Belding’s new disc golf club attracts 32 students, seeks to be sanctioned sport


By Ryan Schlehuber "Scoop" • Last Updated 4:58 pm on Friday, May 19, 2017

As many as 32 students from Belding High School have joined the newly-formed disc golf club this year, which is headed by Belding High School science and mathematics teacher Nathan Davey. Pictured, from left, are disc golf club members Jesse Preston, Elvis Preston II, Isabella Connour, August Medema, Erin Rich, Summer Eubank, Max Walker, Jonathan Silva, Reese Reidy and Phoenix Chiavola during a recent practice. (Courtesy photos)

 

BELDING — When he approached Belding High School with the idea of making a disc golf club team, Keven Kreiger was taken back with the response he got.

“I assumed we’d maybe be in the teens with the number of kids who wanted to play,” said Kreiger, Belding’s deputy treasurer and recreation board liaison, and avid disc golfer since 2010.

After talking with the high school principal, Michael Ostrander, and Athletic Director Joel Wilker, Kreiger began the recruiting process, with much help from high school teacher Nathan Davey.

What Kreiger received was 32 students who were interested in playing.

Davey, a Belding native who got involved with the sport in college at Eastern Michigan University, said it really wasn’t hard to recruit players.

“It was a lot of word-of-mouth. I told a handful of students and they seemed excited,” he said. “Word spread and students were showing up to my classroom that I’ve never seen before.”

Davey said the group is made up of many levels of experience, which some have already been playing for years and others hadn’t tried the sport until they joined the club.

Belding senior Max Walker winds up to make a throw during a disc golf practice with his Belding club team, which is split up between a group of competitive players and a group of recreational players. The competitive team will compete in the Michigan High School Disc Golf State Championship at Brewer Park in Byron Center Saturday, June 17.

“I think it’s the fact you can have so much fun at many levels of the sport,” he said. “There’s so many levels of people, and if you go out there on any course, you’ll meet people at all kinds of levels.”

Davey decided to split up the large group between competitive and recreational, which about 11 students chose to play competitively.

That group will participate in its first tournament action at the second annual Michigan High School Disc Golf Championship at Brewer Park in Byron Center June 17.

The tournament is a portion of what is called the Eagles Wings Junior Midwest Regional.

“I’m both excited and nervous,” Kreiger said about the Belding team. “They have not played a team this year yet, but some athletes we have are experienced, so I am feeling confident going in. But this is a major tournament and it’s a different beast to what they’re used to.”

Davey and Krieger, who helped design Belding’s SMASH Park, are hoping the creation of the Belding club team and the exposure the tournament will provide will encourage more schools to create teams, with the ultimate goal of making disc golf a sanctioned team through Michigan High School Athletics Association (MHSAA).

With the help of disc golf course designer Jim Schultz of Kalamazoo, Davey and Krieger are attempting to eventually create a league.

“Jim coordinated club teams with four schools in the Kalamazoo area that play every week at each other’s courses. That’s kind of what we’re trying to set up,” Krieger said. “We’d like to include schools like Greenville, Lowell, Saranac, Lakeview and Lake Odessa. We’re shooting for next spring and hope we can get a league going.”

Krieger would like disc golf to be set up through MHSAA like golf is now, where teams and individual players can compete.

And with the sport being coed, Title XI, which states there must be equal number of sports for both genders, won’t be an issue.

“We have a handful of girls on the club right now,” Kreiger said. “We’re hoping for a girls club down the road.”

The immediate goal for Davey is to get more students interested in playing competitively.

“This year, we have a handful playing in the tournament and I’m really excited about that,” Davey said. “But the big thing is getting the numbers and getting them interested in the sport itself. In time, we want to get people to jump from recreational to competitive.”

When Wilker heard the idea of creating a disc golf team for Belding students, he loved it.

“We have a wide group of kids who enjoy the outdoors and enjoy doing things like disc golf, it’s fun,” he said. “We here at Belding always like to provide different things and getting kids involved. It’s a great connection to our community and gives kids another way to connect and build relationships. So this is awesome.”

Disc golf is an easy sell to high school students because anyone can play and enjoy it, Krieger explained.

“I think disc golf showed me a new avenue, in which it doesn’t matter how athletic you are. I like it because it’s outside of the normal school sports,” he said. “I was a three-sport athlete, but I know kids who are very good at disc golf who never played school sports.”

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