A chat with the Discmania owner and founder.
February 16, 2022 by Jesse Weisz, Steve Andrews and Bogi Bjarnason in Interview with comments
This is the the beginning of our Q&A interviews in our European Re-Open series that highlights European disc golfers as international travel reopens in 2022.
Jussi Meresmaa is a man of many talents who laid the groundwork for much of the European disc golf scene back when Finland was still synonymous with hockey and the words “disc golf” drew blank stares anywhere south of Schleswig-Holstein.
He is the owner of Discmania, the man behind the European Open, and a marketing wizard, but he is foremost a guy who threw away a 1039 career-high rating to focus on the greater good of the disc golf community rather than chase individual glory across the fairways of the world.
With mere days until the US and European disc golf scenes collide anew, Meresmaa is the man with the skinny. Read on for a crash course in statistics, a roasting of European putting performances, and why he thinks MPO players from east of the pond don’t have a great chance to win US elite series events.
Ultiworld Disc Golf: We see many “corporate” and other sponsors from outside of disc golf support Finnish players, courses, and events. Does this mean that Finland currently has fully pro players competing within the European scene without holding down any sort of seasonal jobs?
Jussi Meresmaa: Finland now has six to eight full-time pro players. That is an amazing development over the last few years. All these pros are primarily supported and funded by the manufacturers, though. It’s true that more “corporate” sponsors are tipping their toes into disc golf, but we have not seen it yet on a bigger scale.
All things being equal, could players like Niklas Anttila and Oskari Vikström launch full tours this year without somehow supplementing their income?
Touring in Finland and Europe, yes absolutely. Touring in the US, not full-time yet. I believe most of these Finnish pros are making 1-2 trips to the US this season.
Going on a full tour in the US as a European is very tough. Fortunately, European events are also getting bigger and better.
Apart from COVID travel restrictions, what do you feel are currently the major hurdles for Finland developing a “1050 boy”?
This is an interesting question. If you look statistically, in 2020, PDGA had a total of 71,000 active members. There were four “1050 boys” in 2020 (McBeth, McMahon, Wysocki, and Heimburg). So, there was one 1050-rated competitor per 17,750 players. Finland had 3,300 PDGA members in 2020. So, statistically it’s understandable that Finland is yet to have their own “1050 boy.”
I think one big factor for this is also the fact that the sport is young and players are developing very fast. There are less rating points to earn, and at the same time there are masses of fast-improving players whose rating is “behind.” When this gets established in the future, we will see 1040 boys and hopefully also that 1050 boy. We can see that already on the FPO side. At the moment, Europe has three FPO players in top-4 per rating (Kristin Tattar, Henna Blomroos, and Eveliina Salonen)
When/if things return to normal, do you see Finnish players spending the off-season in Arizona (or similar US locations), or do you think places like Mijas, Spain, will emerge as off-season locations for European players as the sport spreads in Southern Europe?
I think both, but more Europeans will spend their off-season closer to their home, like Mijas. Some Finnish players are there as we speak.
Currently, we do not have the “perfect” facility in Southern Europe yet, but I’m sure this will happen in the next few years.
Disc Golf is so popular in Finland that it’s broadcast on TV and the European Open had the largest gallery on tour even pre-pandemic. Could that mean that DGPT events will be on Finnish TV in the not-so-distant future? If so, would that attract corporate sponsorship to the DGPT?
I don’t believe in TV as much as I believe in streaming. Broadcasting companies are of course moving to streaming, and that´s where disc golf´s opportunity will be. I can see DGPT finding distribution partners in Europe too, but that might take some time.
Finnish broadcasters could be interested in distributing DGPT events, once we get Finns (MPO and FPO) there to compete. Every country loves seeing their own athletes succeed.
How long do you think it will take for a European player to be promoted to the Discmania Sky Team?
I want to keep these highest levels of Team Discmania very exclusive. It needs to mean a lot to get into our Tour or Sky Team. Noteworthy is that this is the first real year when we have our Finnish team members fully committing to disc golf. I would estimate that in the earliest that could happen in 2023 to 2024.
The past two years have provided few opportunities for European players to travel and compete outside of Europe. At the same time, many players have been able to achieve great results and focus on their games. Do you think that this time has hurt or helped their chances of making an impact on the US Tour?
This is a two-edged sword: I think US players have gotten better quicker since they can play against the toughest competition every week. Every player needs the highest-level competition in order to get better. So, yes, time has hurt Europeans. But at the same time, Europeans have really increased their level of play here. I guess we will see when the season starts…
When you are looking at players competing in Europe, what aspects of their mindset, habits, or game makes you think they will find success in the United States? Are there different keys to success for competing in Europe versus the United States?
Europeans have always been great off the tee, and always quite poor on the green. I can see more Europeans having success on the green, so that will level the playing field. I think, in general, Europeans will do better on long and open courses against US competition. On a major level, I think US players have the biggest edge: they know how to win majors. After Jesper Lundmark, we have not seen a major winner.
We all expect the FPO big three to make a big impact on the tour, but which other players do you think will find success this year?
This will be very interesting to see! I would say two guys will make the biggest impact on the US tour this year: Niklas Anttila and Väinö Mäkelä. These guys have “it.” It will be quite a rough intro to all Europeans coming to Vegas, but I expect these two guys to rise into their “1035 level” fast.
What percentage chance is there that a European man will win an elite series event in the US in 2022?
2.5%. We will see European(s) in the top 5.
What are the major storylines involving European players that US audiences should be watching for?
If restrictions allow, there will be a fresh European breeze on this year’s tour! That’s the story line we should care about at the moment.