Estes Park High School senior Jonah Burdick signed a letter of intent on Monday (May 9) to continue his athletic and academic careers at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia this fall where he will be competing for a top spot on the Flames’ Disc Golfing team.
EPHS does not have a Disc Golf team but Burdick says he just started playing with friend and baseball teammate Tre Swanlund a few years ago, and really started to get into it when he started going to tournaments and playing in events in the Denver area.
“I kind of played in some tournaments and played with one of my youth pastors, Garrick Mann. He got me really involved in the tournament scene. I went to the 2021 Junior Disc Golf World Championships in Emporia, Kansas, and that put me on Liberty’s radar,” Burdick said. “The coach and I emailed quite a bit, I went on a couple of college visits and they offered to have me come play at the university.”
Local disc golfer invited to Junior Worlds
There are three divisions in collegiate Disc Golf and Liberty’s Disc Golf program has teams in all three. These are not divisions in the traditional sense, as the sports is not affiliated with the NCAA but is governed by a separate entity.
Up until 2007, Disc Golf was a sport that had largely been played recreationally by college students. It was that year that Professional Disc Golfers Association (PDGA) board member Pete May and his group organized the governing body, College Disc Golf (CDG), to introduce competitive disc golf to the college ranks.
CDG acts as the governing body for all college disc golf, oversees all collegiate events, and implements PDGA rules to govern tournament play. There were 1,093 players on 148 teams that were eligible to compete in 38 events throughout the 2021 season. At the end of the season, the CDG crowns team and individual national champions at the CDG National Championship.
Although Burdick has earned cash prizes for his performances in tournaments over the years, he has always turned them down to make sure he keeps his amateur status and does not become a pro just yet.
“I haven’t taken any cash or anything for my tournaments,” Burdick said. “That is so it doesn’t complicate things on the collegiate side. If I end up making too much money through professional tournaments it could disqualify me for collegiate nationals. It also keeps me eligible to play in the Amateur World Championships, which I would love to play in.”
The season for Disc Golf is broken up into two parts, the fall and the spring. Golfers spend the fall participating in tournaments in attempts to make the National Championship tournament that takes place in the spring.
“The fall season is qualifying,” Burdick said. “So I’ll play in a bunch of events and qualify for Nationals, and then in the spring I will play in Nationals … Singles and Team … and maybe play a couple of events after. There are Division I, II, and III teams in colligate Disc Golf and my goal is to make the Division I team as a freshman which would be pretty big, but I have put a lot of work towards it and I think I can do it.”
Liberty University’s Disc Golf team experienced arguably its most successful CDG National Championships in program history in April 2022.
The Flames’ Division I men’s quartet finished in a three-way tie for second place with Iowa State and Texas out of 36 schools in the final team standings with a combined score of 225, three strokes back of men’s and women’s champion Missouri (222).
Burdick aims to add to the Division I team’s success and begin an era on of continued domination for the Flames over the next four years.
“Thank you to Creed Shotts and Garrick Mann for pushing me to get to this point,” Burdick said. “And thanks to all of my family and friends for supporting me.”