Michigan Disc Golf Hall of Fame

The MDGO is proud to announce the 2019 inductees to the

Michigan Disc Golf

Hall of Fame

2019

Dr. Leonard Johnson

PDGA #15489 

  • Classification: Professional
  • Member Since: 1999
  • Career Events: 83
  • Career Wins: 9
  • Career Earnings: $1,923.00

Dr. Johnson first played disc golf while student at Kalamazoo College in 1974. Even though Ultimate Frisbee was his first love, disc golf soon became his passion. While on an internship in Altadena, California in 1977, he played his first round on a disc golf course with baskets at the famed Oak Grove course using a 119g Frisbee Brand Flying Disc to drive, approach and putt. In 2006, Johnson was instrumental in the design, funding and installation of the first 18-hole disc golf course at Northend Riverside Park in Big Rapids, home of Ferris State University, paving the way for the Michigan Intercollegiate Disc Golf Challenge Series, which he hosted around the state for several years. He has since designed and facilitated the installation of a second 18-hole course at Northend in addition to courses at Newaygo State Park, Big Bend State Park, Roger’s Heights, Eagle Village and Peshawbestown. His latest project is a championship course on the Ferris State University campus targeted to be open for play as early as September, 2020. Dr. Johnson has coached the Ferris State University Disc Golf team for the last 15 years. Since first competing in the National Collegiate Disc Golf Championships in 2013, his Bulldogs have been a dominant force in College Disc Golf, winning the National Collegiate Disc Golf Championship three of the last five years with championships in 2015, 2017 and 2019.

Erin Oakley

  PDGA #17643 

  • Classification: Professional
  • Member Since: 2001
  • Career Events: 239
  • Career Wins: 79
  • Career Earnings: $9,963.50

Erin started a women’s league in 2005, the Capital City Crushers, where I met her for the first time in 2015. Since then I’ve seen her accomplish small and large victories, and she has become a huge idol of mine, as well as others I’m sure. Even before I met her she was making strides, starting Disc Girls Gone Wild in 2007, an all women’s tournament where players like Paige Pierce, Sarah Hokom, Valerie Jenkins and Elaine King competed. In 2012 she was presented with the PDGA Bob West Memorial Sportsmanship award which is an award for someone who exemplifies sportsmanship both on and off the disc golf course, observes the rules of play, and wins or loses with grace. When anybody mentions women’s disc golf Erin Oakley is the first person to come to mind, and I love having the proud moment of saying “I know her!!” In 2015 she started the Michigan Women’s Series. A series of women only disc golf tournaments dedicated to the growth of the sport.. for women. Playing at courses like Flip City, Sleepy Hollow, Addison Oaks and many other beautiful well known courses in Michigan, and it has grown substantially. The Michigan Series took off so well she couldn’t stop there, so in 2017 she founded the Midwest Women’s Tour. A point series for women to go beyond Michigan, to travel to and include women from Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin and Illinois. It was amazing to personally watch and see that women’s leagues, and TD’s can come together to make it happen. 2x I know 90% of the women who competed this weekend, also took part in the United States Women’s Disc Golf Championship at Burchfield. Low and behold, Erin was the brains behind that too. Watching her announce it was tied the largest turnout for USWDGC since it started was heartwarming. She worked hard and vigorously to put on an amazing Major for women, in Michigan. She worked with the Lansing Sports Authority to put on USWDGC, and grew the sport within the state even more. Disc golf was now being announced on the radio, and is now getting more publicity for the sport. For 2018 Erin got awarded the Sport Partner of the Year in recognition of how her club (Capital City Crushers) hosted the Women’s event. A first for the Lansing region, and now Greater Lansing is on the map for future disc golf championships. In closing, I couldn’t be more proud of Erin as a competitor (cause she kicked my ass this weekend), being a huge idol to a lot of women out there, and again an amazing friend. I know without her I wouldn’t be where I’m at, and I couldn’t be more honored to speak for her, or be happier for her that she is receiving this recognition.

Liz Carr-Sypien

PDGA  #31068

  • Classification: Professional
  • Member Since: 2006
  • Career Events: 208
  • Career Wins: 77
  • Career Earnings: $33,075.50

She started playing Disc Golf in 2004. Has played in over 200 tournaments. She has won over 76 of those tournaments. She has won the Michigan state championships nine times. She has won over $32,000. She was the captain of her High School softball team.

