Interview with Disc Golf Pro: Bradley Williams

Interview with Disc Golf Pro: Bradley Williams

December 17, 2010 - Bradley Williams is a pro disc golfer from Austin, Texas (a disc golf mecca) playing for Team Gateway.  Bradley had a breakout year in 2010, gaining national recognition for many great performances such as 3rd at the Beaver State Fling, 2nd at the Steady Ed Memorial, 1st at the Greater Peoria Open, 2nd at the Player's Cup, and most recently 1st at the Fly Ink Open.

Disc Golf Station: How long have you been playing?

 Bradley Williams: I learned about Disc golf summer of 2006. Disc Golf at the time interested me very little; I rarely spared any free time to play. 2007 I was talked into playing in a tournament and becoming a PDGA member by Ian Hovey. The tournament experience was ruined for me because of the 50 mph winds that continued throughout the day. I quit playing all together after that. Later that year I was talked into taking a trip down to the coast, one of my friends wanted to play in a tournament and I had a car. I played and I didn't really like it. At the end of the tournament they had a safari final 9. We stayed to watch the Pros play.

That is when I met Mike Olse for the first time. After watching him compete, I noticed I had some sort of fire or anger inside of me, I decided that I was going to get good so I could beat him one day. In 2008, I met a friend that was just starting out and we both wanted to get good as fast as we could. After work for 4 months I practiced every day. Bradley Williams Driving on Hole 1 at McClain Park - Fly Ink Open

DGS: Who taught you to play?

BW: I'm a self taught Disc Golfer; I came into the sport in my twenties, so I didn't have a father figure to show me the game. However there are a few people that I watched play in the early stages that I learned from. They are in no particular order, Mike Suida, Ian Hovey, Mike Olse, Tony Ganger, Scott Yancy and Tim Engebretson.

DGS: Do you have a disc golf hero or player that you model yourself after?

BW: When I decided to get good, I used a lot of Climo in my game, today it’s evolved into Nikko, Feldberg, Avery, and Paul Ulibarri  

DGS: When did you decide to go pro?

BW: A lot of the Local "Life Time" amateurs gave me the stink eye in 2008 because I won a few tournaments. So I told myself I would turn pro whenever I shot 3 or more 1000 rated rounds in a tournament. This happened during my 5th tournament of 2008, so I turned pro the next tournament. 

DGS: What advice could you give to an advanced player aspiring to improve and play open?

BW: Learn to teach yourself how to do things the right way, when you get good enough to shoot 970-980 golf, start playing open. The first part of playing open, and for most people that play open it may be the only part they will ever know, it is getting a free weekend. Most tournaments pay around 100$ for last cash. If you spent 65$ to play, you would be getting some of your gas money back as well. This is how you get better, you look at tournaments differently. When you played advanced you tried to win, when you first turn open you try to learn as much at every tournament but still fight to get your free weekend. That will be your new reasonable goal, while you steal all the secrets from the guys around you.

Make new goals when you get good at getting the free weekend. :)

DGS: What was your first disc ever?

BW: I found a champion Sidewinder and I had a Birdie Putter.  

DGS: Dude!  I started with a Birdie too!  What is your go-to disc now?  

BW: If I had to play a one disc challenge I would probably use a Wizard

DGS: What kind of other gear/accessories do you find essential for tournament play?

BW: Clean towel is a must; I bring a pair of clean socks for every round, as well as water or sports drink. I have to bring a piece of paper, a mini, and a pencil. I record my score in every tournament, it’s easier and stress free when it comes down to totaling scores with your card mates at the end. Bradley Williams Putting at the Fly Ink Open

DGS: What are your favorite courses?

BW: In Texas I like to play East Metro in Manor, Met center and Wilco. I liked the Houck course at the IDGC (International Disc Golf Center) in GA, and I want revenge at the Maple Hill course in MA. 

DGS: Ever been injured?

BW: In 2008, I was in Ireland throwing discs and I tore a hip flexor, which still flares up when I play today.  In 2009, I tore something in my right arm in the first round of the DD Lewisville winter warm up. 

I tore some ligaments in my right ankle in High school, I don't have full range of motion and it took 3 years before I could do anything with it. One of the main reasons why I play disc golf today. For the most part, it's safe to play Disc golf. 

DGS: How did you recover?

BW: I've taken some time off, but there isn't anything you can do to be 100%. I didn't want to have surgery.  

DGS: How often do you play?

BW: I've been on the road a lot this year; I don't have any routines yet. I play when I have a new disc to throw, or a new skill to learn. While on the road you are passing by courses all the time, I like to try the good ones.  

DGS: Do you have a specific practice regimen?

BW: Practice is normally the bad time I spend playing, and when tournament time comes I try to eliminate the bad things I was doing in practice. 

When I was learning the game from an Advanced player’s perspective, when I got to the course I spent the first 20 min just throwing my putters and mid ranges to the same spot over and over. I would putt for 5 min after that, then jump on the course. I remember doing this a lot during that time. 

DGS: What type of music do you listen to during your round?

