WARRENSBURG – An opportunity to get outside with his brother led to a chance meeting with a professional who sparked a four-year journey that took Warrensburg-native Mark Anderson from a newcomer to disc golf to the collegiate national champion.
Anderson, a senior at Missouri S&T, shot a -4, 95, at National Collegiate Disc Golf Championship in Appling, Georgia to take home the individual national championship. Missouri S&T club team finished fourth as a squad.
“I had no expectations of winning it all,” Anderson said. “It was a complete shock.”
Anderson went into the tournament looking for a Top 28 finish, the cut off line for All-American status.
The computer science major secured that mark on the first day of individual rounds, carding a 68, good enough to be one stroke off the lead in a six-way tie for second place.
“I went out that night and practiced in the dark just to get my confidence up,” Anderson said.
The remaining twenty eight competitors then took to the course the following day for a final nine holes to determine the national champion.
“My game plan was to go three down through those nine holes,” Anderson.
Anderson one-upped his own expectations, finishing with a 4-under 27 – the lowest and only sub-30 mark of the day – to win the tournament.
“Four years ago if you would have asked me, I wouldn’t have even know I’d be going to that tournament,” Anderson said.
Disc golf is nearly identical to its predecessor save in its scoring and play. The major differences are the holes end with an elevated basket and instead of clubs and a ball, different discs are used.
“The skill level comes in the mechanics,” Andreson said. “Driving is incredibly difficult. It’s very minute timing that determines how far the discs flies, how clean the disc releases, the angle its on. Just like in golf, the mental game is super, super important.”
Disc golf was originally meant to just be a fun way to get some exercise and enjoy the outdoors when Anderson started playing in the spring of 2015.
“I started play in Warrensburg at Marr Park,” Anderson said. “My older brother was one the first one to introduce me to it. I played casually with a week with him and then I met Andrew Presnell.”
Presnell, currently the No. 19 disc golfer in the world according to rankings done by Ultiworld Disc Golf, was an assistant coach for Warrensurg tennis team at the time
“I met him out there and saw how great the really good players are, how far they could throw it and how well they could play and I started playing with him nearly every day,” Anderson said. “After a while, I was hooked. I got my official membership with the professional association and just started playing tournaments every other weekend.”
Anderson didn’t join the Miners disc golf club until his junior year.
“I didn’t know it was a official thing for a while,” Anderson said.
Anderson was looking to split gas money and hotel expenses while he competed in the Four State Open held in Joplin when Ethan Huddleston, president of the Missouri S&T team, joined for the ride and the two struck up a friendship leading to Anderson joining the club.
To reach the national tournament, the Miners won the Missouri Collegiate Disc Golf Championship, a regional tournament that secured a national bid.