By Cyrus Gutnick
A true local to the area, Christopher Edwards is a product of his environment. While others found themselves pulled by the ebb and swell of the surf, and some to the gears and tread of the bike, Chris found himself at the age of 15 with a circular piece of thermoplastic material in his hands that has since defined his life and potentially his career.
What Edwards has held in his hands for the past five years is the most recent direction that the Frisbee has taken since its debut 40 years ago — Frisbee golf discs. It is projected that 90 percent of Americans play with a version of this flying toy at one point or another in their life, and 15 million people enjoy some form of the sport each year.
With disc in hand and the freedom of being 16 years old with his parents’ car, Edwards spent much of his time at the world-renowned DeLaveaga disc golf course. Spending hundreds of hours on the course and having the innate ability his body possessed for perfecting disc flight characteristics, Edwards quickly found himself rising to the top of the competition.
By the time he was 18, Edwards participated in the Amateurs World Championship in the Junior Division. The amateur competition is for all players who have never accepted prize money in competition. Edwards finished seventh.
Edwards, who graduated from Santa Cruz High School, continued his play as his college career took off. He spent his freshman year at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Ore., where he played a multitude of beautiful, challenging courses. However, he grew up with DeLaveaga in his backyard and, since transferring to UC Santa Cruz, has returned to his old stomping grounds.
“The demands of playing DeLaveaga are great because so many shots apply to all the different terrain,” Edwards said. “Twenty-seven holes give me the versatility and endurance to surmount other [18-hole] courses.”
In the spring of 2007, Edwards showcased his dexterity and familiarity with the DeLaveaga course during the Amateur Masters Cup. Over the course of the three-day tournament he shot one over par the first day, three under the second, and four under the third to solidify a first-place finish at six under par.
His victory entitled him to play in the Professional DeLaveaga Masters Cup. The first day Edwards shot an even par, giving him good position in the competition. However, due to chronic illness, the last two days of the tourney were less successful for the young athlete.
Later in the summer, Edwards officially turned pro when he accepted the prize money for a fourth-place finish at an open tournament on the 27-hole Bijou Park in Lake Tahoe. After turning pro, one cannot return to amateur — but that is fine with Edwards, since “the amateur level just isn’t [his] competition anymore.”
Since then, he has struggled to stay healthy and right now recovery is the name of the game.
“When I transferred as a sophomore I would rather have gone on tour, stepped up the game and made it happen,” Edwards said. “I’m glad I stuck it out through college. UCSC has given me other outlets like yoga, swimming, and biking that will allow me to elongate my disc golf career.”
He is on the road to recovery and competitive play, contemplating his participation in this year’s Masters Cup in May. However, the road is long and winding with plenty of opportunities in the future.
“I will be there [in the World Circuit],” Edwards said. “I have the distance, it is just a matter of time.”