|Lee chasing professional dream in disc golf
By Dan Manley
Advocate Sports Editor
Chasing a dream.
Sam Lee is doing that these days.
For the second time in his life.
Sam, you see, is a baseball guy.
As a left-hander, Sam was super-quick to first base, a very good fielder and hitter and the baseball future was always bright.
But Sam, at about 5’9” and 160 pounds, was never going to be a power hitter moving up the ladder, and that dream ended at the collegiate level.
His older brother, Drew, by the way, played in the minor leagues before giving that up to pursue a career in the engineering field.
So where would Sam head next?
He had only played golf a few times at the recreational level but a friend introduced him to the sport of disc golf.
With great hand-eye coordination, a great arm for throwing things and a competitor’s mentality, Sam and the sport were made for each other.
Now, in just a couple of years, Sam Lee of Mt. Sterling is one of the top 200 disc golfers in the world and on the upswing.
That’s out of roughly 130,000 people that are playing the game.
Sam is competing professionally and will likely play in more than 50 events this year.
He’s now at level two and is looking at moving up to the next level in the next two years where he would become a salaried player and would be on his way to having disc golf as a career.
The game seems simple enough.
You take frisbee-like discs with various weights and controllability and throw them out over the terrain, eventually tosses them (putting) into a metal basket.
This is golf but your arm is the club and the frisbee is the ball and the flag-stick is a metal pole and the cup is above-ground. Simple, right?
Sam has gotten very good, very fast. In his last tournament in Columbus, Ohio over the weekend he was in the top 10.
In his last major event, in Michigan, he finished 15th out of 300 players from across the nation and world.
On a par 63 course he had a final round of 54 that brought him into 15th place, some 16 throws behind the winner.
“When I practice now, it’s primarily working on my putts,” Sam said. “I feel pretty confident in my distance throws and I’ll spend some time on that phase and then devote most of my practice efforts on putting.”
The professional circuit, just above Sam’s level currently, begins in California and moves eastward as the weather improves.
Sam has had opportunities to talk a few times with the game’s number one player, 29-year-old Paul McBeth. McBeth started playing professionally back in 2009 and has earned a half million dollars in purse-money during that time.
The real success for McBeth is that by being the number one player in the world he has a line of discs all his own and receives residuals whenever those discs sell.
“They’re the most popular discs out there right now, so it’s really lucrative for him,” Lee said.
There are no television deals yet for disc golf, but there have been a few times when the sport has made the ESPN’s top 10 highlights. The sport is relatively inexpensive, play is fast and the popularity is growing.
For now, Lee is hoping to be one of the top 10 players in the world in the near future and to be a salaried disc golfer and to have endorsement contracts.
“I’m all in,” Lee explained. “This is what I’m doing right now and I’m going to give it a shot and see how far it will take me.”
Knowing Lee’s competitive nature and how far he’s already come in a shot time, it’s hard to imagine that he won’t reach the top .