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Meet Alaska's best disc golfer

Local resident qualifies for Professional Disc Golf World Championships in late July

Posted: Friday, July 01, 2005

There's something about the sound a loose collection of dangling chains make when it's perfectly struck by an object.

Basketball players throughout the country know of that sound, when a pure jump shot tickles one of those old-school chain nets.

There's another set of athletes who also know about that sound, however.

Juneau resident Johnny Simpson is a disc golf enthusiast and has watched people become hooked on his favorite game because of the sound of a Frisbee smacking into a chain-linked hole on the course.

"When they hit a long putt from a long ways in the woods and it hits the chains, that sound is the addiction right there," Simpson said. "That's what hooks them. It's also free, it's outside and I think a lot of recreational players go out for that."

Simpson, 37, recently took his love of disc golf to a higher level by capturing the Alaska Disc Golf Championship last weekend in Anchorage's Kincaid Park.

The Juneau resident, who finished fifth in the state last year, shot a 3-under 240 to win the event and was the only golfer to finish under par in the entire field.

"I think, after last year, I had a chance," Simpson said. "I knew I was going to go up again last year and just play smarter. I'm not as young as I used to be and the guys I'm playing are 10-15 years younger than me with really big arms. I just played my own game, kind of kept a steady par going and took my birdies where I could get them."

Simpson, a New York state native, played on courses throughout the east coast before moving to Juneau in 1995.

Since establishing residence in Juneau, Simpson proved instrumental in helping build the 18-hole disc golf course about one mile past the Auke Bay ferry terminal.

Shortly after the course was opened in 2002, Simpson said he noticed an increase in players.

"It's a growing sport, kind of underground, but getting a lot more coverage," Simpson said. "The Juneau course, there are so many people playing out there now. I'm amazed at the number of recreational players coming out. Anchorage has courses popping up, there's a course in Haines, I heard there's one in Sitka. This is definitely something Juneau people like."

With last weekend's state championship victory in Anchorage, Simpson qualified for the Professional Disc Golf World Championships in Allentown, Pa., on July 25-30

Though Simpson, who works as a chef at Twisted Fish Company, is unsure of whether he'll be able to attend the event as of yet, he does plan on competing for the world championship one day.

"I really want to go," Simpson said. "I'd be happy to take a top 40 in the worlds. That would be like first place to me. One of my goals is to play in the worlds one of these years before I get too old."

Simpson also stays involved in disc golf at a local level.

The course hosts weekly doubles tournaments on Wednesdays along with monthly tournaments. Simpson also said there will be a charity tournament in the upcoming weeks called Putting for Paws, with all proceeds going to the Gastineau Humane Society.

In the meantime, expect to see Simpson out on the course, pursuing the seductive sound of a plastic disc smacking chain netting.

"I guess I always think there's a better round of golf out there," Simpson said. "I get made at myself on the course, but when I have a bad hole I pull it together on the next one."

• Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at sports@juneauempire.com.



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