PDGA World Championships underway in West Michigan, 11 different countries represented

Posted at 11:23 PM, Jul 21, 2015
and last updated 2015-07-21 23:23:48-04

KALAMAZOO, Mich. -- More than 700 disc golfers from all over the world are competing for the 2015 Amateur Disc Golf World Championships right here in West Michigan. Players in their year's tournament are representing 11 different countries, 47 states, totaling 753 registered PDGA players.

Day one of the five-day tournament is complete after disc golfers competed on some of the most renowned courses in the nation.

Johnnie Harrison, course director at Timber Ridge in Gobles said Michigan is one of the best places in the world for disc golf.

"Michigan is actually a hotbed for disc golf. There are a lot of disc golf courses here," said Harrison. "I would say it's probably in the top five as far courses per capita and how many golfers there are. There's people from Sweden, Finland, Australia, the Dominican Republic, and Taiwan."

James Elkins, a 2012 Grand Master's champion, understands he's competing for the chance to be crowned a world champion on some of the most difficult and time-consuming courses in the nation.

David Hevia, another Grand Master's competitor is fighting for the big win after competing in the PDGA for years.

"(Timber Ridge is) a fabulous course," said Hevia. "That's why I'm a little disappointed. I should be playing a little bit better; this course suits my game."

One man's passion for the sport started in a wheel chair after he survived a life-changing car accident in 1980. Mike Simone from Fort Pierce, Florida, found his love for disc golf while he practiced in a wheel chair, then progressing to crutches. Years later, Simone suffered another burden out on the course.

"I was playing the Delaware Master's tournament in 1990, and a storm did a 360 and came back and struck two of us," said Simone.

The lightning strike stopped his heart before another disc golfer gave him CPR and revived him. Today, Simone's dedication is unparalleled. He uses a cane to help him get through the day but still finds peace on the course.

"It's just so great to be able to walk in the beautiful parks, out in nature, and it's good physical and mental therapy," said Simone.

At Timber Ridge, Harrison says disc golf is one of the fastest growing sports, and to have the PDGA in West Michigan means "big money" for the local economy.

The tournament will be played through Saturday. For more details, click here.