2018

Terry Calhoun

  PDGA #15117

  • Member Since: 1999
  • Membership Status: Ace Club (until 31-Dec-2018)
  • Career Events: 101
  • Career Wins: 11
  • Career Earnings: $602.00
  • 2017 Ledgeons World Champion
  • 2000 Grand Masters  Amateur World Champion
  • 2008 Senior Grand Masters Amateur World Champion

Competition Highlights 2017 – First Place, Legends Division, Professional Disc Golf Association, Professional Masters World Championships 2008 – First Place, Advanced Senior Grandmasters Division, Professional Disc Golf Association Amateur World Championships 2000 – First Place, Advanced Grandmasters Division, Professional Disc Golf Association Amateur World Championships Course Planning & Design I have been part of planning, designing, and building thirteen disc golf courses, eleven in Michigan. I was a major decision maker for ten, although I prefer to work in a team, if I can. I’ve worked for private owners, municipalities, and the state parks. I am a member of the Disc Golf Course Designers Club. I approved college campus course designs for the Disc Golf Foundation Matching Baskets Program for six years. Current projects include Lake Shore (Ypsilanti, redesign due to construction), Sandra Richardson Park (York Township), and completion of the Red Course at the BRATS Red White and Blue courses (Ann Arbor), plus three near possibilities. Volunteer Leadership Locally, I have been active in various roles with the Ann Arbor disc golf club and with the Michigan Disc Golf Organization. Nationally, I have served terms on the boards of directors of the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) and the Disc Golf Foundation. Currently I serve on the PDGA’s Committee on the Environment. Internationally, I am currently serving a term on the founding board of directors of the PDGA-Europe. Awards, Innovation & Entrepreneurship From 1999-2001 I created and ran one of the four most heavily-trafficked disc golf websites at the time, discgolfing.com. From 2008-2012 I created and ran the largest social media network of disc golfers, 13,000+ at the time, discgolfersR.us. In 2009 I was named the Professional Disc Golf Association’s Senior Player of the Year for 2008. Also in 2009 my wife, my son Ben, and I invested in a disc golf pro shop in Ypsilanti, on a course my son and I had just redesigned from ball to disc golf. Managed by Ben and his wife Felicia, the Throw Shop is now the largest disc golf pro shop in the Great Lakes area. Inventor of the Pirate Plank, an inexpensive, cement-surfaced disc golf tee pad that is also portable; the Gilbert Basket, the use of which brings DROT into play; and the Terry Tree, portable PVC “trees” for design use and tree protection.

Gale Vaughn

PDGA   #5515 

  • Member Since: 1989
  • Current Rating: 954 (as of 15-May-2005)
  • Career Events: 84
  • Career Wins: 1
  • July 5, 1965 – November 16, 2002

