When Bamberg's Kevin Sprague and his son Josh picked up the sport of disc golf for fun and recreation less than two years ago, neither one knew if they would be interested in the growing sport for very long.
As it turns out, Kevin — also pastor at New Life Church of the Nazarene in Bamberg — has since integrated the sport into his physical education teaching at Orangeburg Christian Academy.
And taking it to another level, 11-year-old Josh qualified for the 2019 PDGA Junior Disc Golf World Championships in Emporia, Kansas. He begins competition on Wednesday with dad as his caddy, on his bag of discs for every hole.
Both are members of the Professional Disc Golf Association.
"When we were in Aiken for school, there was a new PE teacher who came in and he talked about disc golf," Josh Sprague said. "We came with him back here to this course (Edisto Memorial Gardens Disc Golf Course) and dad and I got interested in playing it and just kept playing it.
"At first, I thought it was going to be kind of boring, because all you are doing is throwing and throwing. But, it's like golf, it's fun and you get to hang out with people and play with them and get to know new stuff and get out of the house and play."
That PE teacher was Jake Key, a professional disc golfer from Milwaukee, who has since moved to Emporia, Kansas to work for his sponsor Dynamic Discs. Once Key introduced the Spragues to the sport and saw how Josh enjoyed playing in tournaments, he decided to personally sponsor the youngster for this season.
Josh Sprague played in 3 regional tournaments a year ago, then doubled that to 6 tournaments this year. He played in Georgia tournaments in both Augusta and Appling, along with winning the junior division of the Orangeburg Festival of Roses Disc Golf Tournament for the second straight year. He has three career tournament wins, including one at Boyd Pond in Aiken.
From scoring in the 80s early on, the younger Sprague improved to scoring a 65 at the Orangeburg course (which happens to be a 21-hole course) in the Festival of Roses competition.
"I got to play with kids who were throwing like me, and I also got to see people who are better than me, so I could learn from seeing them throwing," Josh Sprague said.
Josh is still learning the sport, taking a conservative approach and playing mostly mid-range discs, throwing putter discs which he can control and keep in bounds throughout play on even the most challenging holes. He plans to work in fairway drivers and distance drivers as he gets older and more adept at the sport.
"Whenever I saw it (information on the championships) last year, I asked daddy if I could do it, but I didn't have enough points to get an invitation," Josh Sprague said.
It was necessary to play in more tournaments this year to get more points and qualify for an invitation to the world championships. Getting the needed 10 points for the 12-and-under age division was no problem for the younger Sprague. However, he will need to score 100 points to qualify for the 15-and-under age division in competition in the coming years.
At that point, instead of just playing in junior-level competitions, Josh Sprague will need to play in recreation-level events and intermediate-level events to build up his points.
Josh Sprague has some advice for other kids thinking about playing disc golf for the first time.
"Just play and don't try to beat each other, just have fun at first," he said.
Kevin Sprague even points out that there are plenty of videos on disc golf technique online on YouTube.
"Just like regular golf, if you practice putting, you are going to win a lot of games," the elder Sprague said. "It does take practice, lots of practice."
As of Wednesday, practice is over for Josh Sprague, at least as he starts his first national competition in a new environment that could include some serious Kansas winds.
"I plan to lay it up and putt, and if I make it I make it," he said. "Just try not to miss the short putts and move on to the next hole."
On to the next hole and the next challenge.
"I'm pretty excited to look at all the courses, play my game and meet other people in the sport," the younger Sprague said. "And if I can, I want to learn stuff from them."
If Josh Sprague scores well for a few days, he could be in the final foursome playing on Saturday for a championship. Either way, he plans to have fun.