Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
It’s a remarkable journey for anyone to go from never having heard of a sport to world champion in one year, but when that person is 9 years old it’s time to sit up and pay attention.
Kolby Sanchez is growing up on a farm in East Grand Plains.
“I like helping my dad, cut hay, bale and rake,” Sanchez said. “I’m going into fourth grade at East Grand Plains school.”
His grandfather Curtis Vaughn is a big part of his life, and has been supporting his dreams all along.
“We were riding our bikes and we saw this tournament going on, Sanchez said. “We stopped and checked it out and decided it looked like a really fun sport. So we got a few discs and we tried it out.”
Vaughn seems to be a bit awed by how this all fell in place.
“The tournament in Roswell is called the Alien City Open,” Vaughn said. “It was in March of 2016. We just happened to ride by. We liked it. We bought some discs. We tried it out. There’s a club here called the Roswell Disc Golf Club. Bart Delos is the president. He helped us along with all the Roswell guys.”
The veteran disc golfers knew potential when they saw it.
“Will Schuster was one of the guys that picked up Kolby,” Vaughn said. “He plays for a company that manufactures discs. They saw him playing and they said they want him. They knew what they were doing.”
Since January, Sanchez has played in eight Professional Disc Golf Association tournaments. But the latest one, that ended July 22, was the defining moment in his career so far. He won the PDGA amateur and junior disc golf world championship.
“When he went to the world championship,” Vaughn said, “they had photographers everywhere as well as the guy following him with a score card.”
The discs for disc golf are not to be confused with every day, run-of-the-mill Frisbees.
“They’ve got putters, drivers and mid-range,” Sanchez said. “You can’t throw ’em like a Frisbee. They hurt different than when you get hit by a Frisbee.”
As the game is patterned after golf, it’s no surprised that the discs share characteristics with golf clubs.
“My putters go shorter distance,” Sanchez said, “my mid range go a little farther than my putters, my drivers go further than that.
“You trade distance for accuracy,” Vaughn said.
Most recently they played on a course near Albuquerque.
“We just played one this last weekend in Buffalo Thunder just north of Albuquerque,” Vaughn said. “There were about 130 people from pros all the way down to juniors. Ten shot under-par including pros. It’s scored just like golf, but the tournament had 24 holes.
“This was the first time Buffalo Thunder golf course let them play disc golf and they said it was good for them, so they’re going to put in a permanent disc golf course.”
Vaughn does his best to keep up with his grandson, and it’s no easy feat.
“It was rough,” he said. “I played, too.”
The game is a fast-growing phenomenon.
“It’s catching on more and more,” Vaughn said. “In New Mexico, there were probably 10 tournaments a year, now there are 30.”
Sanchez is working to get more kids interested in the game.
“Kolby is working with the schools to get a basket at every school in Roswell,” Vaughn said. “I believe he’s going to start with East Grand Plains, his own school.”
“We want more people to get into the sport,” Sanchez said, “so that we can grow the sport and maybe see it on TV one day.”
The Roswell group is active and growing.
“The Roswell course is set up permanently in Enchanted Lands park,” Vaughn said. “There are 18 holes now and we’re working with the city, talking about maybe extending it.
“Cody Buckelew is our local pro. He and Kolby both won the ACO.”
Sanchez said it’s easy to set up a temporary course, and more permanent courses are cropping up all over New Mexico.
“We can put up temporary baskets on a golf course or in a park and set up a tournament almost anywhere,” Sanchez said. “There’s a new course going on in Lovington. They have them in Carlsbad, and Hobbs.”
His grandfather said he has plans for his hometown, too.
“He wants to have a junior tournament,” Vaughn said, “here in Roswell.”
Features reporter Curtis M. Michaels can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.