Quad City Disc Golf.com Interview


Quad City Disc Golf.com Interview by Joe Rodman

Avery Jenkins is a Professional disc golfer, one of the sports biggest names, and a product of the “first family” of disc golf! Avery and disc golf have grown up together over the years. His parents, Leroy and Sharon, picked up the sport in the ’80s, and planned family vacations to places where they could catch a tournament on the weekends. Sharon holds several National titles, and his sister, Val, is a three-time Women’s Pro Champion. Originally from Ohio and now calling Oregon home, now Avery, 31, is closing in on his 10th year of traveling on the pro disc golf tour, and is making a living playing the sport he loves. Often traveling to tournaments with his sister Val, he plays for the camaraderie of the sport as much as for the competition.

In 2009 Avery won his first PDGA Pro World Championship, crossing off another major title from his wish list. Among his other accomp-lishments in the sport include 33 wins on the PDGA tour, and a player rating of 1032 as of September 2009. He was named the 2000 Rookie of the Year, 3-time USDGC Distance Champion, 2000 Inflight Open Distance champion, the 2006 Players Cup Champion, 2008 PDGA Tour Points Champion . His total earnings as a Professional disc golfer total well over $130,000 with $33,000 of that coming in 2008! Avery set his personal longest recorded throw at 695 feet (212 Meters) at the Big D in the Desert in Primm, NV in 2008, and later tied that distance record of 695 feet at the World Disc Games Overall Event at the field of UCSC in Santa Cruz, CA . in July 2008. He also threw his longest non-official distance throw of 840+ feet in practice the afternoon before the actual Distance Competition . In 2008 alone, Avery racked up over 80,000 miles on the Pro disc golf tour, including trips to Japanese and European Majors. Among Avery’s major sponsors are Innova, Huk Lab, Zone Driven and Revolution Disc Golf.

QCDG.com: You come from a family rich in disc golf experience. How has that background helped you with your own disc golf success?

Avery: Team Jenkins has been considered “The First Family of Disc Golf” and we have been around the sport since the Mid-80’s. Not because we are the first family to all play the game but quite possibly the most successful at what we have done in this sport. Val and I have been considered to be second generation players with our parents being part of the early pioneers of the sport. Our family now holds 8 World Titles, my Mother Sharon with 3 Master’s World Titles, Valarie with 4 World Titles including 3 Women World Titles and 1 Junior World Title. I have 1 World Title thus far and looking for many more Major Wins in the future.

I think that our success can be attributed to our support for one another and our true love of the game. We all are gifted with skill of throwing discs and really enjoy playing competitive sports throughout our lives. I think that our years of experience have really helped in our success in the events that we play. We really also enjoy the camaraderie the sport of Disc Golf provides and of course the traveling to tournaments all around the world.

QCDG.com: Who do you feel has had the greatest influence on your game? Did you have a mentor or someone who you modeled your game after?

Avery: I feel that my family has the greatest influence on my game and have provided tremendous support throughout my Disc Golf career. They are the main reason that I started playing in the very beginning and have taught me a lot about the game throughout the years.

I have lots of mentors that have influenced me and many that I have tried to model my game after. I have added many techniques and other portions of great influential players into my own game. I credit my family – my parents, Leroy and Sharon Jenkins, and my sister, Valarie – and my best friends and mentors – David Feldberg, Nate Doss, Ken Climo, Barry Schultz, Steve Wisecup, Steve Valencia, “Crazy” John Brooks, David Greenwell, Dave Dunipace, Tim Selinske, Sam Ferrans, “Steady” Ed Headrick, Mike Randolph, Dan Ginelly, Cam Todd and Scott Stokley – especially for paving the way and for supporting me over the years through my continued success on and off the course.

QCDG.com: When people think of Avery Jenkins often times they think of big distance. Your longest measured throw came in at 695.5 feet and you’ve won four major distance championships. What do you attribute that success to and what advice would you give to players looking to get extra distance?

Avery: I really think that Distance throwing is a trained skill that slightly varies from throwing long during a round of Disc Golf. I have always been known as one of the longest throwers in the game throughout my career, striving to increase my throwing distance each and every year. I weight train throughout the winter months to help gain strength and flexibility to help increase distance for competitions and for Disc Golf tournaments throughout the season.

I know that I can train to throw farther and have not yet reached a point where I have potentially thrown my furthest shots possible. I plan on training even harder this off season in preparation for the next year’s “Big D in the Desert” Distance competition held just outside Las Vegas.

I attribute my success and ability of throwing far to my body size and strength along with my technique and release timing. Many things contribute to the perfect throwing style and I believe that technique and speed pose to be the most important of all.

The advice that I would give to anyone looking to increase their throwing distance would be gripping the disc with a tight, firm power grip along with developing a great technique that utilizes their strength and timing. I think that throwing is best learned from lots of throwing in the field and repetition of the technique that produces the best results. The technique of Distance throwing is not the easiest thing to explain in writing and is best shown on video or “How To” Disc Golf DVD’s.

