UI alum a disc golf aficionado

BY BRIAN ALBERT | JUNE 24, 2011 7:20 AM

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Martin Murray started playing disc golf four years ago and hated it. But today, the sport is his greatest passion.

“It’s a really great sport that a lot of people overlook,” he said. “It keeps me coming back day after day.”

The 24-year-old native of Italy moved to Corydon, Iowa, when he was 6. He has since moved to Iowa City and graduated from the University of Iowa in 2010 with a degree in modern American history.

Murray now works at Hands Jewelers, 109 E. Washington St., and he heads out to a disc-golf course nearly every day after work.

“I try to get out to a local course such as Turkey Creek or Sugar Bottom pretty much every night,” he said. “I’m hooked. I’m out there as often as I can be.”

During the week, he usually plays recreationally, but every Thursday, he plays competitively as a member of the Vicious Circle Disc Golf league. The organization serves avid disc golfers, most of them from the Iowa City and North Liberty area.

“I do it because I want to play people who are better than me. It’s the best way to learn, especially when some of my slacker friends aren’t really getting any better,” he said jokingly.

John Walker, a fellow player who has known Murray since high school, said he can attest to his friend’s passion for the sport.

“We’re both avid disc golfers, and we play weekly,” Walker said. “But he’s not just dedicated and talented — he really wants disc golf to thrive as a sport.”

Murray also said he passes much of his time buying and trading discs online, engaged in a hard-core part of the disc-golf hobby that he described as “really deep and complex.”

“There are several disc manufacturers, each with its own plastic variances and disc properties that help you determine how a disc is going to act once you sling it,” he said. “It’s really as complicated as golf. You have different discs for different situations. A lot of people don’t seem to know about that.”

Some discs can even exceed the $1,000 mark because they’re either extremely rare or were owned by a well-known player.

“It doesn’t have to be expensive, though,” Murray said. “Entry level plastic ranges from about $5 to $8, with middle- to top-range stuff reaching 10 to 15 bucks.”

Jesse Cohen, Murray’s roommate, coworker, and disc-golf player, described Murray as engrossed with the sport, as well as the disc-trading scene.

“He’s very skilled and knowledgeable on manufacturers discs and their unique properties,” Cohen said. “He knows what to use and how to use them, and that makes him a smart, focused, consistently good player.”

Though disc golf can become quite complex and expensive, Murray said, he hopes this won’t drive new people away from trying to learn the sport.

“Plenty of people go out there for the first time, and their throws are terrible, and they’re just there to have fun,” Murray said. “It doesn’t have to be a scary thing.”

He noted that his first time was a disaster, but he, like many players, was hooked after one incredible moment.

“When I first started, I was often really frustrated,” he said. “You initially won’t be able to throw correctly, and you’ll hate it, but the first time you send a disc soaring for 250 or 300 feet, it makes you want to keep coming back for more.”

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