Interview with Des Reading

Des Reading – PDGA #15863
2017 Disc Golf Hall of Fame Inductee

JomezPro interview with PDGA Hall of Fame Member Des Reading

How did you get your start in Disc Golf?

I was a Division 1 full scholarship athlete softball pitcher looking for an activity to do between the rigors of athletics and studies. Tourist Park, established 1978, was a bike ride down the campus hill to the Cedar River. The crew, that would include my future husband, played many one disc rounds there. One disc, that is all we had. It was a perfect college day: bike, hike, disc, and sometimes fish.

Tell us about your major highlights and achievements in Disc Golf.

Des’ Sportsmanship Award
  • 4x World Champion (3x FPO/1xFPM)
  • 5x US Champion (3x FPO/2x FPM)
  • 2x US Masters Champion
  • 4x PDGA Player of the Year
  • 2001 PDGA Co-Rookie of the Year
  • 3x World Mixed Doubles Champion
  • 2004 PDGA/EDGE Award
  • 2007 Steady Ed Spirit of the Game
  • 2013 Iowa Disc Golf Hall of Fame
  • 2014 PDGA Bob West Sportsmanship
  • 2017 The Disc Golf Hall of Fame
  • 2019 Texas Disc Golf Hall of Fame
  • PDGA Eagle Club Member,
  • 200 PDGA career wins, 12 Majors, 30 National Tour Wins (record for male or female)
  • Placed first or second at nine consecutive World Championships (2002-2010)

How would you describe your approach or mentality to the game?

Complex. I had to possess a duality approach to disc golf in order to sustain a disc golf tour in the early years. Right from the beginning, I was incredibly dedicated to the mechanics of the game through observation and practice. I grew up a multiple, all-state high-school athlete with a repetitive practice routine. Whether it was pitching at the garage wall, hitting golf balls, or bumping a volleyball onto the roof. I enjoy the rhythm of a repetitive set with the ability to chart and measure progress. Those traits served me well in skyrocketing up in disc golf. I was named Pro-Rookie of the Year the same year I won my first Professional World Championship – 2002. In my pinnacle years, my course focus was razor sharp. In 2007, I won eight of the eight NTs that I entered. I visualized my tournament rounds the night before. I would spend a quiet hour after each tournament to reflect on my play. I loved disc golf and worked out a way to do it as a livelihood.

Des after her 2002 World Championship win
Des’ 2002 World Championship winning putt 

The first couple years of touring I substitute taught in Austin, Texas starting a disc golf club at the school. It was those years I started to develop teaching styles for disc golf groups. I realized my world championships had earned me a path to try to disc golf full time and disc golf instructions could help me achieve it. The heavier I worked at promotion the duller my course focus got: making it harder and harder to compete at a top level. It seems sadder than it is, hard facts will do that. I have always been an athlete and understand an athlete’s career span. I am proud to be an athlete who left marks that inspire and marks to be broken. To me, that is the mark of an accomplished athlete. In my disc golf timeline, the ability to be a teaching world champion afforded me a richer lifestyle than any tournament win could have (with the exception of another world title here or there).

Are you involved in any clubs/volunteer work/outreach?

Yes, always have been, still am, more than likely will be. I must state the vast majority of my outreach work is a team effort with my Hall of Fame husband, Jay Reading-Yeti. Before we even joined the PDGA, we promoted and influenced disc golf through tournaments, clinics, workshops, club work, course promotion, city festivals. Once we joined the PDGA, it was game on and we worked to influence disc golf worldwide. In 2002, I started the USWDGC golden invite campaign to bring women to the event. At the time, there was a misnomer that the event was invite only. To get women excited and aware; I crafted, hand-stamped, and passed out ‘invites’ to any woman I saw. I continued this until USWDGC established its footing. I contributed to the initial National Tour planning and clinic series. Continually lobbied the PDGA for equal billing for women.

On a trip to Australia, we impacted nearly 3,000 students with disc golf sessions and programming. I have introduced disc golf to the United States Air Force both domestically and internationally. Since 1998, I have consecutively conducted free disc golf clinics and ran at least one tournament. I have hands-on educated tens of thousands of people on the values of disc golf. I feel like you name it and I (we) have attempted to build a disc golf bridge to it. I co-founded the Educational Disc Golf Experience which has brought disc golf to over 2 million children. Co-authored a book in the Library of Congress; Getting the EDGE: a 3-12 grade standardized disc golf curriculum. To date, I am the head of the PDGA Youth and Education department.

What is one important lesson you’ve learned from your time as a professional athlete?

There is no substitution for practice. Win or lose: a handshake is a professional way to end a tournament.

Do you have any tips for beginners or specifically women getting into the sport?

Women do not feel intimidated or inferior on the course. If disc golf seems fun or interesting stick with it. There are many fabulous professional women to follow and relate to. Pick one, two, or three to watch and study. I have always excelled in sports when I studied players and compared myself to them. As a university pitcher, I watched endless tapes of my batting opponents to learn their swing’s weak points. I have always studied film of myself to understand and govern my disc golf game. Be aggressive and be bold in your play. I feel better about poor aggressive play than poor timid play. And I have definitely won more events by being aggressive than I did by being cautious. Remember to enjoy your casual rounds and take your competitive ones seriously. We can control our own narrative in life and sport. Be Patient with your game, yourself and others. #respectHERgame

In your opinion, what are the best things about Disc Golf today and what could be improved upon?

We can stop saying the ladies group, ladies card, the ladies, ladies golf. We don’t use the equivalent gentlemen when referring to the male groups. The word ladies is rooted with oppression and by definition not what we are doing out on the course. This is not an in the moment rant. I have been lobbying for this for a long time, ask around. Strides have been made from when we were referred to as girls but Seriously?! Girls and ladies to address female athletes. It is just cringe worthy. Make it stop.

The best is the exposure of disc golf across a variety of platforms and the elevated coverage of women. No longer are there a few people doing it all. There are many people, highly specialized people, working in disc golf, doing what they are passionate about. We are seeing the difference this makes. Many hands make light work. I am thrilled to see the rise of disc golf: where the balanced has tipped to disc golf supporting the people and the industry.

We’d like to thank Des for sharing her story with us.
Stay tuned next week for another Women’s Hall of Fame spotlight!

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