Illustration by Rachel Edelstein.
Illustration by Rachel Edelstein.

Change is good. The UC Santa Cruz disc golf team hopes to prove this adage true, as new head coach and world disc golf champion Avery Jenkins leads the team’s rebuilding process going into the new season.

“I’m trying to lead a revival of disc golf in the area,” Jenkins said. “There are a lot of college and high school kids that play around here, and I’m just trying to get more organization and competition going.”

Christopher Johnston is a previous player, former president, and now the assistant coach of the team. Though it means he is giving up the head coaching position, Johnston is excited about Jenkins taking over.

“Coach Avery is the reigning world distance champion, is proficient in all kinds of throws and techniques, and is willing to teach them to everyone,” Johnston said in an e-mail to City on a Hill Press (CHP). “He also has a lot of important connections throughout the disc golf world.”

Senior Clark Knutdson is in his last year on the team, but knows that the addition of Coach Avery is a great step for the team in this upcoming season and years to come.

“I think this is a spectacular step for the disc golf team,” Knutdson said in an e-mail to CHP. “I’ve only been to one practice with Avery, but there is no doubt that he is going to make us loads better. Not that we aren’t pretty good now.”

Jenkins will continue his traveling as a professional disc golfer on the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) during his time as coach.

“This is my first year coaching a team, but I’m going to have a lot of help thanks to the team captain and Johnston,” Jenkins said.

At the same time, however, assistant coach Johnston acknowledges that this will likely be a rebuilding year due to the loss of several key players.

“We lost most of last year’s team and are in the process of rebuilding, so we are very fortunate to have Coach Avery there to help us,” Johnston said. “We are trying to seek out the students at UCSC who play disc golf but have no idea the school has a team. … Now is the time for them to shine.”

One way that the team hopes to improve recruitment in the coming years is by getting schools in the region to start offering disc golf on their campuses.

“Right now we are in the process of starting up a high-school disc golf league that will feature Santa Cruz High School, Soquel High School, Aptos, Harbor, and Scotts Valley High,” Jenkins said. “It’s going to be cool, being able to have a whole new set of local players coming out of the area looking to play disc golf at the college level, and a huge advantage for the UCSC team.”

At the same time, Jenkins also hopes to recruit current college students for this year’s team.

“Right now we have between eight and 10 people on the team, and we are definitely looking to add more,” he said.

Knutdson thinks that the appeal of the game lies in its simplicity.

“I think people just need to come out and play with us once,” he said, “because that’s all it usually takes to get hooked.”