The Minnesotan on how he wants to leave a legacy in the sport
November 5, 2018 by Christopher Wiklund in Interview with 0 comments
Known for his smooth form and friendly demeanor, Cale Leiviska is a pro’s pro and fixture on the elite touring scene. If Leiviska is registered for an event, he’s a good bet to make the lead card.
Ultiworld Disc Golf’s Chris Wiklund caught up with Leiviska recently and talked to the Minnesotan about the changes he’s seen over years on the road and transitioning to business owner.
Ultiworld Disc Golf: Is there anything you miss from the local scene you miss while touring?
Cale Leiviska: Well, since I began my business venture, Airborn Disc Golf, I wouldn’t necessarily classify myself as a touring pro any longer. I still play a handful of small two to three week swings of large events each season, but I actually play more local events these days then national.
But to answer your question, I like what the Disc Golf Pro Tour is doing with their festival theme. One thing that is lost in the big events these days is the interaction and gathering among the competitors after rounds or tournaments are over. I see this more on the local level — players having a beer, or playing catch and just hanging out after the rounds. There are obviously friend groups among the top professionals, but from what I hear from the older days of touring pros, there is much less gathering and celebrating together.
The Maple Hill event is the exception. Many of the players gather after for food and beverage, ping pong and pool. A lot of extracurricular bets going on up in the Sap House if you know where to look.
UWDG: When did you first realize you could compete outside the local tournaments and go pro?
Leiviska: I played with friends for a few months before attending college at Iowa State University where I met Matt Fausch. I thought I was the best player in the world until I met him and realized that people were actually very good at this game. I looked up to him and learned a lot my freshmen year. I then moved back to Minnesota to finish school and registered to play a tournament at my home course, Highland Park in Saint Paul. Timmy Gill was the Tournament Director and the best player in MN at that time.
I realized I would go pro when at registration, he told me that MPO was the only division that played for money. I told him that was the division I was going to play and I got third place, accepted cash, and have been in love with competing ever since.
UWDG: If your career in disc golf hadn’t worked out what would you be doing instead?
Leiviska: If I never found golf, I’d like to think that I would still be spending a lot of my time outdoors. I went to school for Conservation Biology with a background in Fisheries and Wildlife. I have always been fascinated by nature and Northern MN in particular. We have thousands of lakes and countless miles of wild forest in our state.
Now, instead of studying it, I get to build courses through it.
UWDG: Are there any cool projects in development in the Minnesota DG community we should be excited about?
Leiviska: I am involved in the MN disc golf scene in every way possible. I take great pride in representing my state as a competitor both locally, and on the world stage. There are so many good players here now that every local event is a battle and it provides stout preparation for competing on the national level. Becoming known as a player has also opened up many opportunities for me to design and build courses.
In 2018 alone, I have been involved in some way with over 200 baskets going in the ground! Hopefully, we can push a few more through before the winter hits.
The new course that just went in around Pit Mine Lake in Buhl, Minn. is the newest championship level course in MN to be excited about. It was just completed a few weeks ago and is getting rave reviews. I also have been the Tournament Director for 20 or so events now, including the Minnesota Majestic and King of the North. Airborn runs a MN tour each year now that draws hundreds of competitors. The scene is very strong here, and I do my best to keep pushing it forward.
UWDG: Do you have a favorite course to play?
Leiviska: Blue Ribbon Pines, without a doubt. Ray Jordan has created such a special place here in MN for disc golfers. The first disc golf club around where you can play amazing disc golf, grab some food and beverage, and come in contact with a lot of great people. He has set the stage in MN for pay-to-play disc golf, which is becoming the norm among many of the cities here now. Someday, I aspire to have my own land and BRP has set the bar high on how to create a true Disc Golf Country Club.
UWDG: What sorts of courses or designs do you think the PDGA and DGPT should be looking at for hosting major tournaments?
Leiviska: I don’t think there is a specific model for what a course needs to be. I think the best players need to have a finely tuned, wooded technical game mixed with accurate power for more open courses. The true champions can do it all, and I believe we should be tested in all disciplines. That being said, the prettier the course the better. The more beautiful the landscape, the better our discs look flying through it.
That is what it should be about; playing in places where it is enjoyable to watch.
UWDG: What are your thoughts regarding the discussions around shrinking the baskets?
Leiviska: Leave ’em how they are. People enjoy watching discs go in the basket.
UWDG: What improvements do you think need to be made in disc golf media to reach new audiences and make the game more consumable, profitable, and popular?
Leiviska: Honestly, Jomez Pro is pushing the envelope so far in such a short amount of time — and the game is snowballing in popularity — all we need to do is enjoy it for what it is and be patient. I hear this all the time, “There’s no money in disc golf.” Tell that to the disc manufacturers and course designers. Tell that to Paul McBeth and Ricky Wysocki.
Disc Golf is slowly becoming a worldwide phenomenon. There are millions of people playing the game. I have seen the growth tenfold since I started playing in 2001. When the game is going to make it on ESPN regularly is not something I worry about. I know how important and positively life-changing disc golf can be for people, and it’s only a matter of time before it will be visually consumed by the masses.
Until then, give your support and appreciation to your favorite players, or the founders of your local scene who paved the way for us to do what we love. And do what you can do to leave the game better then you found it. The rest will take care of itself.
UWDG: Do you have a favorite round to watch on YouTube?
Leiviska: My favorite round to watch is whatever the latest tournament that was played and uploaded by Jomez, Central Coast Disc Golf, or Par Save Productions. It is amazing how far the media has progressed since I began playing. I watched the 2003 National Tour DVD a hundred times because that was the only film I had when I started. The kids just finding the game nowadays have it made!
UWDG: What is your favorite disc golf-related memory?
Leiviska: Man, I’ve had so many life-changing experiences because of this game it’s hard to choose. I would have to say taking a five week tour across Europe back in the summer of 2011 with some great friends competing and playing in seven countries. I’m still blown away when I think of all the places I’ve been to because of this game. I wish I would have journaled much more than I did.
UWDG: Are there any aspects of your game that you are working to develop and improve, even at this point in your career?
Leiviska: Of course! 2018 is the first year that I used the power grip for all of my driver shots. My whole career I fan gripped every shot until I put some work in at the Sports Dome this past winter and got comfortable with it.
My putt is always a work in progress. I used to spin putt everything and now am predominantly a push putter. I know that I can still improve myself in both areas, and I try to soak up experience like a sponge so I will always be developing my brain until I throw my last frisbee.
UWDG: You get a disc golf genie to grant you three wishes for the game, what are they?
Leiviska: I’d like to have an ace per round, a 2019 World Championship, and to have someone say that I was a good ambassador and left the game better than I found it.
UWDG: You have 3 discs, 3 card mates, and a course. What are the discs, who are the card mates, and what’s the course?
Leiviska: Oooooh…with my H3, M4, and Pa3, I’m battling with Ricky, McBeth, and Ken Climo at Kenny’s home course in Florida. To be the best, you gotta beat the best.