Interview with Tita Ugalde

Tita Ugalde – PDGA #83
2016 Disc Golf Hall of Fame Inductee

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How did you get your start in Disc Golf?

I will begin by first thanking the visionary, Dan “Stork” Roddick, PDGA #3, and his endless stream of ideas for promoting Frisbee games and events. I first met Stork in 1975 at Oak Grove (now Hahamonga Watershed Park – the world’s first Disc Golf course) as he organized the first meeting of the Los Angeles Frisbee Club. It was there that I played in my first Frisbee golf tournament; it was there that I tied for first and went on to a “sudden death” playoff – and won. It was there that I used a black master and a promotional disc to play that round. And it was there that my life changed. Over 45 years ago. And Stork is still one of my dearest friends.

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

  • 1975: My first tournament, my first win at the world’s first Disc Golf course, Oak Grove, Pasadena California – pre-baskets (now Hahamonga Watershed Park)
  • Japan Open, winning twice (1987 & 2002)
  • Pro Masters World Champion, twice (2000 & 2001)
  • Disc Golf Hall of Fame, Class of 2016
  • Teaching Disc Golf to women and children
  • Still being able to play!
Tita with her parents after the World Flying Disc Championships in 1979, via PDGA

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

A tournament is 4 hours of keeping your head together. You can’t do anything about the last hole you played but you certainly can do something about your attitude and how you react.

In rec play it’s lots of fun moments catching up with friends while playing and being grateful to be in nature. In practice play, it is focusing on ONE area to improve or to monitor improvements by being present in the moment to watch what is happening and then reflecting upon the results of the different techniques tried.

Regardless of tournament play or rec play I believe that there are many lessons and the best way to improve is constant reflection.

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

Constantly. Continuously. Always teaching/always learning. And always trying to give back to the community. When you put all of those together I guess it is not a surprise that I find myself on:

  • PDGA Diversity Task Force
  • Disc Golf Hall of Fame Board of Directors
  • Los Angeles Frisbee Club event organizer
  • Oak Grove Women’s Weekly Putt for Dough co-organizer

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

Take care of your amazing body.

“An athlete is a person who is proficient at sports” and I do not call myself one because as a teenager I fell in love with the flight of the disc- no matter who threw it. I did not know how to or really make a serious effort to do what the top players are doing now to keep in top form.

Nowadays in order to be the best you have to really be the best in terms of prioritizing health. Disc Golf today requires an athletic approach, putting in time for perfect practice on and off the field that includes a mental game, weight training, visualization, healthy snacks, and a way of life that keeps a body healthy and resilient. And probably more.

Had I known then what I know now what I would have done differently is to emphasize eating less, eating better, and adding strength training. I believe this would have led me to throw farther and with better stamina.

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

  1. Make sure that you develop confidence with both the backhand and the forehand (sidearm) off the tee.
  2. Develop your form whether it is for driving, approaching, or putting. Watch others – not just women/men, film yourself and analyze the difference.
  3. Take the time to do field work rather than just play rounds throwing multiple shots, approaches, and drives.
  4. Take the time to develop a confident putting style within the first circle. That confidence will add to the confidence from outside the circle.

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

One of the best things about Disc Golf today is being able to play on courses all over the world and traveling the world with friends to play and along the way meeting new friends.

One of the most important things to add to courses are restrooms with soap and running water to refill water bottles or wipe off your body after going into mud or a patch of poison ivy/oak. It is fun to watch live lead cards in both MPO and FPO divisions during tournaments. Some players have really developed fun podcasts and commentaries.

An idea: A pro tour series for ages 50+ or even 40 + would be interesting to follow. They have fans and families, too.

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

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