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Brigham Young University's Tailey Rowley recently won the 2023 College Disc Golf National Championship in the D1 women's single category.  (Photo courtesy of Tailey Rowley)

BYU grad claims national title in collegiate disc golf

Latter-day Saint Tailey Rowley erases several strokes during final round to win national championship in thrilling fashion.

By Jason Swensen

19 Apr 2023

When John Rahm recently claimed the 2023 Masters, the Spanish golfer finished four strokes ahead of his nearest rival.


Brigham Young University’s Tailey Rowley enjoyed no such cushion during her own recent march to an elite golf title. 


On April 6, the Latter-day Saint claimed the 2023 College Disc Golf National Championship in the D1 women’s singles category in Marion, North Carolina. Rowley finished her title-winning round with a five over par. Runner-up Alexis Kerman from Missouri was a single stroke — or “throw” — behind, finishing 6 over par.


Winning a national title, she told Church Ball Magazine, “is pretty unreal — I honestly didn’t expect to win going into the tournament.”


The South Carolina native knew that she had the skills to compete for the crown. “But I didn’t want to get my hopes up too much and psyche myself out because disc golf is such a mental sport.”


After starting the final round in fourth place, she focused on keeping things simple: Play clean. Play aggressively. Play with confidence. And then, well, let the discs fall where they may. 


By the time Rowley reached the final hole of the tournament, she had built a 2-stroke lead. The 18th hole was one of the most challenging on the course. “So I felt a lot of pressure.” 

She bogeyed the hole — just good enough to become the national champ.


As with traditional golf, elite disc golfers rely upon their caddies for playing advice, strategizing and mental reassurance. In Rowley’s case, her caddy, Finnis Quick,  is also her husband — and the person who introduced her to the sport.


“Our player-caddy relationship works really well because I play with Finnis every day,” she said. “A lot of my shots are his shots — and he knows my game better than anyone else…. I trust him because we’ve played so much together.”

Brigham Young University's Tailey Rowley recently won the 2023 College Disc Golf National Championship in the D1 women's single category.  (Photo courtesy of Tailey Rowley)

A disc golf primer


For disc golf aficionados, Rowley’s recent title-winning adventure is every bit as significant and thrilling as John Rahm claiming his first green jacket at Augusta.


More than a million people regularly play the game on over 15,000 disc golf courses across the globe.


Disco golf is played much like golf, except competitors use a flying disc instead of a ball and clubs. Like golf, the object is to complete each basket or “hole” in the fewest strokes possible. Scoring in disc golf is identical to golf.


At competitive levels, athletes use a variety of different shaped discs — putters, mid-ranges and drivers —  to be used in different situations.


The most popular throwing technique in disc golf is the backhand throw that is similar to how most people throw a Frisbee.


College disc golf is sponsored by the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) and is not sanctioned by the NCAA. The sport enjoys a popular and growing presence at the Church-sponsored BYU.


A “Natural” turned National Champion


A lifelong athlete, Rowley has only been playing disc golf for about a year and a half. Her husband has been competing in the sport for several years and, no surprise,  introduced his newlywed wife to the game. She competed in her first tournament last June and joined the BYU disc golf team last fall. 


“I was a softball pitcher in high school, which I think has really helped me prepare for the pressure of disc golf,” she said.


Still, the game did not come easy to Rowley. But with time, patience and plenty of YouTube instruction, her disc golf skills emerged. The putting element of the sport has been her biggest challenge.


She plans to now transition into the pro ranks of her sport and secure sponsorships.


A recent BYU graduate, Rowley is a registered behavior technician and works with children with autism. She grew up in the Church and enjoys representing her faith even as she represents her school in disc golf competitions.


“I know that the way I act and treat people is going to reflect on how others think of the Church, especially if it is their first experience interacting with a Church member,” she said. “I try to be a good example and stay loyal to my true self.”

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