a fashion similar to regular golf. Courses can have nine or 18 holes.

The Professional Disc Golf Association said its active members — along with disc golf courses, sanctioned events and tournament competitors — have increased every year from 2004 to 2013. Association membership jumped nearly 14 percent in 2013, surpassing 20,000.

“I think one of the biggest draws to it is unlike golf, where you have all your greens fees and hundreds of dollars in clubs, (with) disc golf, you can go to the store and pick up a disc for $10 or $15, go to any of the courses and play for free,” said Cody Winget, director at large with the Pittsburgh Flying Disc Society.

“And anybody can play it. You just throw your disc down the fairway, and it plays in the same way as golf. You want to get it there in the fewest amount of throws.”

Winget said the Pittsburgh group has 125 lifetime members and about 100 annual members and hosts leagues each week. For example, doubles play runs on Tuesdays in Knob Hill Park in Marshall and on Thursdays in Moraine State Park in Portersville. There is a Wednesday night league in Schenley Park in Oakland.

Western Pennsylvania boasts more than a dozen disc golf courses. The Pittsburgh region will host the 2015 PDGA Pro Disc Golf World Championships, with rounds to be played in Deer Lakes Park, Knob Hill, Moraine and Slippery Rock University.

“There's people that travel from all over the world to come watch these players play,” Winget said. “It's definitely going to be huge for our region to even help grow the game, after the Worlds come and go.”

Some communities are building or considering disc golf courses. Ross Township is considering locations because residents' concerns shelved plans for a course in Evergreen Community Park.

Eloise Peet, Ross parks and recreation director, said disc golf is an active sport that can be played nearly year-round.

“And I do think Ross and other areas in Pittsburgh need to think about creating outdoor spaces and outdoor activities to try to draw younger people in, too,” she said. Peet said she expects to present options for locations to commissioners this spring.

Rosier said disc golf isn't as competitive in Western Pennsylvania as in some other regions, but its popularity should continue to rise.

“A lot of people don't really think of it as exercise, but when you're walking through some of the courses, they aren't flat and easy walks,” he said. “Some of them have a lot of hills to them. And when I play, I play quickly, so it's a workout, too.”

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5830 or via email at dgulasy@tribweb.com.

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