July 6, 2021
FORMER OWEN QUARTERBACK AND PITCHER FINDS PROFESSIONAL CAREER IN DISC GOLF
The precise right arm of Sam Drummond was a feature of his athletic career at Owen High School. Until his graduation in the summer of 2015, it helped the quarterback guide the Warhorse football team to a combined 21-4 record in 2013 and 2014, and found consistent success on the pitcher’s mound with a 2.61 career earned run average through 91.1 innings of work over three seasons.
There was never much doubt in his ability to hit a target in high-pressure situations, but it was a sport that he didn’t begin playing until 2017 that would lead him to a professional career.
When the College Disc Golf National Championship was held, April 7-10, at the North Cove Disc Golf and Social Club in Marion, less than 30 miles from where he once played in Warhorse Stadium, Drummond shot a 10-under-par for Clemson University on his way to a ninth-place finish in the individual tournament. He partnered with Jacob Madsen on the Tigers’ A-team, which shot 30-under and placed 24th.
Drummond, who graduated from Clemson last May, as the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancelation of the 2020 national championship, was permitted to play in the 2021 tournament. But, he didn’t have much time to reflect on his final collegiate event before loading up his truck and heading to Arkansas for the next stop on the Disc Golf Pro Tour Elite Series.
As a quarterback and pitcher at Owen High School, Sam Drummond used his right arm to help the Warhorses win. That precision plays a big role in his professional disc golf career. Photo by Fred McCormick
Following the April 18 conclusion of the Play It Again Sports Jonesboro Open, he’ll drive approximately 300 miles to the Joe Machens Toyota Mid America Open in Columbia, Missouri before heading to Emporia, Kansas to tee off in the 2021 Professional Disc Golf Association National Tour event - the Dynamic Discs Open. The tournaments are part of a packed tour schedule that will take Drummond all over the country.
When Drummond and his Owen teammates would go toss the discs around on the courses in Black Mountain it never occurred to him that he’d be playing the rapidly growing sport professionally one day.
“I had two or three discs in high school,” he said. “We would go play sometimes just to get outside and have fun, but it was never something we were really serious about.”
Upon graduating from Owen, he spent two years at UNC Charlotte where he continued to play the sport recreationally. When he transferred to Clemson in 2017, Drummond signed up for an elective disc golf class.
“That’s when I really started getting into it,” he said. “I ended up joining the team and became a member of the PDGA.”
But a trip with his fiancée in 2019 led him to consider a career in the sport.
“I was at Clemson studying for a degree in industrial engineering, and it wasn’t really clicking for me,” Drummond said. “I did end up graduating with that degree, but I wanted to find another potential career option. One day I was in the library doing some research and I found this thing called the RV Entrepreneur Summit.”
The couple drove to Alabama for the conference that included approximately 350 people who travel the country in recreational vehicles while running businesses. The experience was an eye-opener, according to Drummond.
“We met two professional disc golfers, Eric and Tina Oakley, who live on the road. We got to hang out and find out more about their experience,” he said. “I took baseball seriously in school, but not seriously enough to think about it as a career. But right there, I started thinking ‘why not try to make a career out of this disc golf thing?’ I don’t want to look back in 30 years and wonder what would’ve happened if I’d tried it.”
Two weeks after he set his sights on a professional disc golf career, Drummond was in Appling, Georgia playing in the National Collegiate Disc Golf Championship, where he placed 14th. He finished in the top 10 in each of his next five amateur matches before entering the 2019 PDGA Amateur Disc Golf World Championships in the summer of 2019.
“That is the biggest amateur tournament in the world, and I signed up to see how I could do in that setting,” Drummond said. “There were 278 players and only the top 72 played in the last round. My goal going in was just to make the cut, but I came in 14th, and that was my last amateur tournament before I started playing in the Open Division.”
IN THE MONEY
It wasn’t much, but the $125 Drummond earned in the Blind Hog End of Summer Throwdown in Waynesville in August of 2019 represented something special.
“That was the first time I officially won cash at a disc golf tournament,” he said. “Once you accept cash, that makes you a professional. So technically, I became a professional disc golfer that day.”
It wouldn’t be the last time Drummond would leave a tournament with money in his pocket in 2019, and 2020 was shaping up to be a big year. With his graduation from Clemson on the horizon, Drummond opened the year with a ninth-place finish in the IDGC Ice Bowl and placed sixth in the Aiken County Open before tournaments were paused in response to COVID-19.
Former Owen athlete Sam Drummond graduated from Clemson University in May of 2020 and moved back to Black Mountain the following August as he pursues his professional disc golf career. Photo by Fred McCormick
He returned to action in June at the Tennessee State Disc Golf Championships, where he played as an amateur in 2019, and improved by around a dozen strokes. His 12th-place showing in Morristown came weeks before Drummond and his father embarked on a successful “mini-tour,” and as September arrived he was facing a big test at the Southern Nationals Disc Golf Championships in Griffin, Georgia.
“That was a super important tournament because it was a qualifier for the United States Disc Golf Championship,” Drummond said. “That’s currently the only event that you have to qualify for.”
As he stepped off the course he felt confident about his chance to earn the bid, but he learned that players in the Masters Division were also eligible.
“One of them had beaten me, so it forced me to go into a sudden death playoff for the last bid,” he said.
Both players recorded par on the first hole, and Drummond thought his quest for the bid was over when he threw out of bounds on the second.
“Luckily, we ended up tying that hole,” he said. “On the third playoff hole, I hit a 25-foot putt from the woods to earn the bid, and that was my top moment of 2020.”
LEARNING TO WIN WHILE LIVING ON THE ROAD
Drummond accomplished many of the goals he set for himself in 2020, but there was something he needed to do as soon as possible in 2021 - win a tournament. He did that Jan. 23, in Appling.
“I went down to the ADGA Ice Bowl in Georgia, and I wanted to get my first win,” he said. “You can’t win a national level event until you can win a local level event. I felt like it was important to understand what it took to win a tournament.”
This year will be the busiest of the young disc golfer’s career. Drummond, who moved back to Black Mountain in August, is traveling the country in a pick-up truck that he converted into a small camper with his father. His first stop on the PDGA National Tour was in Las Vegas, where he placed 43rd in the Las Vegas Challenge after making the roughly 2,000-mile trip in February.
“I am living out of the back of my dad’s truck,” he said. “We put a topper on the back, built a platform for a bed, installed a solar hook-up to run a microwave and instant pot, and I have a Yeti cooler in there as my refrigerator.”
Drummond shot six under par and placed 74th in Jonesboro last weekend. He is scheduled to compete in 15 tournaments before the end of September.
“My main goal is to be consistent, because I know I have the skills,“ he said. “The key is putting it all together on a regular basis. I’m trying to have strong showings in each of these tournaments and win money as often as possible.”
Drummond’s long-term goal is to make the vision he shares with his fiancée a reality.
“Ultimately, we want to buy an RV and travel the country together between tournaments,” he said. “We want to visit national parks and see all of the cool things we haven’t seen yet. Disc golf would be a great way to do that.”