If golf is the traditional gentleman's sport, then disc golf is the cooler, laid-back sibling who everyone would rather hang out with. The sport continues to grow in popularity around the world, and it's no different in Bend.
A large part of that is definitely thanks to Valarie Jenkins, the 2016 Professional Disc Golf Association World Champion. Jenkins' patient and steady style over six rounds of play led to her fourth world championship title in the Women's Open.
"It feels unreal," Jenkins said. "This year was exhilarating. I put my mind to something and to have it come through successfully is really awesome."
When Jenkins isn't flawlessly tossing in birdies, she lives in Bend with her husband, Nate Doss. The two play disc golf professionally around the country, even teaching a few clinics throughout the year.
The Source Weekly spoke with Valarie while she was celebrating with her family in her hometown of Medina, Ohio. Fresh off her win, the champion talked about playing smart, growing up with the game, and conducting beer "research" along the way:
Source Weekly: First off, congrats on the win. You came from behind on the last day, and made an amazing birdie on the 16th Hole to cement your fourth championship. What was your mindset during the round?
Valarie Jenkins: I felt really confident about my game. (Paige) Pierce and (Catrina) Allen were in the lead, and they are two of the farthest-throwing women I've ever seen play the game. They can reach some of the holes that I can't reach, but for me it's always been more about my steady and consistent play. So while they can go for these longer shots, they might get in more trouble or go out of bounds risking those long shots. I kept my steady play, my putting was really great during the week. It came down to the final nine holes, and at this little trap (at Hole 13) they kept landing out of bounds, and I played my consistent shot in the middle. That's when it really took off, and I knew that I had it.
SW: This is your fourth world championship. You won your first three in 2007, 2008 and 2009. What do you think was different about your performance this year from previous years? And what are your goals from here?
VJ: I've been basically doing the same thing every year. I think it's just the more times you win, there's going to be more women trying to knock you off that pedestal. I think a lot of strong competition came onto the scene around 2010, so every year it's been harder and harder to win a world championship. I definitely wasn't sure if I was ever going to get my fourth. The funny thing about this year, the guy that won the Open Men's, (Richard Wysocki,) actually grew up playing the same course that I did in Medina. So it was all meant to be somehow.
Right now, I'm preparing for the U.S. Women's Championship in Maine. And there are two women with five world championships, so I'm working my way towards that next year.
SW: You've been playing disc golf professionally since you were 15. What aspects of the sport do you most enjoy? What keeps it exciting for you after all this time?
VJ: For me, disc golf is a family operation. Since the early '90s, my parents have maintained one of the local disc golf courses in Medina ...so I basically grew up on the course. And my brother—who's eight years older than me and very competitive—won the Men's Open World Champion in 2009. Right now, my husband and I are in a blue Sprinter van, and we travel the country from one tour stop to the next. We're able to check out these places that would take people a couple lifetimes to visit. We've played in Denmark, Sweden, Australia and Japan.
The teaching aspect is great, too. My husband and I did a kid's clinic at Elk Meadow Elementary in the spring. It brought us back to that moment when we learned about the sport and how fun it is for the first time. It was really rejuvenating. When you can accomplish something that you've never tried before, it's a fun thing that brings you to that next level.
SW: You're also a chairwoman for PDGA's Women's Committee. What are your responsibilities in that role?
VJ: It's called the Professional Disc Golf Association... but it's open to amateurs, juniors, pros, older players, master players. We're trying to get these smaller sections of women running organized events in their area. In the PDGA, women make up only 7 percent of the whole association. While the sport's been exponentially growing every year, the percentage hasn't changed ... I'd really like that number to change. I help run this bi-yearly tournament called the Women's Global Event. It's a virtual event where women can play at their local course on that day, and then they submit their scores, and we create this huge, virtual tournament. The first year we had about 1,000 competitors, and this year we had 1,600 women participating from 12 different countries.
SW: So you're a World Champion, you're on the Women's Committee, you're a member of the Central Oregon Disc Golf Club, and I hear you're also a big beer fan. In fact, you and your husband are planning on opening a brewery in Bend, correct?
VJ: That's true. One of the reasons we moved to Bend was to learn from all the local breweries. It's crazy with our lifestyle right now, and it's really hard to get anything in concrete, but that is our eventual goal. We're fortunate, though, in that we get to do a lot of what we can call "research." We're able to travel to all these different states and see all the different styles that people are getting excited about.
We just did two collaboration beers last month with a brewery in Vermont called Fiddlehead. It's called the Stable IPA, and it will be canned and released at a disc golf tournament up there. We did the same thing last year (called the Understable), and people were calling the brewery multiple times a month to ask when the beer was coming out again. And in Maine, we'll be releasing another beer with a local brewery there. The proceeds from that will help a local cancer and healing center.