Vanessa Chambers – PDGA #2198
1993 Disc Golf Hall of Fame Inductee
How did you get your start in Disc Golf?
I started playing all disc sports in the fall of 1978. I’ve never known why, but I woke up one morning and wanted to play frisbee. I loved Ultimate best, in those days but played everything else too. I went to a few National Series events in the following years, and I remember my very first disc golf event – played on ground baskets! I was fortunate to live in St. Louis in the early 80s, where there was a lot of Ultimate as well as folks who played disc golf, DDC, freestyle, etc. I started playing more disc golf there, and in 1983 I heard about – and joined – the PDGA. When I moved to Greenville, South Carolina, just after the Huntsville PDGA Worlds 1983, I played more disc golf out of necessity – there wasn’t anyone else to play with there, but I could travel to disc golf tournaments. I was lucky again – I traveled a lot for work and was able to hit a lot of events that way. And I was close to both Atlanta and Charlotte, so I could spend weekends playing with folks like Patti Kunkle and John David in Atlanta, and Alan Beaver, Stan McDaniel, and Steve Lambert in Charlotte. I met my husband in Charlotte, too – at a disc golf tournament, of course!
Tell us about your major highlights and achievements in Disc Golf.
In the first six years that I played PDGA events, I was in the top three six times at Worlds, and I was the Woman Disc Golfer of the year three times. I’m very proud to be part of the inaugural class of the Disc Golf Hall of Fame, and I’m proud that my peers felt that I “elevated the visibility of the women’s game and the standard by which it was played.”
Vanessa playing Disc Golf in 2005, C/O John Whinery
Vanessa’s Disc Golf Hall of Fame Trading Card
Do you have any tips for beginners or specifically women getting into the sport?
I was always and only a competitor; I never learned to play for fun, so my suggestions are only for those who want to get better and better! You have to play your own game – play with gear that is suited for you, set your expectations reasonably for (say) your drive off the tee. Practice wisely, using video. Remember that putting is something that women should be able to do just as well as men, and use that skill. Perhaps most importantly, play as much as you can with people who support you. Illegitimi non carborundum. If you feel that you are denigrated or disrespected as a player, don’t give those folks rent-free space in your head.
What is one important lesson you’ve learned from your time as a professional athlete?
I don’t think that I ever saw myself as a professional athlete. For me, it was a passionate hobby.
How would you describe your approach or mentality to the game?
My strength wasn’t athleticism – it was my mental game. I loved settling into a round of golf, concentrating completely, staying in the moment all the way past the last hole. In retrospect, I didn’t work nearly hard enough on form. Or on putting! I had (still have?) great approach shots. I loved, and still love, a great mid-range.
My strength wasn’t athleticism – it was my mental game. I loved settling into a round of golf, concentrating completely, staying in the moment all the way past the last hole.
In your opinion, what are the best things about Disc Golf today and what could be improved upon?
It is just wonderful to see disc golf exploding. I love watching it on TV, especially on tight, tricky, woods courses. It is terrific to see so much excellence in the players, so much gear available, so much interest.
We’d like to thank Vanessa for sharing her story with us.
Stay tuned next week for another Women’s Hall of Fame spotlight!