Larry Kirk of Atwater, Calif., prepares to launch a disc golf disc after digging it out of the foliage at the Fort Walla Walla Park disc golf course. Kirk, an Air National Guard reservist, is making a 50-day, 50-state journey to play in the U.S. Disc Golf Championships in Rock Hill, S.C., with stops to play at local courses in all 50 states along the way.
Photo by Ben Wentz.
WALLA WALLA — The words come tumbling from Larry Kirk’s mouth.
He practically bounces as he answers questions about his mammoth quest to play disc golf in all 50 states en route to the U.S. Disc Golf Championships in Rock Hill, S.C.
A week and five states into his journey, Kirk, 52, still moves and talks like he’s on a permanent caffeine high, and he’ll need that energy as he plans on making the journey in just 50 days.
“I just want to raise awareness for the game of disc golf,” Kirk said Tuesday before his playing a round at Fort Walla Walla Park’s disc golf course. “I’m a talkative person, I just love talking to random strangers. Is this my calling? I don’t know, I just want to raise as much awareness for the game of disc golf as I can.”
Kirk, an Air National Guard reservist, arrived in Walla Walla Monday after beginning his journey earlier this month with trips to Alaska and Hawaii. Kirk played the blue course at Fort Walla Walla Monday, but wasn’t quite able to complete the second red course and finished that round Tuesday morning before departing for Boise to continue his journey.
Kirk, who began playing disc golf in 1978 as a young man in Whittier, Calif., will culminate the grand tour by playing at the U.S. Disc Golf Championships set for Oct. 1.
He will also be attempting to set a Guinness world record for the most disc golf courses played in a year.
Kirk began playing disc golf in 1978, shortly after its inception in 1975.
He has been an avid fan of the sport ever since.
“I just want to play, man,” Kirk said. “Just drop me off at the disc golf course, I’ll be good all day, man. I used to have lights, I could play in Southern California (all night), just put a light on there.”
This will be the third time Kirk has made a trip through all 50 states playing disc golf, but the first time he has done it in such a short time span.
Kirk’s first cross-country trip actually took him through Walla Walla in 2002 en route to one of his daughters’ softball tournaments in Spokane, although he didn’t stop in Walla Walla then.
Since then, traveling to play disc golf has been an obssession for Kirk. He regularly makes trips specifically to play disc golf, and frequently works in stops at disc courses on non-disc golf trips.
Although he has every course planned out in advance for his 50/50 trip, the affable Kirk doesn’t know where he will be spending the night at every stop and is making those arrangements as he goes along.
Social media has played an integral role in Kirk’s cross-country expedition. He fundraises via his blog and a Facebook page, selling commemorative discs and asking for donations.
In addition to fundraising, Kirk also communicates with fellow disc golf aficianados and posts almost daily updates and photos.
According to Kristopher Bland, vice president of the Fort Walla Walla Disc Golf Club, disc golf is one of the fastest growing sports in the world.
The sport shares many parallels with regular golf, or “ball golf,” as Kirk calls it.
Players tee off from a concrete pad and use discs of varying shapes and sizes to try and reach the hole, a basket with a series of chains dangling over it to stop wayward discs.
Par for most holes, Bland said, is three.
Walla Walla’s course is laid out over several acres at the Fort Walla Walla park. The course’s 18 holes can be played from two different directions for a total of 36 holes.
The course is free to play and the club hosts weekly handicap league matches on Sundays at 10 a.m. The handicap matches cost $3 to play and the top 50 percent of finishers receive disc golf merchandise.
For more information about the Fort Walla Walla Disc Golf Club, contact Bland at 509-301-6789 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To follow along with Kirk’s journey, follow his Facebook group at facebook.com/groups/LCKIrk.50in50/.