The Icelandic wunderkind is ready for a full tour.
February 23, 2022 by Bogi Bjarnason, Jesse Weisz and Steve Andrews in Interview with 0 comments
This is the the fifth of our Q&A interviews in our European Re-Open series that highlights European disc golfers as international travel reopens in 2022.
This past summer, I sat down for an interview with Blær Örn Ásgeirsson, Iceland’s top disc golfer. Also joining us was Bogi Bjarnason, Innova’s team manager for Iceland and one of the prominent figures in Icelandic disc golf. At the time, Blær had a 1017 rating, nearly 70 points higher than his next closest countryman.
Blær won his first MPO and A-tier appearance at age 14. He has since gone on to win the 2018 British Open, 2019 Open de España, 2021 Belgian Open, and the 2021 PCS Sula Open. He is also a 3x Iceland National Champion. He recently finished high school and at 19 years old is going to take on a full touring schedule this year.
Ultiworld DG: What would you say is the best part of your game right now?
Blær Örn Ásgeirsson: Probably my putting. I think I also have a good mental game. I almost never get angry on the course
Are you a spin putter or a push butter?
I’m a spin putter. It’s almost impossible to push putt in Iceland with the crazy wind we have almost all year.
Do you lean on a particular throw? Forehand? Backhand?
I mainly throw backhand. If I can throw backhand, I will.
What are the challenges of playing in Iceland in terms of the courses that you play?
We don’t have a lot of trees. We have mostly just big bushes. So we just throw over the bushes with hyzers. So mainly it’s just distance control and try to stay in bounds because we have a lot of OB. Not a lot of tunnel shots or low ceiling shots.
What do you do to challenge yourself to learn those shots?
I try to play different shots on the holes. Like when I’m practicing, I don’t just throw the hyzer on every hole. I throw low shots, straight shots, anhyzers, and sometimes do field work as well.
Have you played any tournaments where you had to play courses that are more technical?
Oh, yeah, for sure. Like a couple of months ago, I played the PCS Open and one of the courses there was super woodsy. That was a challenge for sure, but fun.
How do you adjust your games for the woods?
I feel like I’ve just had to learn new discs. I started throwing the Leopard3. It’s like a hyzer flip disc. I never throw Hyzer flips in Iceland. So it’s a different shot, but I think I can figure it out.
What is your touring plan for 2022?
I will go to the United States at the beginning of the year and travel for a couple of months with Knut Håland and Peter Lunde, who are from Norway. And in the mid-summer, I want to play the European tour, like the PCS Sula Open, European Open, Estonian Open, all those big tournaments. [Ásgeirsson is signed up for US tour stops from LVC this weekend through DDO in late April before returning to Europe.]
And financially, how do you support yourself playing disc golf now?
We have a pretty good disc golf community in Iceland. They have been supporting me with buying my discs and competing in my fundraising tournaments. So they helped me, and Innova helps me, and I’ll probably also work in the offseason. And the cash prizes.
Who are your sponsors?
My sponsors are Innova Champion discs, Frisbigolfbúðin, Frisbígolffélag Reykjavíkur, European Birdies, treelove disc golf, hleðsla.
What do your parents think about your burgeoning disc golf career?
They are always super supportive in everything I do and the same goes for my disc golf career.
What has been your biggest win so far?
Probably the PCS Sula Open.
You’re way out in front of the pack in Iceland. Who is the second highest-rated player?
I think there are two players now tied at like, 955 or something around that. [Mikael Máni Freysson is the second highest rated player at 954.]
So you’re rated 1021 right now1, and your top competitors in Iceland are in the 950s? How does that affect you in terms of having competition and improving your game while having been somewhat isolated due to COVID?
Yeah, I’m not really thinking about the competition. I mainly think about the rating. I try to average above my rating, so I’m more competing with myself. But this year, I haven’t been doing that well because I had a good first round, played like 1050, 1060, 1070 and almost won the tournament in the first round. And after that, I just lost my focus, just throwing some bad shots.
Do you have a goal for 2022?
I definitely want to qualify for the USDGC again and maybe get a cash prize in each tournament. And it’s always fun to get a higher rating.
Given the choice between playing more in Europe or the United States, are you going to prioritize one over the other?
All the big competitions in Europe are in the mid-summer, so I definitely want to compete in those, but other than that I plan on spending most of my time in the US.
What is the visibility of disc golf in Iceland? If I asked 10 people if they’ve heard of disc golf, how many of them would have heard of disc golf?
Blær: I would think 4.7.
Bogi: I would guess 7 out of 10.
Blær: They did a poll of how many people in each age group have played disc golf. It was something like of the ages 17 to 26 or something like 47% have played disc golf in the last year. Because of those numbers now, we have more money to make more courses.
Bogi: In Reykjavik, you have a city of 200,000 people with 14 courses in sight. You can see people playing, you know, because it’s everywhere, so it’s very hard not to know what disc golf is.
What’s the difference between pre-pandemic disc golf and how things are now in Iceland?
Bogi: The summer of 2020 was just mind-blowing. It was different this year because some restrictions have been lifted. There are other things to do. But last summer, people were unemployed and working from home, gyms were closed, and you couldn’t go to the bars. Just looking at sales from my van, they went up, I think, 40%.
Blær: Before the pandemic, you could play all the courses easily, but now you have to wait in line on almost every course.
How do you think disc golf will change in Iceland over the coming years? How is it going to compare to the rest of the world?
Bogi: Our problem is that we need more championship-level courses. We need the sport to be treated as a sport by the powers that be, not just a hobby. Making eighteen hole courses, having cash prizes in tournaments, and attracting more sponsors to the tournament.
Blær: Now we only have events with no payouts. I feel like all the focus is on getting new players to the sport.
Bogi: Many of these players don’t stick around because there’s no challenge. We play these pitch-and-putts and there’s nothing else. This is almost like a multi-level marketing thing. Oh, recruit, recruit, recruit, but don’t do the groundwork to make it a professional sport.
When you look at UDisc, there are a lot of 9 hole courses in Iceland, which seems very unusual compared to other countries. Do you know why that is so?
Bogi: We know. It is because of the powers that be.
Blær: And probably, it’s hard to get the space for an 18 hole course, especially in Reykjavik. And all the big parks with the big trees. There’s no way to put a course there. So it’s hard to get the courses with trees.
Bogi: If you look at the UK, I mean they’re not nearly as developed as us, but they have way better courses. It’s because they put them outside the city. Here, they only build them inside the city.
Blær: We probably have the worst landscape in the world for disc golf. There are no trees. We just had to put in a lot of mandos and OB.
So trees just don’t grow well in Iceland?
Bogi: We have trees, it’s just not the kinda trees that work well as obstacles to shape a shot. We apparently used to have woods. They say they were all cut down hundreds of years ago.
This was in the summer of 2021. Currently, Ásgeirsson is rated 1008 ↩