The Rock Hill school has long been a partner in the sport
October 6, 2020 by Jack Trageser in Interview with comments
When Ken Halpin joined Winthrop University as Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics and Athletic Director in 2016, the United States Disc Golf Championship was already a long-established major in the sport. It was around the same time that Event Director of University Events Neal Miller also began working at the Rock Hill school, and one of his bigger rentals each year would be USDGC.
And while disc golf loomed in the background at Winthrop, it hasn’t always been top of mind for Halpin.
“I was vaguely familiar with disc golf simply because it was relatively popular in Spokane, Washington where I had moved from,” said Halpin. “We have disc golfers on campus nearly every day. I have not [played].”
Halpin sees the potential in the sport though. In the past, when Winthrop University added an Esports program at the school, disc golf was mentioned as a sport with a growing base that could play a role in student recruitment.
“Disc golf is officially a club sport here right now, and we’ve explored possibilities for the future. The challenge is there is no collegiate governing body,” said Halpin. “I would say that if a viable varsity governing body ever came to fruition I would absolutely explore what it would take for disc golf to become a varsity sport. We have an elite course, and if the governing body allowed flexibility with scholarship amounts and roster sizes, then this could be a great tuition revenue driver for us.”
College Disc Golf has eligibility requirements, including a rule on amateurism, and organizes competitions leading up to a national championship, but teams are not varsity sports. The 2020 College Disc Golf National Championship had planned to move from its prior host courses in the Augusta, Georgia area to Winthrop. The April event was cancelled and the 2021 CDGNC is tentatively scheduled for 2021.
While Halpin supports the USDGC’s presence on campus, Miller is an a more “boots on the grounds” role as the direct liaison with tournament directors. This year is looking much different with COVID-19 precautions and the lack of spectator coordination, and Miller said the top goal is to protect the players, volunteer, and University.
“The involvement with planning from our end is to directly coordinate the USDGC needs from the University to assist with the success and growth of this event,” said Miller. “This is an amazing partnership that has lasted over 20 years. As you know this is a premier event and we do our best to do our part in assisting with the success of this event. The value to Winthrop is exponential through the exposure of this premier event.”