If you are a fan of disc golf it’s easy to get caught up in the professional tour. The top players on the scene shine bright and attract the eyes as well as most of the accolades. But if you are able to look beyond the small percentage of athletes that dominate the landscape, you might be able to recognize some of the best disc golfers that are beginning to emerge in our own backyard.
One player in the Central Ohio area that is becoming well-known for his great play and strong mental game is Ben Foster PDGA #53393. The hardest decisions in the sport of disc golf aren’t always made by the professionals, but rather the competitors that are on the cusp of moving from Amateur divisions to the Open division.
In major league baseball the idea of not bringing a pitcher along too quickly has shown to be important to the longevity of an athlete. The sport of disc golf doesn’t have anything in place to let a player know when it is the right time to move up to a professional. Often times it isn’t the physical side of the game that can be damaging by moving up too quickly. Normally it’s the mental part that takes a hit as a player must deal with finding their place when skill levels don’t necessarily match their newly found division.
Ben Foster has a great understanding of the pitfalls of turning pro. I asked Ben if he plans to make the jump to Open and he said, “Eventually I plan on moving up to Open. I’m in no rush. There are still facets of my game I want to work on and improve upon before making the leap. At the moment, I’m signed up for one Open tournament and I am sure I’ll play a handful this season. For me, it’s about how competitive the advanced division is for a tournament. Locally in Columbus, Dayton, and Cincinnati. I know there are a lot of talented Advanced players, so I don’t have a problem playing Advanced for the time being. If I’m traveling somewhere and the Advanced division is made up of lower rated players I’m going to make more of an effort this year to try and play Open as the season gets under way.”
Getting better at disc golf is much more than playing disc golf and moving from division to division. The best players must learn lessons along the way. I asked Ben what he learned as he progressed through the divisions. “I think every division presents something different to learn in terms of what you need to do and how you need to improve to succeed in that division as a player. One of my biggest challenges in lower divisions was consistency. I’d often shoot one great round and then one awful round, finishing in the middle of the pack. A lot of these issues kind of resolve themselves with more play and experience. Being mindful during tournaments and figuring out what your higher percentage shots are and sticking with those will allow you to place higher at events. Disc golf is without a doubt a mental game. It can be easy to let what your competitors are doing, make you feel like you need to do more during a round. It’s better to play to your own strengths, if a hole doesn’t stack up to your game particularly well, play it for par. Playing a clean golf game can really get you far in the amateur divisions.”
The goal of any disc golf competitor is to improve, but what was it like for Ben when he was introduced to the sport we love? “I’d say the group that introduced me to the competitive scene was the regulars at Griggs Doubles (local Columbus league) during this time. They were super welcoming and some even gave me discs they thought would be good for me. Getting the opportunity to play with better players and see the shots they were throwing was what got me hooked. It inspired me to get better and pulled me into the competitive scene. It wasn’t long after starting to play doubles that I jumped into the local tournament scene.”
Some players learn the sport quickly while others see a gradual progression. What were Ben’s initial challenges? “The most difficult thing to learn is proper throwing mechanics and ingraining sound mechanics as you are beginning. Proper disc selection is important too and goes hand in hand with developing good form. I think this is probably the biggest mistake most beginners make, choosing the wrong starter disc(s). Everyone is drawn to the fastest drivers because they want to throw far. My first disc was an ESP Force. After I played a few rounds I went out and bought an S-line P2. While I did develop a good sidearm, I had absolutely no backhand for the first year I played. As it turns out the Force wasn’t a great disc to learn how to throw backhand. It wasn’t until I got a neutral midrange that I was able to start to develop a usable backhand. If I could go back and do it over I’d start with slower discs that were more neutral too understable. In the end your game will progress faster compared to having to work to undo negative tendencies starting with the wrong discs.”
Seeking major sponsorship might not be in the cards quite yet for this young player, but I wanted to know Ben’s feeling about getting a manufacturer to notice him and he replied that, “The more and longer I’ve played the less I am concerned with getting sponsored by a disc manufacturer. If it happens eventually, it happens. Currently I’m happy just focusing on having fun, trying to get better, and lending an occasional helping hand with Columbus Flyers projects.”
For the last three seasons Hazy Shade Disc Golf has supported Ben locally.
Because Ben isn’t preoccupied with manufacturer sponsorship could be the reason he eventually gets noticed. His attitude toward the game and sponsorship is refreshing. “There’s so many manufacturers producing full line-ups of discs I don’t necessarily think any are truly superior. I think it’s important to find what feels the most comfortable for you as an individual and what you have the most confidence in. No company makes the best disc for every shot. I almost always have one or two discs in my practice bag I’m experimenting with. For me it’s fun to tinker with a new mold occasionally.”
So what is it that draws Ben Foster to tournaments and disc golf in general? “I enjoy the social aspect that tournaments offer. I’d say the thing that gets on my nerves the most during a tournament is just being on a quiet card. The round seems to kind of drag on and I think the pace of play can kind of slow down or seem slower if everyone is keeping to themselves. I have dry, sarcastic sense of humor. I’ve had people misinterpret and misunderstand my sense of humor before. I’m not a super serious person and like to joke around with card mates.”
As a player, Ben has progressed quickly and is learning the ropes to make it to the next level. What does 2019 have in store for the aspiring player? “One of the coolest things about disc golf is the different places it can take you. Random parks and areas you would never stumble across if you weren’t there to play disc golf. I aspire to play as many courses as I can. I enjoy pairing travel with disc golf. Sometime I enjoy traveling to a new area and playing new courses more than signing up and competing in a tournament. Competition wise I’ve always wanted to win the Brent Hambrick Memorial Open (BHMO) in Advanced and have been close a handful of times. Mentally, it’s just something I want to tackle before making the jump to the Open full-time.”
Ben Foster is a well-liked fixture in the Central Ohio scene. With a win already in 2019, The Arnold Classic, Ben has his sights on the upcoming Buckeye Classic helmed by none other than Discraft legend Brad Schick. What does the future hold for Ben Foster? With a rising PDGA rating and more confidence in his game Ben Foster is one to watch, and the sky’s the limit.