QCDG.com: Where do you feel distance off the tee falls in the overall success of your game? What facet of the game do you feel players, especially newer players, should concentrate on to improve their games?

Avery: Distance off the tee alone has brought me into the upper echelon of the sport. I actually build a majority of my game around my ability to throw far for the fact that it sets up everything to follow. Having the ability to throw far greatly increases the scoring opportunities on many of the courses that we play for tournaments. The opportunities are related back to many more chances at scoring along with avoiding possibilities of taking bad scores. So it gives you the chance to improve your score with birdies as well as helping not to worsen with bogeys.

Driving distance is a definite skill that a player needs to acquire in order to play better golf, like I said it sets up everything that is to follow. An errant shot off the tee sets up a bad lie, which sets up a difficult approach, which leads to an upshot left short etc…..But the fact of the matter is that not everyone can throw 500+ and that’s when a player must rely on the accuracy rather then the distance of their drives in order to play better golf. Therefore I believe that new players should really concentrate on improving their overall technique/form and learn the basic of angles/release timing. Accurate and controlled distance is something that is acquired through lots of repetitions and lots of field practice.

QCDG.com: You’ve been known to hit the gym in the off-season. What do you focus on when in the gym and how could a similar program help other players?

Avery: I strongly believe that weight training in the off-season has really taken my game to the next level. I also train throughout the year but tone down the intensity to make sure I don’t alter my technique or form, its all about keeping the proper body tone. Most players need to realize that this is an overall athletic sport and players experience a lot of wear-and–tear throughout a season of throwing. I also see off-season weight training as a way to avoid these elbow and shoulder injuries throughout the season. I take the entire winter months off from throwing to give my body a chance to recover and heal completely before the start of the next season.

I primarily focus on overall body strength but really concentrate on strengthening my shoulders and my core. I do lots of free-weights to strengthen all the major muscle groups of the body but they also do an amazing job of strengthening the smaller stabilizing muscles as well. I also really like using the cable machine at the gym, I think that it offers an ideal exercise that mimics the disc golf throw. This machine adds more distance to my game by building the major muscles such as the triceps and anterior deltoids needed to deliver explosive throwing power. I believe that a well developed and proper strength training program in the off-season can tremendously improve anyone’s golf game.

QCDG.com: What area of your game do you feel is your strongest, what area(s) of your game would you like to concentrate on improving and what steps do you see yourself taking to make those improvements?

Avery: I definitely know that my ability to control long drives off the tee is what separates my game from the rest of the competition. It gives me the ability to score better for the fact that I get lots more chances at birdie and eagle compared to the rest of the field. My accurate approaches are also a strong part of my game due to my experience with throwing and playing catch with a Frisbee a majority of my life. I am a solid putter, but I know that is the area that everyone can always improve on. It’s the main area of every players game, which determines the difference between winning and losing. I know for a fact that putting is the main reason that I have not won a World or US Championship yet.The key to getting better at anything is relentless practice, its something that has to be ingrained as habit and taken as something to train muscle memory. I have been a very consistent player over the past few years, I know that improving my putting will only make me better and more successful.

QCDG.com: When playing a round during a tournament would you consider yourself an aggressive player or more conservative? Could you give an example of when you had to make that decision and most importantly tell us the thought process you went through deciding “go for it” or “play it safe”?

Avery: I am definitely an aggressive player but a way smarter aggressive player then I used to be. It seemed that earlier in my career that I would go at every hole 100%, if I saw the basket I would attack with everything that I had because I knew that I could make the shot. But it didn’t always work out that well even though I knew that I had the skill and ability to pull off any shot.

So I would maybe even consider myself a passive-aggressive player on the course for the fact that I strategically play the hole in the most effective way that I feel possible. I have to constantly remind myself that I don’t have to go at every hole and weight out the risk-reward possibilities to decide if it is worth it to take the chance.

I recall a round at the 2004 Japan Open where I was faced with a 250’ 2nd shot on a long par 4 to a basket perched on a sloping hill. There was an OB bunker located 15’ in front of the basket and an OB cart path 30’ long of the green. It was a situation where I had to decide whether it was worth it to go for this shot during the final round of play. I had to remind myself that this is the game of golf and the risk of going for it greatly outweighed the reward, the stroke that I had a chance at gaining did not equal the 2 strokes that I could possibly lose if I do not make the shot. So I played my next shot short of the bunker for an easy lay-up under the basket for par. In the end, that shot may have allowed to become victorious as the Japan Open Champion as I won the tournament by a single stroke.

QCDG.com: At your level of play you compete against the very best this sport has to offer. What do you feel sets you apart from the others and how does that help you get an edge on your competition?

