Jack Morris rolls into Twining Park‘s Kiwanis disc golf course in his Chevy truck, parks, releases the tail gate, and grabs his Ridge Roller from the back end.
As we head to hole one, he tells me his ribs are a bit sore, and it might affect his putting. When he went hunting over the weekend, he tripped over a hidden barbed-wire fence and fell hard.
But Morris is no stranger to injuries. Four years ago when he was working part-time for Leverton Construction, he fell off a roof and broke his back.
“It was a freak thing,” Morris said. “I was on a ladder on a two-story house and a piece of plywood was up there. It was windy. I don’t know what happened. The one guy said he yelled at me, look out. The next thing I know, I was flying through the air. I fell down and broke my back in three places.”
Despite his injuries and his age–Morris is 66–his amateur rating is the best it’s ever been.
“My rating is going up where most guys my age it’s going down,” Morris explains.
Morris has been playing disc golf for ten years ever since his son gave Morris his first disc for Christmas. In those ten years, Morris has worked with his son, Chris, to start the Thursday night disc golf league in Monroe, given clinics through the Park and Rec to kids and adults, played in multiple leagues in Monroe, Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin, and Freeport, Illinois, and participated in tournaments for the last six years.
“It’s neat seeing his talent level improve,” Chris Morris said. “It’s just the proof that hard work and practice pays off. He’s always put 100% effort into anything he’s passionate about.”
In his last tournament on Saturday, November 7, the 7th Annual Estabrook Fall Challenge in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Morris placed first in his division.
“With their ratings and being 14 years older, I did not expect to win,” Morris explained. “I just wanted to do good and stay out of trouble. I won, not because I can throw farther than them guys, but I kept it cleaner, and I didn’t get over aggressive.”
After sinking my putt on hole one for a bogey–I’ve never parred the first hole–Morris told me that, in a tournament, the shot I had just thrown would have given me a one-stroke penalty.
Morris pulled out his mini disc, placed it in front of his MVP Entropy, and motioned me over. He explained that, contrary to my journalistic thinking, a mini disc has an actual purpose; it’s not some marketing scam to get people to spend more money on the sport.
Just like a marker in golf, a mini disc is a way to mark your spot in disc golf. The difference here being that the mini disc goes in front of your regular disc. The regular disc is then picked up, and the player has an imaginary space the size of a piece of paper behind the mini disc that their foot must land before releasing the next throw.
If putting, one foot must be within the designated area from the disc and the other must be behind the disc as well, but other than that specification, it doesn’t matter where else the foot lies.
Because Morris and I were playing for fun, he didn’t care, but he told me that, in a tournament, I would need a mini disc. What I had done wrong, though, was my right foot had crossed the imaginary line behind my disc.
Some of Morris’ tricks were more lighthearted. Before his putt on hole four, Morris turned to me, “Wanna see my wind gauge?”
He pulled out a scorecard sleeve with a rope on the end. “I don’t like using grass all the time,” he explained. I chuckled.
As we walked to the next hole, he held up this right thumb, revealing a bruise under the nail. “Did I ever tell you how I got this?”
Morris explained that he was playing with fellow disc golfer Cole Lancaster, who also plays league in Monroe. Morris was just trying to have some fun on the course.
“Jack [Morris] is an easygoing golfer,” Lancaster said. “This game is fun, and he’s not all serious about it. I was getting ready to putt out, and he was waving his hand in front of the basket being silly. So, goofing off, I putted anyway and putted a little harder to get him to move, but he didn’t.”
It had been two or three weeks since this happened, Morris explained. So, the bruise had finally moved from the lower part of the nail to the top.
I let Morris drive first on the next hole. He used his MVP Photon (left) and landed halfway to the basket. I tried to follow his performance up with a decent drive of my own, but, like the last hole, I released my disc too early and sent it into the trees.
Frustrated, I turned around to pick up my bag and retrieve my disc.
“Hey, why don’t you try this,” Morris said, picking a MVP Tesla out of his bag. “How does it feel?”
Compared to my 170g Innova Pro Wraith, the 137g Tesla felt like nothing in my hand. Plus, with its GYRO® technology, all of the disc’s weight is located in the outer black rim compared to my Wraith, where the weight is on the inner rim. I stepped onto the teepad and launched Morris’ disc. Instead of landing in the trees, it landed next to Morris’ Photon that he had just thrown.
“Looks like you need a Tesla,” Morris said.
Despite those errant throws, Morris said I had pretty good form. I suspect this is from all of my years of softball; some hitting techniques transfer over to disc golf.
As Morris explained to me, he has three steps for a good drive:
- Break the glass with your elbow
- Tickle your titties
- Follow through with your other arm
Like the jab movement in a softball swing, breaking the glass ensures that your movement is linear toward your target, and that you lead with your elbow. Tickling your titties, as Morris explained, simply means keeping your hand close to your chest and avoiding a release that is too rotational. Like a softball swing, you don’t want to cast your hands away from your body. Lastly, like most any sport, you must follow through or you aren’t using your full potential.
Due to the limited amount of daylight, Morris and I skipped a couple holes and headed back toward the parking lot. On one of the last holes, I smoked a tree. Even though I’ve done it multiple times, it still upsets me.
“Oh, whamee,” Morris said behind me as he watched. I had some other, not so nice, words in my mind.
“I get disgusted with myself if I throw a bad shot,” Morris admitted. “But I don’t pout; I don’t swear. When I really get mad, I just say, aw poop on a stick.”
I’ll have to keep that one in mind.
As we were sitting down for the interview, two men got out of their car and waved at Morris.
“I’m doing an interview for ESPN,” he joked. It occurred to me then that we had met another group of people on the course that had known Morris. He seemed to know everyone and had a good relationship with them all.
“I always make jokes that Jack’s like my grandpa,” Lancaster said. “I can call him about anything I need, even outside of disc golf. He’s just a super helpful guy and always brings positivity to whatever he’s doing.”
Reflecting on Lancaster’s comment, I found that Morris’ greatest advice didn’t come from any technical tip; it came from his attitude.
“I have three basic rules of disc golf,” Morris said. “Number one, have fun. Number two, do your best. Don’t ever quit because you’re having a bad round. Number three, be a good sport. I don’t care if I have a bad day, a bad tournament, I’m ready for the next one. That’s what it’s all about.”
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