Q&A With Sarah Hokom, Part 2

Hokom talks PDGA, payouts, women in disc golf and more

Sarah Hokom at the 2018 Beaver State Fling, a PDGA National Tour event. Photo: Alyssa Van Lanen – PDGA

Sarah Hokom posted plenty of highlights in the first half of the season, and you can check out links to them along with more about how she got started in disc golf in part one here.

In part two of our interview earlier this season with Hokom, we talked about women’s visibility in disc golf, what the PDGA does for the sport and distributions of added cash at top-tier tournaments.

The following interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Ultiworld Disc Golf: There has been a lot of discussion about the problem of visibility for women in disc golf this season. What does visibility in disc golf mean for you and what does a disc golf that is making the sport visible for women look like?

Sarah HokomI think we just have to continue to follow in the footsteps of what the men’s side is doing for coverage. It would be great to see an end of the year highlight reel like Jomez Pro did at the end of last season. Increasing coverage, giving the same coverage that the guys get would be great. It’s hard to compare what we do to the guys in a lot of areas. I think it would be great to show a lot of the ‘in round’ stuff on camera that doesn’t always make it into the final cuts.

UWDG: Earlier this season the PDGA responded to a discussion from late last year and adjusted the bonus structure for their National Tour Elite Series. Did they more or less address the concerns raised last year?

SH: Absolutely. They definitely, completely responded to what we said. They thought what they were doing before was the best at first. Then we all reacted and they made it flatter and deeper. They’ve been very supportive of the women’s divisions, they’re making a lot of positive changes and everything they’re doing in these last couple of years is with the understanding that they’re trying to grow the sport for everyone and women especially. I think they’re a great representative for all of us. I like that they’re trying new things — you have to try new things and then fail at them sometimes to realize whether they’re good or not. That’s how you evolve and change for the better over time.

UWDG: If you could compare what we saw happening with the bonus payout for the last few years and the adjustment for 2018, how do you anticipate the change affecting the field of touring pros?

SH: The flatter and deeper you can pay the better it is for the sport simply because the people winning the most money are consistently winning the most already and not only are they paying their bills with their prize money, but they’re also getting enormous bonuses from their sponsors and they’re taking care of them more and more. The prize money doesn’t necessarily need to dictate how much a player is really making, but at the lower end of the field, it’s pretty much the only thing those players are making.

It’s difficult for many women to pursue the sport professionally because of the way the payouts work, and our division is structured, and the environment that exists. But I can name five or six women I’ve played with in the last 10 or so months that are extremely talented and have just not found a reason to make the jump to playing full-time professionally. Even though they’re just as talented as I was before I started touring—more talented actually. They look at the environment and they don’t see how it makes sense to go for it, and I get it. In the long run, it’s going to put more people on the road and make the competition better so, in the end, it’s going to be better for the sport. I hope some of those women give it a shot. Maybe they won’t in the first year or two but once they see that more women are able to make a decent living on the road, and there’s more support for the women and that the sport itself is adjusting to make itself more friendly to female players it could absolutely happen.

UWDG: It seems like the PDGA is being reflexive and adjusting based on what their members want. Yet, oftentimes there is still criticism out there that the PDGA doesn’t always have its members best interests in mind. What are your thoughts on this based on your experiences?

SH: In my dealings with the PDGA over the last few years, I’ve found that a lot of the social media reaction [from disc golfers in general] to the PDGA’s stance and direction in certain things is misguided and that they don’t realize how much the PDGA actually does listen to its constituency. I would love for the public at large to realize the PDGA is really there for them and listening to them. And, if they can’t do exactly what people want it’s because of other reasons, not because they don’t want to. They’re juggling a lot of different aspects about the sport.

I wish more people would join the PDGA. It’s estimated that there are two million people that play this sport and only 30,000 active members. The $50 it costs to have an amateur membership is nothing compared to the other extraneous activities people spend money on every week. The $50 can go a long way for the sport. If we could show big sponsors and larger companies that there are two million people active in the sport through their membership just think of how much leverage we could have in the marketing community. ‘Steady’ Ed Headrick started the PDGA as an association for the players and it’s the only reason that we have any leverage, any organization, anything — it’s the only reason any of this has happened. To just snub it like they’re holding us back — that’s the last thing they’re doing. They’re not the reason we aren’t big yet. We’re just a young sport, that’s it. My message is the PDGA is good for the sport, join it.

UWDG: What kind of effect on individual tournaments could there be for the women’s field if TDs followed the PDGA’s lead with the flatter and deeper model from the NT bonus payout?

SH: I do think that would make the environment better for the women’s side for the same exact reason that the top women are already making so much extra for always winning beyond just the prize money.

I really just want tournament payout distributions to be more proportional to the entry fee payment. I understand why women don’t get 50-percent of the added cash, they want it to be proportional to the number of people playing in each division. And I would never want to handicap the men’s division because there aren’t many women playing, that’s not fair. But it’s also not fair that women have the same expenses, plus the same entry fee when we’re only getting access to 20-percent or 10-percent of the added cash. A lot of the men, I think, feel entitled to their percentage of the added cash based on their participation rates, but at the same time they’re getting all the entry fee money from all the people in their division but they didn’t do anything to earn that added cash. That was the TD, and the fundraising groups, and what the community did. To give them nearly full ownership of that, as in the percentage of the people that are playing, is also kind of questionable. They didn’t earn that $10,000 added cash. The TD and the community are the ones that did that. Don’t misunderstand—I don’t think it should be 50/50 until we’re closer to a more equitable number of participants, but they shouldn’t feel entitled to all the added cash just based on their participation.

What I would like to see happen is if women only have access to maybe 25-percent of the added cash—so maybe only $2,500 of the $10,000—then we shouldn’t be paying a $200 entry fee. The men can pay that, but we should be paying a smaller percentage of that entry fee if we don’t have access to as much added cash. In the end—the big picture—we don’t want to play for each other’s entry fee money. We want to play for the added cash. I don’t want to take Lisa Fajkus’ car payment from her. I don’t want to take Jessica Weese’s cell phone bill. I’m not trying to take Catrina Allen’s rent money. We want to play for the money the community earned and used to bring the tour to their community. A $200 entry fee, especially for the women’s side, that’s substantial. An extra couple hundred dollars every month, I can eat on that for three weeks. That’s how we live, so it does make a difference if we have to pay less in entry fees. Not all pros get their entry fees paid for, it’s not standard across the board.

  1. Alex Colucci
    Alex Colucci

    Alex Colucci is the managing editor at Ultiworld Disc Golf. He is a disc golfer currently living in Northeast Ohio who teaches geography sometimes. Contact him at [email protected] with tips, news and questions, and follow him on Twitter.

  2. Christopher Wiklund
    Christopher Wiklund

    Chris is a contributor at Ultiworld Disc Golf. He lives and works on Cape Cod in Massachusetts where he plays as much disc golf as he can, and reminds people he lives on Cape Cod. He likes spending time outside when he isn't playing video games and watching TV.

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