Members of the Ferris State Disc Golf Team are shown in this photo taken in Appling, Georgia during competition in the National Collegiate Disc Golf Championships. The men's team won its third national championship in five seasons. Two members of the men's team won All-America honors and one member, of the newly-formed women's team, was named an All-American. (Photo credit: Josh Black)
Winning National Collegiate Disc Golf Championships in 2015 and 2017, and returning an experienced team in 2019, it’s not too difficult to believe that Ferris State University was due – if the pattern held. It did. The Ferris State Disc Golf Team made history with its third national championship in five seasons, winning by three strokes over second-place North Carolina State, on Saturday, March 30 in Appling, Georgia.
“These kids are so deserving of what they’ve earned. They have been an incredible group for me to work with, and I couldn’t be happier for them,” said Leonard Johnson, the associate provost for Academic Operations and the Ferris Disc Golf coach. “This team has dedicated individuals who love the sport and who have worked hard at it to get to this point and to play at this level.”
Through the five-round tournament, the Bulldogs totaled a championship-winning score of 522, at 21-under-par, to earn bragging rights in the NCDGC’s 36-team Championship Division at the Michigan-like woodsy Wildwood Park, in Appling, Georgia – a venue different than the more common open-area disc golf courses.
Johnson and the disc golf team members were confident with the venue change, believing the veteran team was well-prepared to compete, successfully.
“When we saw the switch, in courses, we knew we had a very good chance,” said team member Ryan Brophy, a College of Pharmacy senior from Saline, Michigan. “Mississippi State ran away with it, last year, but we liked our chances when we found out about the course change. We’re familiar with it. We’re used to hitting trees, playing that type of course. Seeing that change, I knew we had a shot.”
Johnson, who noted that disc golf participants can compete up to six years, collegiately, said that this group has used its time together to grow, individually and collectively, preparing for championship moments such as what the team experienced in Appling.
“One of the reasons that I had such high expectations for our team is because we return all four men who competed in the championship division, last year,” Johnson said. “Returning with that much experience, and with the work that our team has put in, gave me a lot of confidence to have that kind of expectation.”
So, what is the secret of the team’s success during the last five years? Johnson chalks up a lot of the program’s good fortunes to its experience and the way that the team has come together, working toward group and individual successes.
“The chemistry, I think, is one of the biggest things that makes this team so special. During the last three years, this team has come together and bonded so well,” said Johnson, who noted that the team members have spent time together training and have competed in leagues and tournaments to hone their skills, further. “They’ve lived together, practiced together. They are there for each other, in support, to give each other feedback and to push each other.”
Two Ferris Disc Golf men’s team seniors earned All-America honors by virtue of individual top-10 finishes at the national championship. Brophy and Sam Mrdeza, a senior in Kendall College of Art and Design from Grand Rapids, Michigan, were Ferris’ All-American honorees, in addition to being members of all three Ferris national championship teams. In addition to Brophy and Mrdeza, Ferris Disc Golf Team members include Carl Bouman, of Big Rapids, and Patrick Nemmer, of Chicago.
The program has set the bar high, according to Brophy.
“It’s kind of a weird feeling being part of a tradition like what has been built here at Ferris over the years,” Brophy said. “This is what Ferris State Disc Golf is all about, and it is great knowing that we have that national reputation, in disc golf. There can be pressure playing with those expectations, but we have a great group that has been together, and we’re supportive of each other.
For the first time since the 2015 championships, Ferris fielded a women’s team. As newcomers to the sport, Savannah Keefer, a junior majoring in Medical Sonography and Allied Health Science, and Tina Halfaday, a sophomore in Accounting, represented FSU well, finishing fourth in a field that included seven teams. Of particular note, Halfaday earned All-America honors with her top-10 finish in the singles competition.
On the women’s side, Southern Arkansas University won the national championship by 15 strokes.
Click Ferris State Disc Golf for more information about this university club sports team.