OGDEN — Who would have thought disc golf could potentially put millions of dollars into the local economy?
It may be a relatively low-profile sport, certainly not as ubiquitous as the sort of golf requiring clubs. But the Professional Disc Golf Association World Championships, to be held in Weber County next year, is expected to have a big impact — injecting around $2 million into the local economy.
"It's a big, big deal," said Jade Sewell, a local disc golfer instrumental in promoting the sport here.
For the fifth year, Weber County will be site of the Utah Open, an A-tier PDGA event schedule for next week, May 2-5, at Fort Buenaventura Park in Ogden and Mulligans Creekside Disc Golf in Marriott-Slaterville. And to make sure things run smoothly next year, local officials are treating it as a practice run for the 2020 championship event, expected to draw competitors from around the world.
What's more, said Todd Ferrario, Weber County's parks and recreation division director, officials are hoping to boost the status of the Utah Open, turning it into a formal stop on the annual PDGA tour. "That means every year you're bringing everyone in who's tied to that event," said Ferrario.
A PDGA tour-level event brings in many more outside players and visitors than a non-sanctioned event like an A-tier stop, which draws chiefly from area disc golfers. In fact, if it were a formal tour stop, that would pump an estimated $1.4 million into the local economy each year, factoring local spending by the competitors and others traveling here for the event, Ferrario said.
Similar to traditional golf, disc golf competitors play on courses with nine or 18 holes spread over a range of terrain. They attempt to fling their discs starting from a tee area into the target basket at the end of each hole with as few tosses as possible. The Fort Buenaventura and Mulligans courses have 18 holes each, and next week's A-tier event as well as the world championship in 2020 will be held at both.
Sewell, tournament director for next week's activities, was helping clean and prepare the Fort Buenaventura course on Wednesday for next week's activities. He expects around 160 competitors, including two-time world champion Ricky Wysocki, while the world championship event next year should bring in 288 players plus an additional 700 supporters, fans and others.
Wysocki "does this full-time and he makes really good money doing it," said Sewell, though most in the sport have day jobs to keep them afloat.
The heavily wooded Fort Buenaventura course opened just last year, drawing an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 visitors, and Sewell speaks highly of it. "I think it'll be one of the best courses in the country when all is said and done," he said.
Mulligans opened in 2014 on a golf course, according to a press release for next week's Utah Open, and it "has challenged the best players in the world."
The sport may not rank as popular as football or baseball. "It's one of the niche sports," said Ferrario,
That said, it's popularity has increased rapidly over the years, Sewell said. "I play and it's my hobby and my passion," he said.