Baton Rouge teen Silas Schultz is so good at disc golf that he took home a 2018 Jeep Renegade by winning a tournament in November. He’d enjoy the prize more if he were old enough to drive it.
But he’s not complaining. Silas, 15, is now a professional disc golfer — yes, there is such a thing — and not the only one in his family.
His older brother Thunder, 19, has been winning prize money and getting sponsors for four years. A sister, 18-year-old Esther, turned pro last year and will be going overseas next month to promote the sport in the unlikeliest of places.
“It’s a total family thing,” said their dad, the Rev. Dylan Schultz.
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About 20 years ago, Dylan Schultz discovered disc golf when a friend invited him to play at Highland Road Park here. But after he and his wife, Bernadette, started having children — they have 11 of them — and he spent three years in New Orleans doing relief work following Hurricane Katrina, disc golf became a distant memory.
Upon the the family's return to Baton Rouge for Dylan Schultz to pastor a church, he saw some golf discs at a garage sale, bought them and took Thunder and Silas, then 10 and 6, out to give it a try.
“They both took to it, and that was our time every Saturday morning,” Dylan Schultz said. “We’d go and play together. I didn’t even know that tournaments existed until we were trying to play one Saturday and Highland Road was closed for a tournament.”
They played at the next tournament and kept it up. Obviously, they became quite good at it.
Thunder won the 2014 Professional Disc Golf Association Amateur & Junior Disc Golf World Championships. This year, Silas won the Next Generation Tour National Championship, which earned him the sweet ride he can only ride in. Esther won the Capital City Crush in Baton Rouge this year. All three are sponsored by Discmania, which provides them free equipment.
While there are a handful of pros who make a living exclusively at disc golf, the Schultzes aren't among them, although that’s an aspiration.
Thunder says when he tells people he plays disc golf professionally, he often gets odd looks in reply.
“They’re kind of surprised, like maybe they knew it existed, but it’s kind of like they never think you could make money at it or earn your living,” he said.
“They say it’s the fastest-growing sport nobody’s ever heard of,” Dylan Schultz said.
Silas became competitive locally pretty quickly and has played at a higher level the past three years. He reached a six-hole playoff in the 2017 Next Generation tournament, narrowly missing out on the Jeep, and has played throughout the South and occasionally farther afield.
“It’s really been crazy how far I’ve been able to go playing this sport nobody’s ever heard of,” he said. “I’m more of a power player. I think my longest throw that was ever measured was, like, 530 feet, so that’s what won me the tournament. It’s a longer type of course. It’s very open, not very technical. So, I was able to throw bigger shots than some of the guys I was playing against.”
Putting is Thunder’s strength.
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“With disc golf, kind of like golf where you can overpower your putt and go behind it and then you’ll have a tough put after that,” he said. “The best putters, they don’t miss their second putts.”
Next month, Esther will travel to Zambia in sub-Saharan Africa to help design a disc golf course and run an official PDGA event.
“Then, I’ll stay there to put on different clinics and keep it going and teach people so that maybe it can become popular there,” she said.
Zambia would do well if the sport becomes as popular as it is in Schultz family. Dylan Schultz said son Simeon, 13, is better than his older brothers were at that age, so another disc golf professional may be in the making.
“They just encourage each other and compete against each other and push each other,” Dylan Schultz said. “It seems to be taking.”