The sun was starting to set on a warm November day as Gannon Buhr walked off the disc golf course at Waterford Park in Urbandale, Iowa. He stops when a man walking a dog notices him.
“Great season this year,” the man yells to Buhr, who was out trying some new discs.
He didn’t know the fan, but these interactions on the disc golf course are common for Buhr, one of the sport’s top players in the world. He can stroll in and out of most places around Iowa and go unrecognized. But the second he steps on a course, it seems everyone knows him.
“It’s cool to a certain extent,” Buhr said. “Sometimes I just want to go out and practice myself and tune the world out.”
At age 17, the Waukee Northwest High School student racked up nearly $90,000 in prize money in 2022 and tallied a victory in one of the sport’s top events. After quickly rising to fame, he could be even better next year. That’s why he’s one of the Des Moines Register‘s People to Watch for 2023.
“I think it’ll be very big because people are looking for him to prove that he is actually that good and it wasn’t just a fluke,” said disc golf star Will Schusterick.
Disc golf was the sport one that stuck
Buhr played flag football, was a pitcher in baseball, tried basketball and even played golf.
But none of those sports stuck with him. Disc golf did. He got into it when he was around 9 years old by using a disc golf basket in his neighbor’s yard.
Disc golf offered him something most of those other sports didn’t. Buhr had complete control of his results and didn’t need to rely on teammates to get him the ball, force a stop or make a big play. Buhr was the entire team.
The sport requires participants to throw discs, smaller than frisbees, into a basket in as few tries as possible. It requires precision, focus and coordination. But it’s also accessible to people of all ages and many physical abilities.
And it has become increasingly popular. According to UDisc, which helps players find the often-free courses, the number of courses in the U.S. has grown from a few hundred a few decades ago to more than 9,000 today. Travel Iowa says the state has more than 300 courses and nearly 100 tournaments, making it, potentially, “the amateur disc golf capital of the world.”
Buhr traded his junior golf clubs for golf discs and baskets. He arranged a set in the…