Avery: I know that my ability to throw long off the tee and my forehand drives definitely separate me from the rest of the competition. Those weapons greatly increase my chance of scoring on lots of courses. It also lets me land lots of safer shots on difficult to reach greens and fairways. Those shots allow me to take more aggressive routes on holes without too much risk involved. I really like to use my power game as a competitive advantage against my competition.

QCDG.com: Mental toughness and focus are very important to success in disc golf. As you’re playing your rounds what do you do to keep in the right frame of mind? Can you tell of a situation where you had to dig deep within yourself using that process to get out of trouble?

Avery: I believe that trust in my ability and skills have been very important during rounds to keep me in the right frame of mind. I trust that I have the shot for any situation and have confidence of throwing the best shots on any hole on the course. Having trust and confidence in your abilities has proven to produce positive outcomes, just knowing that can take you a long way in this sport.

I look back to a recent situation during the World Championships this year when I threw what I believe to be the most clutch shot of my career at the most crucial time. It was during the 5 hole playoff between Josh Anthon and myself which took place on the 4th hole when I was faced with a difficult upshot behind an island of trees. Josh had already thrown his shot under the basket and I was forced to make the shot or lose the Championship. I had to make the decision of throwing a backhand shot uphill around the trees with a left to right crosswind, which had the chance of knocking down my shot. Or throwing the more difficult and longer forehand shot around the lower left side of the trees.

I kept my composure and dug deep within myself to have the confidence make the shot in the most crucial of situations by throwing the forehand out and around using the left to right crosswind to bring the disc to the basket for the par save. That shot alone pushed the playoff to the next and final 5th playoff hole where I made the final putt for the World Championship Title.

QCDG.com: Many players have a “pre-shot” routine they go through before they throw. Do you have one and if so what are you focusing on during that process?

Avery: It took many years to develop my own pre-shot routine, but it is something that has been included in the throwing technique to produce the most consistent results. Every great player has pre-shot routine, it is a signature routine that is individual to each and every player before throwing. It is something that is developed throughout practice that allows the player to get into a comfortable groove and feeling what is needed to throw the shot.

I try to really focus on going through the exact repetitious motions each and every time before throwing a shot. I concentrate on standing up straight and approaching the shot with a slow and controllable cadence that is easily repeated every time. I do the same with putting when I lock down my side to side movement and just concentrate on my arm swing, extension and following through at the end of the putt.

QCDG.com: What was it like for you to break through with your big win at the 2006 Players Cup, and what do you feel you need to do to experience winning at that level consistently?

Avery: I believe that the main reason that I was so successful in winning the 2006 Players Cup was that I was the most mentally prepared for that tournament than any other tournament that entire season. I knew I needed to win that tournament and wanted to win that tournament more than anything. I committed to every shot and putt the entire tournament, I also made very few mistakes and capitalized on every opportunity.

A strong mental game backed up with incredible throwing ability can elevate any player into the higher levels of competitive Disc Golf. But confidence is by far the most important skill to obtain when striving to be the very best.

QCDG.com: As most people know your sister Valarie is a pretty successful disc golfer in her own right, and on many occasions you have paired together to play doubles tournaments. What’s it like playing with your sister at that level and how close to winning a Major doubles event do you feel the two of you are?

Avery: I have had some of the most enjoyable and fun rounds of golf playing with Val. We had placed as high as 4th playing doubles at the World Championships in years past. Unfortunately we have never won any of these doubles events, but I would like to have our chances at an event that is longer then a 2 round one-day tournament for a Major Title.

I feel that we would have a great chance of winning a multiple round tournament in a variety of doubles formats. Val is an incredible all-around player and competitor that complements my power game very well with an on-point short game and very consistent putt in all situations.

QCDG.com: There are many great events on the disc golf tour for professionals, but what’s the one event you would really like to add to your disc golf resume and why?

Avery: When you asked me this question before it would have been the obvious answer of winning a World Title. It has been a life long goal of mine since I was very young and I have always thought of the possibilities of one day becoming the best in the World. I have definitely put in a lot of time and energy throughout the many years of traveling and playing tournaments all over the world. But winning a World Championship has always been the ultimate goal for as long as I have been playing this game. It is the pinnacle of any player’s career and something that I wanted so bad that I was not letting anything come between me achieving my ultimate dream.

QCDG.com: If you were to pick one moment in your disc golf career to date that you feel showed the world who Avery Jenkins is and what he’s capable of what would it be?

Avery: This year’s World Championships is where I felt that I showed the World the true Avery Jenkins and what I am really capable of on the course. I gained control of the tournament during the first round and only gave up the lead once before winning it all in the end. It was the stage that I have been waiting for where I could show that World that I am a true Champion of the game. I really showed my true self on my final putt to win the World Title when I let it all out in a victorious roar as I achieved what I wanted the very most and becoming a Disc Golf World Champion.

Complete QuadCityDiscGolf.com Interview: Avery Jenkins Interview

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