BW: I actually never listen to music during rounds, during the Fly Ink open is the only time I've played with music. I thought it would take my mind of the things I was frustrated with, I don't think it helped. :(

DGS: What do you do to focus yourself to compete in and win Open competition?

BW: I try to learn the best way for me to play as many holes as I can before the tournament, there will always be a hole or two that you just can’t figure out on your own. When the tournament starts I only focus on my swing and how I can make it work. I've been playing for 4 years and I still don't know exactly how to play every angle yet. My swing is almost where I want it. You really have to just trick yourself into making things happen during those rounds. I like to imagine the perfect shot and trick myself into making it happen. I like to take big breaths and stretch between holes, if things are not going to the way I want them, I will try to walk away from the group and stare at something and talk to myself. It's up to you to make things happen, get to know how your mind reacts to things during good and bad rounds. Then try to fix it.

DGS: What do you say to those that don't like your style and approach to the game?

BW: It's not the players; it's the courses that are going to grow the sport into a more respectable light. If any Joe can design and install a Disc Golf course on Public property, then that’s the kind of respect you’re going to have from the public. Until there is a respectable standard of where and how you install a course, people that play will come and go with little impact to anything. The courses and the game are what will be judged not the players that have come and gone. 

As far as my style and approach to the game, I've been in a constant struggle to get a place where I can actually play the game. If you can't throw all the shots then you will never be playing the game that I want to play. It's just called practice. In reality it's just me driving around the country playing with a few of my friends every weekend in a park. Some people call it "Living the dream", I think it’s a great way for me to meet good people and see America. However, it's a struggle and sometimes during events I step back and see things the way they really are. A group of people walking around in a public park. I don't judge everyone I see and neither should you.

DGS: What do you consider to be your strengths?

BW: I have the straight shots, lol. I am learning how to use my competitive nature every tournament I play and I see that it’s growing. I'm precise when it comes to throwing things. So it's easier for me to fix bad problems because they will keep happening until I do. :)   

DGS: What aspect of your game do you want to improve?

BW: I would like to make what I'm doing now into something I can use to win and keep competitive over the next few years. It has come to my attention, that your public appeal is a part of your game. 2011 will be my first year to work on that.

DGS: What are your goals for 2011?

BW: 2011 should be the year I win my first NT, followed by a Major in 2012. The rest of the year I will continue to grow as a player that has to be beat every weekend.

DGS: How do you like being on the Gateway team?

BW: 2010 wouldn't have happened for me if it wasn't for Gateway and my friend Nikko. They both played a big part of getting me out of Texas. Dave McCormack, the owner of Gateway has been a good friend, giving me advice and helping me find my way to tournaments. Gateway is the only Frisbee factory I've been to, seeing how discs are made and distributed really gave me a lot of respect for Dave. The amount of work that has to be done to produce and give options to the disc golf community has made me want to help promote this company. Before Gateway, I only had Innova discs in my bag. That is how I learned about Disc golf; Innova was the best so naturally if you want to be good you would throw them. Once Gateway broke the spell I was under, I realized that I should be throwing what will help me do the best, so I started throwing as many new discs as I could and my game has improved dramatically. I hope to encourage as many people as I can to put some Gateway in their bags; it’s the cure for the spell I was under. Call it Magic. Lol

DGS: What is your favorite tournament?

BW: I really enjoyed playing the Beaver State Fling. Two fun courses in the same park, along with a championship 18 hole mini golf course that is up during the entire tournament. It was also a great venue for people to promote disc golf. Lots of booths and shops where set up. It felt like more than just walking around in a park with your friends. :) 

DGS: What is your favorite disc golf moment?

BW: It’s the same every time, when I throw a shot or a putt that works out. I only focus on that part, when I get enough of them in a tournament, I win. :) Bonus...

DGS: What do you do when you're not playing disc golf?

BW: I mostly read and play video games these days. When I was younger I played just about every sport my school offered along with BMX and motocross.  With a background in Skate boarding or BMX, I find that you will be better at disc golf than most people. The reason for this is, in both of those sports you have navigate dangerous obstacles in order to play the sport. You have to first be creative to find new obstacles or challenges.

Second, once you know what you’re going to do, you have to have the courage and commitment to stick to your decision and execute. In Disc golf that comes in handy when looking for angles and lines to hit and then throwing them without hesitation. Some disc golfers I know with skateboarding backgrounds, Ian Hovey, Paul Ulibarri and Nikko Locastro. 

DGS: If you could only play with 3 discs, what would they be and why?

BW: Fast driver would be a really over stable S/DS, I would use this for long drives and sidearm shots. The ones that I have are very trust worthy. 

Medium driver would be a Tee Bird. I could use this disc for just about every shot in the game; this disc doesn't have much stability and is slow enough to be used for different shots.

For a putter, I would use a Glow Wiz. It's what I putt with now and it throws well. I can throw this putter just about as far as I could with a Mid range disc.

DGS: And finally, how soon will you win Worlds or the USDGC?

BW: 2012 is the year I figure I will be ready to win one; if it happens in 2011 I will be surprised.

DGS: Thanks Bradley and best of luck in 2011!