Former players launch local company, Foundation Disc Golf
July 28, 2020 | Bedford, Va.
Hunter Thomas ('19), who tied for third individually to lead Liberty University's men's disc golf team's championship flight to a best-ever third-place finish at the 2019 National Collegiate Disc Golf (NCDG) Championships, has turned his passion for the sport into a fulltime career.
Hunter Thomas (center) and Hunter Staub (left) were championship flight teammates at Liberty through 2019.
Thomas and former Flames teammate Zach Biscardi ('19) joined five-time Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) world champion Paul McBeth — who has helped run clinics and design courses with Flames Head Coach Steve Bowman — to create Foundation Disc Golf last year.
Bowman said the company has capitalized on the sport's growing popularity, made possible in part by the pandemic.
"COVID-19 has made disc golf just explode," Bowman said. "With everything else shut down, disc golf has blown up. Disc golf companies can't keep (discs) on the shelves."
Thomas, McBeth, and two-time USA Ultimate Collegiate and National Club champion Brodie Smith, now a YouTube disc golf personality known for his trick shots, serve as co-owners.
"It's huge having Paul and Brodie as co-owners because it draws a lot of attention to the company," said Thomas, a graphic design graduate who also serves as the company's creative director/marketing director. "They are both great guys, super humble, and they come up with a lot of ideas. They have become my two best friends and it is great that we're able to do something we all love and grow the sport with a passion we have together."
Foundation Disc Golf's website features co-owners Hunter Thomas, Paul McBeth (center), and Brodie Smith.
Thomas designed and frequently updates the company's website and maintains a strong social media presence by producing disc golf videos, with assistance from McBeth's wife, former Lady Flames women's disc golf player Hannah Croke. The videos range from tutorials to his staff playing rounds on area courses, including one being developed on the McBeths' property in Goode, Va.
"We post a lot on Instagram and Facebook and have been able to grow our YouTube channel into one of the bigger disc golf channels," Thomas said, noting that it now has close to 30,000 subscribers. "We have put out a few hundred videos — from instructional to course previews and fun challenges to try to make disc golf interesting. Our vision for the company is to promote the growth of the sport of disc golf as we continue to grow our YouTube and social media channels … to show how much fun the sport can be for people just now getting into it."
Former Liberty teammate Trevor Staub, who graduated with a degree in sport management in May, recently took Biscardi's place on staff, managing the inventory out of the company's warehouse, purchasing new apparel and discs, maintaining a data base, and handling customer service.
Besides revenue generated from views on YouTube, with some videos exceeding 100,000 hits, the company has seen increased traffic and sales of disc golf products and paraphernalia on its website.
"The website has kind of taken off this year," Thomas said. "It has been extremely successful and we are blessed to be in an online business (during COVID-19). There are a lot of new courses going in, and a lot of new players out on the course, looking for ways to get out and stay active while practicing social distancing by being out in the woods and off the beaten path."
Earlier this month, Thomas directed the second annual Battle for Bedford, a two-day tournament hosted by Bedford County Parks and Recreation and sponsored by Bluechip Technologies, at the new Venhorst Park course in Bedford, Va.
McBeth, who designed the professional tees, was the overall winner by firing an 11-under 111 (57-54), earning $2,000 of the $9,589 in prize money, followed by three-time world champion Barry Schultz (5-under 58-59-117). Justin Rosak, a rising sophomore for the Flames, tied for third place (1-over 62-61-123), followed by Lance Brown ('16, tied for fifth, 3-over 63-62-125) while four other current or former players and two incoming recruits also competed.
"That was one of the biggest if not the biggest tournaments ever held in the area, with over 140 competitors and close to 70 spectators on hand to watch," Thomas said, noting that there were 90 amateurs and 50 professional players representing a total of 16 states. "It was a very challenging course layout and the pro field only had two players shoot under par, which is not normal for disc golf."
Liberty offers two 20-hole courses designed by Bowman on East Campus and near the Hydaway Outdoor Recreation Center, which hosts the Flamethrower Invitational Collegiate Northeast Regional Tournament, an NCDG qualifier in early November.
"The East Campus and Hydaway courses are great for college level players getting ready for nationals," Thomas said, noting that a third professional course in Bedford County is planned for Forest, Va., in the near future. "Pro tournaments are the next step, and playing on courses on the professional tour are quite a bit more difficult. In the next few years, we have plans to bring some top-tier events to the area and really show people what disc golf's all about."