When “an ambassador” of the sport comes to mind, Gale Lee Vaughn’s name is right near the
top. Gale was at the beginning of the Metro-Detroit disc golf scene. After playing for a few
years with some High School friends like Damon Evans #5192 and now deceased Mike
“BOBIS” Paonessa #5750, a meeting was held in the fall of 1989 in Gale’s mom’s basement
on Midland Street in Royal Oak, Michigan. This is where the Motor City Chain Gang (MCCG)
disc golf club was founded. Gale was the first Vice President of the club and later served as
the President.
Through his years of disc golf, Gale was that guy who would give a newbie a disc right out of
his bag and encourage them to join. He was very good about keeping the course clean and
making sure others were respecting the course. Gale never littered and always kept his cigarette butts in his pocket or in his bag. He also helped interpret the rules for the casuals so
they did not have to remain on the outside, always inviting them play.
Gale introduced many people to the sport he loved including his long-time girlfriend Molly. Morrow #5970. Molly went on to win 11 PDGA events including bacl-to-back Amateur Worlds Champion titles in 1991 and 1992. Molly said “Gale showed me different things about how to
throw and encouraged me to play with other great players that were on our league and learn
from them.” While all of this was happening, Gale was known to host pros from out of town
that came to play. Scott Stokely, Mike Randolph, Barry Schultz, to name a few. He always
had parties after a long day at the tournament letting everyone come to his home for as long
as they wanted. Gale was very generous and very gracious.
Gale also taught Ron Russell #9999 how to play after meeting him at River Bends and gavehim the confidence to succeed. They were great friends and went touring together in 1995,
the Pro/Am tour. They even had Discraft discs made to help fund the trip.
Gale was helpful when it came time to organize, advertise, promote, and plan events. He liked to work the merchandise table and was comfortable sitting back allowing others to be
the voice of the event.
Eventually, the MCCG became one of the first four clubs that founded the Michigan Disc Golf
Organization (MDGO). Between Gale and Damon, they founded the first Metro-Detroit disc
golf storefront, The Disc Golf Store was in Clawson, Michigan founded in 1999. This store
helped the MCCG run tournaments and make alterations to many of the courses in their
surrounding communities.
Sadly, as the store was beginning to blossom and more courses were being installed, Gale
developed cancer and passed away at the young age of 37.
Today, we hear how we all want to grow the sport. In high school during the late 1970s, Gale
always ripped the collars and sleeves off of his shirts and often wore tie-dyes. As he began to
tour he relinquished that trait in lieu of collared shirts and preferred to be clean shaven. This
was difficult to do because he could grow a beard in a day but when touring, shaving was not
always a luxury. This was Gale’s early vision of growing the sport and getting outsiders to take
our sport seriously.
Because of everything he was and everything he contributed to the sport and its popularity
and growth in SE Michigan during his relatively short time playing disc golf, Gale was a great
example of good sportsmanship, camaraderie, inclusiveness, and respect for nature and all
the people he connected with.

Larry LaBond

PDGA   #6903

  • Member Since: 1993
  • Career Events: 176
  • Career Wins: 12
  • Career Earnings: $15,174.24

Larry started in 1991 he was on Team J Bird,Team Inflight,Team Luna and Team Discraft. He has helped on 20 different courses. Started the Coldbrook league in 1995. Larry puts more time into our sport than anyone I know. Thank you Larry.

Hosted the PDGA World Championships 2008 and 2015.

2017 

Mark Ellis 

PDGA  #7423

  • Career Wins: 105*
  • Career Earnings: $29,160.83*
  • Member Since: 1993

A friend, a mentor, and legal counsel if ever needed.

This man truly embodies the disc golf spirit from where the game’s roots began. He has been playing for almost 30 years, played +500 events, and has +100 victories in tournament competitions. Mark was a skilled racquetball player which easily helped him transition into the amazing forehand dominant player we all know and love. There is video evidence of him throwing backhands on actual drives, but it happens as often as a lunar eclipse. But his true strength lies in his 100ft and in style. If you have ever been lucky enough to warm up with Mark, you will immediately be introduced to the amazing utility disc, the Discraft Rattler. How or why he does not have a signature series of this disc is confounding? I and those who play with him regularly had no other choice but to bag this beautiful disc simply to the fact Mark makes us throw and learn it. Some of my fondest memories of playing with Mark are the wild and crazy style warm up games. And there is a method to his madness, they usually involve a style or shot you’re uncomfortable with and forces you to try something you normally wouldn’t. He secretly teaches you a shot, disguised as a goofy way of warming up for a round.

Many people were introduced to Mark on the internet, through countless instructional videos. I’d say at one point, he was the most famous disc golfer in the world, maybe just behind Climo. I still to this day, use the putting method taught in one of these videos. (http://discgolf.discraft.com/team_ellis.html) His willingness and drive to help people get better at the game isn’t something you find every day.

Many people were also introduced to him as the starter at the United States Amateur National Disc Golf Championship. The brilliance in his tone and the unmistakable voice that called out your name, made it different, made it feel special, made it a major! But after the round, you were introduced to what we miss, Lizard Games. Every year Mark would raid the Discraft factory for all kinds of disc golf goodies, and would have side games that are often copied but never duplicated. Even if the Toboggan course ate you up, it was forgotten for even a brief moment, when you were asked to throw a mini and attempt to land it on a port-a-john.

