The DGPT and PDGA have a sweeping arrangement for a new future of pro disc golf.
September 28, 2021 by Charlie Eisenhood in News with comments
In a historic deal that will fundamentally alter the professional disc golf scene, the Disc Golf Pro Tour will take over full operations of the Elite Series and become the “Official Pro Tour of the PDGA.” The PDGA National Tour, in operation since 2003, will not return in 2022, marking this past weekend’s Music City Open as the final event in its history.
“The National Tour has been around for 17, 18 years now, and the Pro Tour came around six years ago and has knocked it out of the park,” said PDGA Board of Directors President Nate Heinold. “So the National Tour is merging with the Disc Golf Pro Tour. The DGPT will be the only Elite Series in North America for the 2022 season and beyond. And very excited to have the reins moved on to [DGPT CEO] Jeff [Spring] and his management of the Tour. And so next year, you will see one unified tour.”
The DGPT will remain a for-profit company independent of the PDGA, but the governing body is now a small minority shareholder in the DGPT as a part of this deal, Spring told Ultiworld Disc Golf.
“From the beginning, we have aimed to provide the highest level of professional disc golf to our players and fans,” Spring said in a statement. “This agreement is another step in the maturation of the sport and will allow us to continue to meet our goals while reaching new heights. We are thrilled to come to this agreement with the PDGA and look forward to continuing to work with them to grow the sport that we love. We have been in discussions with the PDGA for more than four years to ensure that this deal creates the best possible outcomes for the DGPT as well as the PDGA and its members.”
Spring said that the National Tour stops from 2021 have an opportunity to return to the schedule as DGPT events in 2022; a full schedule announcement is expected by the end of the week. The PDGA will retain control of its Major Championships: the Pro World Championships, US Women’s Disc Golf Championship, and the newly minted PDGA Champions Cup coming next spring. The PDGA will still select the hosts and oversee the Majors, but the DGPT will assist in the operations of the events and also control their media rights, enabling the Tour to coordinate post-production teams across the full season and negotiate with national broadcasters like ESPN across the spectrum of pro disc golf tournaments.
“The PDGA will continue to sanction and support the Major tournaments that define the pinnacle of disc golf,” said PDGA Executive Director Joe Chargualaf in a statement. “The PDGA is an entity that represents the foundation of the sport and the caretaker of its history. As the governing body, we are committed to preserving the sport’s storied past while continuing to build a future for all disc golfers. This partnership enables both organizations to come together to do just that.”
“We know that the PDGA staff does a fantastic job, and they’ll basically be doing everything that they do, but we’re just going to try to combine and help make them even better,” said Spring. “So when you think about the Majors, you’re going to think about a superteam, trying to elevate the Majors into a stratosphere that we’ve never even seen before.”
The PDGA will retain its member benefit for 50% off a monthly Disc Golf Network1 subscription for live coverage, but under this deal PDGA members will also get access to free tier on DGN that includes streaming from USWDGC, Champions Cup, the final two rounds of Pro Worlds, and the first and last events of the DGPT regular season, along with a significant archive of past footage.
“We’re always looking for ways to enhance benefits to our membership, and this is another benefit that people get when they join the PDGA, with everything else we give them in terms of our technology platform and ability to play sanctioned events…,” said Heinold. “This is helping fulfill our mission.”
The DGPT has been seeking to take over the full professional disc golf season for years. In 2015, DGPT founder Steve Dodge approached the PDGA Board with a proposal to operate “an elite national series of events to replace the PDGA National Tour in 2016.” The Board demurred, but Dodge pushed forward with the launch the DGPT the following year anyway. There were future discussions about the DGPT taking over, but the Tour struggled financially in 2019 before Dodge sold the company to long-time investor Todd Rainwater and Spring. Talks about a potential future merger resumed with a new ownership group in place.
“From the very outset, the PDGA has been our strongest partner,” said Spring. “They have not only provided a level to grow upon, a platform. But from day one, we were in discussions with Joe [Chargualaf] about how to make this a reality.”
Heinold said that the PDGA will now have more opportunity to focus on the development of the sport outside of the professional scene, the organization’s primary goal. The PDGA’s press releases notes that the organization “will also increase efforts on core initiatives such as international growth, enhancing league and affiliate club programs, introducing disc golf into school systems, providing oversight of rules and competition standards, and the overall promotion and growth of the sport.”