Not that golf ... disc golf!
HUNTINGTON — If aren’t going outside to play this summer, it sure isn’t Andy Harshbarger’s fault.
Harshbarger, in addition to coaching a youth baseball team that went to the regionals, has also organized a free five-week disc golf clinic that has been introducing kids 12 and under to disc golf this summer.
Harshbarger, a pro disc golfer who owns Van Man Discs, teamed up with the Greater Huntington Parks and Recreation District and the Barboursville Parks and Rec for the free clinics, which wrapped up this past week with a tournament and the awarding of trophies and prize packs to the kids.
They met every Tuesday
in July for four hours, alternating between Huntington’s Rotary Park, home to two 18-hole courses, as well as Barboursville Park, which has an 18-hole course that surrounds Lake William. All three courses were designed by Lavalette-based hall of fame disc golfer, Johnny Sias.
To teach the kids multiple aspects about the game, Harshbarger has worked the kids up to 12 holes of singles, and then added eight holes of doubles to work on team building.
“We trying to show them both sides of the game as individuals and then team building as well,” Harshbarger said of the free weekly clinics that drew an average of 15 to 20 kids.
Harshbarger said in the past year he’s been working with other area youth to introduce them to the fast-growing sport, which is being embraced by local high schools. Within the past two years, disc golf courses have been installed at South Point High School in Ohio and Lincoln County High School in West Virginia.
This past school year, at Huntington Middle School on Huntington’s Southside, Harshbarger came in for a week and conducted disc golf clinics for the gym classes, which can contain as many as 60 kids.
“We taught them the fundamentals Monday and Tuesday and then we sat up a nine-hole tournament around the school — sort of a mini tournament on Wednesday and Thursday,” Harshbarger said. “We gave away prizes, and they had a great time. It is something different. They weren’t stuck in gym class, they got to go outside and play around the school.”
Harshbarger said he would like to go to even more area middle schools to introduce kids to the sport.
Helping with the camp was Christian Chapman, who is not your typical teenager. Chapman, 16, takes building maintenance at the Cabell County Vocational School, and also happens to be ranked No. 21 in the world for his age bracket for disc golf. He competed in the world championship this past July in Kansas.
Chapman said his father, Shane, started taking him disc golfing when he was only 4.
“I have been playing ever since,” said Chapman, who has chalked up a 45 on the 18-hole course. He had pretty simple advice for the kids. “Throw straight and to always look at your target.”
Kurt Geveke, of Huntington, brought out his kids, Noah, 13 and Carter, 10, since they are always playing with the Harshbarger kids who are neighbors.
Geveke said his boys play baseball with Harshbarger’s son Owen and are always out playing in the neighborhood, and playing disc golf whenever they can.
“I think stuff like this is extremely important — you try to get your kids outside as much as you can,” Geveke said. “My oldest plays ball golf, but this is one of those sports where this is free. Once you have three discs, you can play this anywhere for free. We went to Glade Springs, Stonewall Jackson Resort and D.C. on a trip and there was disc golf wherever we stopped.”
Melanie Aldridge, of Barboursville, said she couldn’t pass up a chance for her kids, Sailor, 10, and Boone “Smurf” 8, to take part in the summer youth league.
“I think the great thing about these clinics is that they are learning how to hold the discs — the discs might all look the same but they are very different,” Aldridge said. “So it has been very educational. They have actually taught me a few things, and I could use a little help.”
Aldridge said her husband, Kris, taught their kids to play, and now the boys love to play a sport in which the whole family can get involved.
“We have uncles and cousins who play, we played all weekend with the family,” she said. “Our family came in from South Carolina, and they got to play on our courses, and then next weekend we are going to South Carolina to play on their courses. Disc golf is easy. You can easily pack the discs, and the sport is really growing.”
Aldridge said that while they have played at courses all over the region, they have a soft spot for Rotary Park, which is one of the region’s oldest courses.
“We have played at Pipestem and at various places, but we think Rotary Park should get more kudos than it does,” Aldridge said.
SO YOU WANNA BE A DISC GOLF STAR
You can pick up discs locally at Van Man Discs, as well as Glenn’s and Dick’s Sporting Goods.
There are a ton of area courses, including 36 holes at Rotary Park in Huntington, 36 holes at Armco Park in Ashland, 18 holes at Shawnee State Park near Portsmouth, Ohio, 18 holes at Barboursville Park and courses at Little Creek Park, Wine Cellar Park, Coonskin Park, Valley Park and more in the Huntington-Charleston area.
Go online at www.pdga.com and click onto the course directory.
The next local tournament is the Van Man Summer Blowout on Saturday, Aug. 11. Cost is $20 to enter. The competition divisions are pro/open, advance/master, intermediate, recreational and juniors. Check out Van Man Disc’s Facebook page for more information.