Mark is a kind and giving person. Nothing could exemplify this more than the shelter that was built at the Black Locust Course at Kensington Metro Park. Mark hit a +$2000 ace pool during Sunday league. Most of us would have wild aspirations on how to spend it, or hide it from our significant others. Mark instead went to the park and had them match his winnings and build a much needed pavilion for the course. I’m positive in stating, no other disc golfer I know would have done that. And the countless discs/beverages he’s handed out for free over the years, I’d guess would be in the tens of thousands.

Mark is a highly skilled disc golfer there is no doubt. But I think what kind of person he is truly magnetic and makes him the most likeable person in Michigan Disc Golf history. He’s friendly, hilarious, has a great story relatable to any disc golf situation, or maybe it’s just that beautiful head of hair.

I am honored and lucky to call Mark Ellis a good friend, and have been honored to have written his MDGO Hall of Fame caption. No one in my opinion is more deserving of this honor. Cheers Mr. Ellis!

Kevin Tomasaitis #24218

Al Haaksma

PDGA  #5870

  • Career Wins: 1*
  • Member Since: 1988

Started disc golfing in the early 80s, before Brewer had baskets, and he had golf discs. Soon, he joined the league that Joe Gill and Chuck DeVries had going. A few years later, with the help of Karl Hellwig, Amy Vreiland, Tom Strickland, Joe Kowalski, and a few more, they formed the Grand Rapids Disc Golf Club.  A few years passed, then the MDGO was formed. A state series and championship was created. The year 2000 brought the first ever combined world championship, PAW 2000. That event was the most groundbreaking event he ever had the pleasure to work. Looking back, they thought were crazy to do it, but pulled it off. Al says, “it’s been awesome to see disc golf explode in Michigan, and the growth is still happening.” Continuing to say, “I feel so blessed to be part of this, and twice as honored to be inducted to the Michigan Disc Golf Hall of Fame.”

Mike Raley

PDGA  #7846 

  • Career Wins: 77*
  • Career Earnings: $83,825.06*
  • Member Since: 1993
  • 2013 Masters World Champion

2016 

Al “Sugar” Schack

PDGA #3407

  • Career Wins: 108*
  • Career Earnings: $120,164.82*
  • 2008 Masters World Champion

Keith Aten

PDGA

# 6147

  • Member Since: 1991
  • Career Events: 200
  • Career Wins: 21

Founding member CCR Club (Lansing), Mt Pleasant Disc Golf, & Gratiot Co Disc Clan. Founding member of the Michigan Disc Golf Org.  Creator and promoter of the JBird Players Series  (2007-2018). MDGO Officer (1993-2018). Tournament Director for USWDGC (2018). He has directed every type of PDGA Tier M,NT,A, B,C.

Jeff Schwass

PDGA

# 6148

  • Career Wins: 6*

Founder of the Mason Co Disc Golf Org. TD for the Worlds largest B tier The Discraft Michigan State Championships. Designer and  installer of Ludington areas 6 courses. MDGO officer.

2015

Jim Kenner   PDGA # 292

  • Career Wins: 13*
  • Career Earnings: $4,693.50*
  • PDGA Hall of Fame Class of 1997

A modest pioneer in a sometimes flamboyant industry, Jim Kenner has proven himself to be a brilliant innovator in the pursuit of flying disc excellence. Experimenting with both new shapes and materials, Kenner’s development of a unique line of flying discs has been punctuated with the introduction of disc designs so radical and inventive that they mark a turning point in the nature of the game. Though he could easily rest on his laurels as a pivotal developer of disc technology, Jim Kenner continues to contribute to the growth of disc golf as a consistent supporter and sponsor of events and players.

Jay Matthes

PDGA # 6431

  • Career Wins: 8*
  • Career Earnings: $1,943.00*

Owner of J Bird discs and supporter/sopnsor of Disc Golf in Michigan for over 20 years.


Sue Stephens

PDGA

# 10977

  • Career Wins: 93*
  • Career Earnings: $20,733.50*
  • Advanced Women World Champion
  • 2012 Womens Master World Champion
  • 2016 Womens Master World Champion
  • 2017 Masters World Champion

4 time World Champion, 5 time Michigan State champion, 1 time state champion Texas, Illinois & Indinia.