Today was a day full of incredible emotions for me. A day forty-four years in the making. From the time Pastor Drew came to tiny Karmel Covenant Church in rural Princeton, Minnesota from Southern California…telling our youth group how he saw how people were taking Frisbees and throwing them at fence posts, trees and telephone poles (playing “golf” with Frisbees), to today. Tens of thousands of miles, fifty US States, three other countries and 2,000 disc golf courses later. A goal I always said would be cool to reach! A goal I honestly never thought I would realistically reach, due to my health, or my career, or my needing to put others’ needs ahead of my own.
But somehow, through a 27-year migraine, the loss of loved ones, decades of 60+ hour work weeks, SO many months where money was TIGHT, months of seizures before eventually being diagnosed with epilepsy and losing my driving privileges for seven months, COVID-19 (including a positive test and battling the effects of COVID after receiving my first vaccination shot the day before), and a kidney stone that decided to hitch a ride in me for 85 days before having surgery to remove it (and my being in pain every day for the past five months after the procedure)? Today I reached a plateau that only four others in the history of the sport have ever reached. CRAZY!
Pretty amazing, and humbling. To think about how blessed I am to have had the opportunity to do it. All of the things I have seen and the people I have met along the way. How much danger I’ve encountered along the way, such as coming incredibly close to being in a bad accident on an interstate in North Carolina (so close to the accident that I actually felt the pressure wave inside my car), or how I had a gun pulled on me on a private course in Oregon, or being on a course where a murder victim had been found on Hole 6 hours before, only to come out of those situations mostly unscathed.
For anyone who has played even 500 courses? You know how hard it is to do! How many hours and miles, and how much money, it takes to put in the miles/time needed to get to that goal. So to get to play FOUR-TIMES that many courses in my lifetime? Well, let’s just say that I probably have a couple of screws loose. 🙂 But it also shows my drive and determination (and stubbornness, if we are being completely honest, ha). I’ve wanted to see what I am capable of. A 51-year old with five bone spurs, who has had six broken fingers and a broken toe, who has battled vertigo and the effects of a venous angioma between the two hemispheres of my brain, seeing where my limits might be.
Today started out by playing the fourteen-hole Woodland Creek Community Park in Lacey, Washington. That was a fun course! I expected it to be a nine-holer, a nice warm-up round to some of the bigger monsters I was going to try and play later in the day! But it turned out to have an extra five holes…and this has been one of my favorite courses on this mini-trip! I didn’t play the course well, shooting an even-par 43 (for an estimated round rating of only 882).
After that fun warm-up round, I made my way over to St. Martin’s Abbey in Lacey for another quick nine. The course wasn’t as good as Woodland Creek, but it was located in an absolutely beautiful setting. Two nice guys and a small dog played tour guide for me too, which helped me save time…as Becky was back at the hotel, waiting for me to finish my warm-up rounds so we could collectively start our day. I ended up shooting a -1 (27), for an estimated round rating of 933. Not the greatest, but I had fun!
After picking up Becky and making our way to the first of three eighteen-holers on the day, I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed my round at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington! My kind of course, as it was THICK with trees! I teased Becky that my secret is to always aim at a tree 75-100+ feet down the fairway…as I am not a good enough player to hit it. 😀 I had that “magic” working for the first 12-14 holes, only to start hitting the trees I was aiming at over the last 4-6 holes (sigh). But I still managed to finish with a rock-solid -2 (56), and an estimated round rating of 983.
After Evergreen, it was on to a course that is only available outside of business hours: PUD Prairie in Shelton, Washington. Signage at the course says that it is actually two nine-hole courses! But DGCourseReview.com lists it as one eighteen-hole course. And my self-imposed rule, this entire course collecting journey, has been to use whatever DGCR says is true as my final answer for my course count. #NoAsterisks Although we’ll see if there is any debate in the future as to whether PUD Blue was actually my 2000th disc golf course played, versus the next one I played on the day. 🙂 Regardless, I played the eighteen holes at their Orange and Blue courses at a collective -7 (51), for an estimated round rating of 951. And then? It was time for a little Tonn Family History.
Eighteen more holes on the day, at Shelton Springs DGC in Shelton, Washington. The highest-rated disc golf course in the State of Washington, and the best place I could think of on this trip to play #2000. The course has several different configurations, and I decided to play Timber Creek, one of the newer/longer/harder layouts. And even though I was in pain (I played 77 holes on the day, with my shoulders, right side and back giving me trouble), I played the HECK out of that 8,360-foot course! Shooting a -3 (61) for an estimated round rating of 1043!
I told Becky that it was Steady Ed looking down on me and helping to make that round special. And on every approach shot and putt? I was playing with my Ed’s Ashes discs. I literally had Ed with me, in my hands, every hole. Going into the chains on all eighteen baskets on the course. It seemed only fitting to honor Ed and DGA that way, as I couldn’t have done it all these years without them.
Here’s a few more photos Becky took during my 18th hole on the course:
So there you have it. I did something I NEVER thought would be possible. I hope it has helped inspire others to try and work through adversity in their lives. I’m just an ordinary guy…like billions of others on the planet, trying to make the most delicious “lemonade” as I can with whatever life occasionally throws at me. And for ANYONE reading this? You can make delicious lemonade too. It won’t be easy! And there will be plenty of days when it might be a LOT easier to give up. But if I can do it? You can do it too. I know you can!
Magic Number = 0 (2,000 Courses Played)
How it All Got Started: Tonn’s Travels >>
A main purpose of this blog will be to share information, helpful tips and tricks (everything from health and fitness to methods for saving money while you’re out “bagging courses” of your own), and ideas for better, safer course design. But I am also hoping to inspire others with my passion for the sport, via the stories I can share about all of the interesting experiences I have. All of the interesting people I meet. All of the amazing courses I am blessed to have the opportunity to play. If I can inspire even a handful of individuals to get off the couch, get “out of their bubble” or “security blanket” and explore more of this big, beautiful planet we all call home? Then I will consider this effort a success.
Derek Tonn is a member of the DGA’s Ambassador Team. His company, Mapformation, LLC, has been DGA’s partner in the development of disc golf tee signage since 2012. The longer our two companies have worked together, and the more Derek has gotten to know all the great folks at DGA, the more he has wanted to formally sing the company’s praises. The more he has realized that “Steady” Ed’s (the father of disc golf and the modern-day Frisbee) vision for the sport and his company perfectly describes his own interests and priorities related to disc golf, and the more Derek has recently been encouraged to share his story.