By Dave DeLuca
Chris Becker is relatively new to our town, but he’s already making a big splash. This 23-year-old professional athlete is using his talents and experience to help spread the message that disc golf is here to stay. He grew up a Duck, and has the bachelor’s degree from UO to prove it. But Becker has fully embraced Beaver nation as a disc golf and ultimate Frisbee instructor at OSU and as the coach of the university disc golf club team.
He currently competes as a touring pro and holds a rating of 1002 (for some perspective on the rating, Paul McBeth holds the current highest rating at 1048) in the Professional Disc Golf Association. He first picked up the tools of the trade in middle school a decade ago. By high school he was entering tournaments and building a reputation. At the University of Oregon in his hometown of Eugene, Becker joined the UO disc golf club team. He credits much of his success to then coach Dave Feldberg, a world class professional himself, who helped Becker learn to play at a professional level. After graduating from Oregon in 2012, Becker spread his wings and began a career as a touring pro.
Becker recently teamed up with a couple of our state’s best disc golfers to form Team Oregon. Zoe Andyke and Dustin Keegan hold rankings of 902 and 1012 respectively in the DGA. The three tour together to lessen the burden of life on the road. These young pros play for money, but are responsible for expenses like travel, memberships, and entry fees. Through shared networking, expenses, and emotional support, they hope to push each other to greater heights.
Disc golfers compete as individuals, but Becker says that their love of the game helps to create a bond between them. “It’s really a subculture that a lot of people don’t know about. In the disc golf community, people are just trying to help each other. They know how hard it is. It’s not to the level yet that you can really make it. The payouts just aren’t high enough. But hopefully soon they will be.”
Most touring pros are forced to moonlight to make ends meet. A handful have sponsors who will pick up some of their expenses. Becker points out that only a few world class disc golfers make a good living at the sport through a combination of tournament prize money and big sponsorship deals.
“It should be that if you’re top 50 in the world you could be doing that. Hopefully in five years or less it will be.”
Despite moving to Corvallis just this fall, Becker has immersed himself in the disc golf scene. Between competing in tournaments (24 so far this year), he somehow finds time to teach classes on both disc golf and its team sport cousin, ultimate Frisbee. He also coaches the club team at OSU. The team travels to courses around the state to compete with schools like Western Oregon University, Linn Benton Community College, George Fox College, and the University of Oregon. During the winter, the 25 or so club members will be practicing mostly at Truax Indoor Center. Protection from the elements will be a nice change of pace for Becker, and a chance for him to hone his own skills while coaching his students. It is rare for a club team to have a touring pro as their coach, and Becker hopes his guidance will help give the Beavers an advantage on their way to nationals. He relishes his role as a mentor and is constantly improving in his new role.
Becker is also devoting his time and energy to the Calapooia Putting League. Team Oregon is inviting disc golfers to the Calapooia Brewing Company in Albany to play a covered nine-hole course and drink great local beer. For only a $5 entry fee and an optional $2 “Money Ball” putter pot, participants can improve their skills and get hands-on advice from all three team pros. The league meets on Thursday nights from 6 to 8 p.m. “We encourage all skill levels, from people who don’t even know what disc golf is to people who have been playing for years,” said Becker.
Becker is also interested in teaching private lessons. But if you are looking to learn from this pro, don’t wait too long. He hopes to be a premier traveling pro within the next five to 10 years. “I’m hoping to be one of the top players, and really making it. I think I can be. It’s going to take a lot of work, but I play my best at the biggest tournaments.”
You can find out more about the OSU Disc Golf Club at https://www.facebook.com/groups/osudiscgolf. Information on Team Oregon and the Calapooia Putting League can be found at http://team-or.com/. You can also meet Chris Becker in person every Wednesday from 4 to 5 p.m. at Play It Again Sports on 9th Street.