In honor of National Girls and Women in Sports Day on Feb. 5, Savage is highlighting some of our favorite female athletes [like Ultimate player Jenny Fey and Spikeballer Tori Farlow] in some of our favorite sports throughout the week. Next up: PDGA rising star Hannah McBeth.
Hannah has been competing as a professional disc golfer since the end of 2017. When she's not traveling the world
competing in events with her husband (five-time World Champion Paul McBeth), they're relaxing at home in Goode, Virginia with their German shepherd, Harrison. You're up, Hannah!
Savage: How did you start playing disc golf?
Hannah McBeth: I was dating someone who played the sport. He and his friend group would play every weekend, and after watching them throw into trees/water/rough for hours every Saturday (they were beginners) I got tired of watching and wanted to learn for myself. I immediately fell in love with it! I loved how you could do it by yourself, and didn’t have to rely on having a team or signing up for a league.
Savage: What's unique about being a woman in the world of disc golf?
HM: I love being a woman in professional disc golf. Our sport is continuing to grow every year and there are lots of women taking it seriously and wanting to move up to pro. The atmosphere for women’s disc golf is really positive, especially at the beginner/amateur level. The camaraderie and competitive drive in pro absolutely exists, but there is also this strong support felt between all of us. Disc golf is different than any other sport I’ve played because it isn’t a team sport. Even though we are courteous and tell each other “good shot” or “nice putt,” everyone is mostly focused on and looking out for themselves. We all want the sport to continue growing and improving, and I think a lot of pro women have been inspired to start working harder and practicing more.
How do you think being female in disc golf compares to other sports?
HM: All the other sports I have played have been women-only team sports, but in disc golf I’m ALWAYS practicing with guys. This encourages me to be the best I can be and not shy away from challenges or harder practices, but it can be challenging if I’m not keeping my pride in check. A professional male out-driving me on every hole doesn’t intimidate or bother me. It’s taught me to take the focus off others and be mindful about my own game and practices. Their mistakes don’t bother me and my mistakes don’t bother them.
I choose to surround myself with positive, patient people who want to see me succeed. I don’t think every woman in disc golf has that opportunity. I know sometimes women go out with their significant others and are easily discouraged by the difference in skill level. Maybe their guy isn’t as patient, or the course is super wooded, or the discs aren’t right for them, etc. I would encourage those women to get involved with other women who play the sport! It can be so much more fun. That's what I did when I started playing. I found a women’s league and it made disc golf fun, not frustrating.
Savage: What are some of the challenges of being a woman in disc golf?
HM: There are challenges in every sport for every athlete. The focus should be on what you do with them. Right now, one challenge is with tee pads and tournaments setting fair pars for our division. I have played on several courses that were considered “too hard for me.” I have been told multiple times (remember, I haven’t been competing long) “getting par here is going to be like a birdie, so you’re most likely going to get a bogey+.” When you go through experiences like that you learn to focus on what you can control. For me, I can control how often I practice, my training habits, and my mentality. I can’t control unlucky kicks, unfair pars, difficult fairway designs, or long tee pad locations. That's how I tend to look at any challenges I tend to face as an athlete in disc golf.
Savage: What are your thoughts on bringing more women into disc golf?
HM: Being an athlete for as long as I have, I know for a fact that if someone finds enjoyment in a sport or activity, they are going to make it a priority in their life. In disc golf we call it “catching the bug.” The issue is there are limited resources for women looking to improve. We have too many women climbing up the ranks with poor form in putting and driving. When they move into a wooded course they can’t keep it in the fairway, or when they move from wooded to open they don’t have the distance they need. We need more resources (coaching) and training opportunities (pro clinics) so the women in the sport can continue to have fun and play, but also improve if they want.
What are your hopes for the future of the sport?
HM: My hope for the future of the sport is that more people would take themselves seriously as professionals. It’s important to take practice, workout, and nourishment seriously. We also have many incredible athletes in the sport who aren’t getting appropriate sponsorships or opportunities because they don’t know how to self-market effectively. I think everyone is hoping the sponsors will come to them and give them a big opportunity, but in reality, we could educate ourselves on brand deals and marketing more. I have seen several companies offer free or discounted product to disc golfers in exchange for social media posts when in reality these athletes could be asking for more.
Savage: Who are some of your favorite female disc golfers?
HM: My all-time favorite female disc golfer is Elaine King. Elaine is a straight-shooter on and off the course. She isn’t afraid to tell it like it is to help you succeed, even if you’re about the throw your disc (as a five-time world champion she’s allowed to do that). When Elaine compliments you, you know you can trust what she’s saying and it feels so incredible. She has a big heart for women coming into the sport but is also a very tough competitor to the ones who have been here for a while. She has proven that it is possible to be completely focused and competitive while at the same time remaining kind and courteous to those around you. My second favorite is Kristin Tattar. She has overcome so much adversity in life and every time continues to quietly work hard and push herself. Her work ethic is the most inspiring part of her game to me, and I am so excited she is our current U.S. Women’s champion.