Sharp Shooter

Video is unrelated to article. Pulled from Youtube.com

 

By Bobby Pepper
Lee County Neighbors

Mandy Sharp was a girl among women at the U.S.Women’s Disc Golf Championships.

At age 13, the Tupelo teenager was the youngest of the 68 competitors at the national tournament Sept. 19-21 in Huntsville, Ala. It was her first Professional Disc Golf Association tournament, but her expectations to winning the event’s Intermediate division on courses she had never played on before weren’t high.

“I thought I would go and just try it, to see what it was like,” Sharp said.

When Sharp completed her final round, she was nowhere near the bottom. She was a national champion.

Sharp surprised herself and the other players with three days of dominating play to win her division by 20 strokes. It’s a major accomplishment for a girl who took up the sport only two years ago.

“I wound up winning my division, which was real incredible because I thought I would finish somewhere at the bottom,” she said. “I had a great weekend.”

Fast learner
Like ball golf, disc golf’s scoring is based on making the least number of disc throws to the chained baskets on the course.

“The rules are basically the same,” said Grayson Robbins, president of the Tupelo Disc Golf Association. The TDGA, in conjunction with the city’s Parks and Recreation department, maintains courses at Veterans Memorial and Ballard parks. Other courses are located at Tombigbee and Trace state parks.

Sharp, an eighth-grade homeschooler, was introduced to the sport by her father, Randy Sharp. Father and daughter are members of the TDGA and compete in the association’s Sunday afternoon matches and in regional tournaments.

With so few female disc golfers in the region, Mandy winds up playing against her father and other men in the TDGA. Competing against the men, she said, has made her a better player. She’s already won several Junior individual and doubles tournaments.

“I might see one or two other girls out here,” she said. “Playing with the guys, they really help me. They have taught me different throws and they encourage me so much.”

Randy Sharp said Mandy has earned the male players’ respect.

“She’s become everybody’s little sister,” he said. “They pick on her, tease her, do a little smack talk with her. But they know on any given day she could whoop them. Before we left for Huntsville, the guys in the club spent $160 to purchase a disc bag for her. That shows how much they appreciate her.”

National competition
With the national event in a neighboring state, Mandy decided to play. Her father served as her caddy, carrying the new disc bag filled with various discs used for specific shots.

“The courses were much longer and harder than I’m used to,” Sharp said. “We took our time at each hole to discuss the best way to approach it. Dad said we should play conservative and smart. It paid off.”
Sharp’s concerns about finishing near the bottom were wiped out after the first round. She took a three-stroke lead in the field of 15 players from across the nation. “I had a really good round,” she said. “I felt good about it.”

After the first round, she had the low score in one more round and tied for the lowest in three more. Her five-round score of 310 gave her an overwhelming lead over runner-up Sara Nicholson of Columbia, S.C.
One person impressed with Sharp’s play was Juliana Korver, the five-time women’s disc golf world champion and a member of the Disc Golf Hall of Fame.

“Her technique and form are really good,” Korver said. “If she keeps performing like this, I wouldn’t be surprised to see her playing for the world championship one day.”

Robbins, the TDGA president, said, “We are very proud that Tupelo was represented by Mandy Sharp in the Intermediate division. She’s a great local kid doing wonderfully well in a growing sport. She represented the sport and the city of Tupelo very well.”

Sharp looks forward to playing in future major tournaments, as well as continuing her play in the TDGA and regional events. She encourages others to pick up disc golf as a recreational activity and enjoy it as much as she has.

“It’s a really fun sport,” she said. “The family can do it. You come out here and have fun, no matter how you play.”

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