One of the more interesting things about interviewing others is when I get to talk to members of the PDGA. They always have interesting stories to tell and they have both a PDGA and player story. One of the members that I recently got to talk to and interview was Shawn Sinclair. He was a pleasure to talk to and has a great story to tell! Enjoy!
1) How did you get your start in Disc Golf?
I grew up in Huntington Beach, CA and the course was pretty close to my house. Me and my cousin would go out with big Whamos, this was 1978. We didn’t know how the game was really played so we would find a basket and just throw to it. Then once we putted out we would look for another one and throw to it. We would do this for a couple hours never really keeping score.
My family moved farther north to the Monterey area when I was 10 and I never played disc golf again until I was in college. Sonoma State University had a course on its campus along with the United Flyers of Sonoma club. I went out with some of my classmates in 1992. I didn’t get to play much as I was also playing baseball for Sonoma State. I played in the worlds biggest in 1993 while continuing to play casually. My baseball career ended after the 93 season and I latched onto disc golf. I played in a couple of sanctioned events in 94 and 95. Then at the end of 95 I joined the PDGA 10819.
I played one year of advanced in 1996 I won a handful of those events and started playing pro in 1997. The summer of 97 I played my first out of state event, the Great Lakes Open. Which at the time was the one event to play other than worlds. In 1998 I started teaching in Northern CA, that allowed me a lot of time to play during the summer. I cashed in every event but one that year including two wins. 1999 was the first year that I went out and traveled the country during the summer. I played a bunch of the big events on the tour finishing with the world championships. I did the same thing in 2000. During those years I played 27 A tiers. (NT’s didn’t exist yet) I had several top 5 finishes and played in a handful of final nines.
So at the end of the next school year I put in my resignation and hit the road full time. I continued to tour and play until 2006 when I was injured leading into the world championships so I volunteered to Marshal at both the Am and Pro worlds. I loved being on the other side for a change.
By this time I had lost the drive to compete and then transition onto the administrative side of the PDGA was a perfect fit. My last PDGA event was in 2009.
2) Who inspired you the most when you began playing?
There were a lot of great players in Northern CA in the 90’s. My first couple of events that I played were overalls (distance, self caught flight, freestyle etc…). I was immediately impressed by John Kirkland. He and I became friends and I started picking his brain on distance technique. We are still good friends today.
On the disc golf side of things hall of famer Geoff Lissaman. He was this small guy that could throw about 300’ and was winning everything in Nor Cal, plus going to major events around the country and constantly in contention. He was 2nd to Climo at worlds his accomplishments are very worthy of the Hall of Fame. I would put Geoff of the 90’s against anyone today in a putting competition. He made everything. He was also the best roller thrower I have ever seen. He wasn’t throwing 700’ rollers like Eagle or Simon but he could land one inside of a 10’ circle from anywhere. All I wanted to do was beat him. I would try to emulate his putting style. I was finally able to beat him the first time in 1998 in Lake Tahoe on the final hole of the tournament, making a long putt. He and his brother were always super supportive of me.
3) What is your role in the PDGA?
I am in charge of the marshal program, along with Andrew Sweeton. I organize and assemble the marshal teams for our major events.
I also do site visits and reviews for our major events. I will meet with the host team a year in advance to look at what they will be using for the event. Host hotel, players meeting space, fly mart space, field events, and the courses .
I am on the board of directors,
I was the chairperson for the discipline committee for almost 10 years and continue to serve on that committee.
I am on the rules, competition, majors, and game development committees.
4) How do you continue to grow the sport?
My major effort comes from everything I do with the PDGA. But I also consult with players, TDs, and parks to work on course development. I used to TD 7-10 events a year but don’t have enough time to do that anymore. I do help my girlfriend Sara Lamberson run the largest mixed doubles event each year. I have also gone to sport and recreation conferences on behalf of the PDGA and companies within the sport.
As I stated before I use to be a school teacher and would really like to get involved with a program that helps get disc sports into schools.More than just the PE programs. I would like to see youth and high school programs developed similar to little league and soccer.
5) What has been your favorite memory from the years within the sport?
Winning the 2002 Stockholm Open in a playoff.
6) Favorite Disc?
At this point in my life I basically throw whatever falls out of someone's bag or off their cart. However one disc has been consistent for over 15 years and that is the wizard. I have always had at least one in my bag.
7) Favorite course?
I have to go with Stafford Lake in CA. Mainly because it was my baby. I went to all the meetings and did all the leg work getting approval. I did the initial design then with the help of a few other key players we finalized the design and then did all the work installing the course.
My new favorite course to play is Iron Hill in Newark, DE. Truly a championship level course.
8) What is it like to be on the PDGA side rather than the players side?
I tell people I get to be around everything I love about the sport but without getting bogeys. I volunteer hundreds of hours and absolutely love it. I do get paid and reimbursed for travel with some of the things I do. It’s a double edge sword as a representative of the PDGA. We get blamed for negative things but rarely get credit for positive things. For some reason there is a lot of hate and anger towards the PDGA. I think most of it comes from misconceptions and myths. I am always encouraging players to become involved with the PDGA, by volunteering for a committee or running for the board. In addition we have our annual fall summit in Augusta that is open to anyone and encourage everyone to try and attend. On the positive side it is very rewarding to guide and further grow the sport. I love attending the world championships especially the Am worlds. Meeting and seeing everyone competing and having a great time. The growth we have been seeing in the last five years in the sport in amazing. The number of new players, events, courses, and discs is unreal. It is a very exciting time to be involved in disc golf. I hope to continue to be involved even more in the future.
9) Do you have any advice for players who are trying to step up their game to the next level?
Narrow down how many different models of discs you throw. I see lots of amateurs that have 20 different models of discs in their bag. It’s easier to have a few models and learn how to get them to do what you want them to do. Versus having one disc for every shot.
The second piece of advice is if you want to improve your backhand look at videos of a baseball swing. The two are almost identical. There are endless baseball instructional videos on youtube with tutorials and drills. The only difference other than the bat of course is that if you are right handed then it is a left hand baseball swing. But if you want to learn the mechanics and timing. Then checkout the baseball swing.
10) Is there anything else you would like people to know about you that they may not?
I am a licensed home inspector, that likes running trail marathons and ultra marathons, and I still play disc golf as much as possible
I would like to thank Shawn for taking the time out of his day to answer my questions and let me talk to him. If you would like to know more about him, you can find him on social media! Look out for more coming soon!
Picture credit goes to Shawn Sinclair