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Disc golf hasn’t just gone bananas at the course in your local green space. The rise in recreational popularity—in Colorado and across the nation—has coincided with more interest in the professional side of the game. And with more eyes comes more investment: multiyear, multimillion-dollar sponsorship contracts for the best players and bigger-money tournaments like next week’s 2022 PDGA Professional Disc Golf World Championships.
From August 30 to September 3, the best disc golfers on the planet will descend on Emporia, Kansas, to compete, including nearly a dozen Coloradans in the men’s and women’s pro divisions. Meet some of them below, then go cheer them on in person (five-day passes are only $100); watch live coverage on the Disc Golf Network ($12 per month for full access); or catch free post-production coverage on popular YouTube channels like JomezPro.
PDGA U.S. Tour Rank (at press time): 5
Boulder-born McMahon went pro at age 13, achieved the highest PDGA rating in the world in 2018, and has won more than $245,000 in tournament prize money. His rabid fan base (his YouTube channel has 70,000 subscribers) will be cheering for the Discmania-sponsored athlete to come back from a significant shoulder injury this past spring to contend for the men’s division title—which isn’t as crazy as it sounds, given that he pulled off a first-place finish at July’s European Open without being able to use his signature right-hand forehand shot.
PDGA U.S. Tour Rank (at press time): 20
OK, so Panis technically lives in California now—but she grew up and learned to play in Colorado, and she credits our state’s thin air for forcing her to throw hard and develop the distance that gives her an edge over many of her competitors. After signing a four-year, $500,000 contract with Dynamic Discs in January, Panis, who was formerly with Innova Disc Golf, had to adjust to a new lineup of discs this season. With Emporia being the home of her new sponsor, though, Panis has high hopes of—and a good shot at—taking the women’s division at the 2022 PDGA Disc Golf World Championships.
PDGA U.S. Tour Rank (at press time): 8
Based in Loveland, this member of Innova’s Team Champion—“disc golf’s perennial road warriors,” per the company—won Colorado’s first Disc Golf Pro Tour tournament in Bailey in June. Freeman has also garnered attention for his flashy sartorial choices and designs and sells disc golf jerseys.
PDGA U.S. Tour Rank (at press time): 55
After 13 years as a pediatric ICU nurse and 10 as a disc golfer, Richardson quit her day job in January to take a yearlong sabbatical—and hit the pro disc golf circuit with a friend and fellow player who had space in her camper. Focusing on her game full time paid off with a first-place finish at June’s High Plains Challenge in Fort Morgan. Although the former CSU rugby player (now sponsored by Innova and Longmont’s First Flight Disc Golf) is a competitor at heart, her main goal for this year’s championships is to beat the round she played on the same Emporia courses during this past spring’s Dynamic Discs Open.
PDGA U.S. Tour Rank (at press time): 24
Known for his big arm, Gossage competed at the collegiate level at Colorado Mesa University before joining the pro tour in 2021. The relative newbie—whose sponsors include Discraft and his hometown of Grand Junction’s Triple Play Records, which hawks vinyl and discs (plastic, not compact)—reached the podium twice, with two third-place finishes, at Disc Golf Pro Tour events this past spring.
PDGA U.S. Tour Rank (at press time): Not ranked
A native of San Antonio, Texas, Guerrero got serious about disc golf after moving to Colorado Springs 11 years ago. She went pro in 2019 and works part time for one of her sponsors, Kwik Way Discs, which sells an impressive selection of discs out of a gas station in northeast Colorado Springs. Also a member of Top Shelf Disc Supply’s Team Top Shelf, Guerrero tied for second place in May’s 303 Open in Fort Collins. This will be her second consecutive trip to the PDGA Disc Golf World Championships, where she hopes to be one of the top 32 women (out of the 77 registered) who get to play the final round on Saturday.