In the early 1990s, Jane Gottesman worked as a staff writer covering sports for the San Francisco Chronicle. At the time, she was the only woman in the country working in the sports department of a big-city newspaper (1). News coverage of female athletes was scarce. Gottesman kept a running tally of the number of photographs of women who graced the sports page. The results were dismal.
As Gottesman put it: “As I counted, I saw that these seemingly inconsequential and repetitious pictures of able-bodied men hitting baseballs, throwing footballs, and rebounding basketballs actually had a cumulative effect on the way females saw themselves in relation to males and vice versa” (1, p. 7).
In 2001, she published a collection of photographs and stories of women in sports called Game face: What does a female athlete look like? Gottesman’s work was intended to “make the invisible visible,” to encourage and inspire female athletes, to correct the one-sided coverage of women in sports as either sex objects or victims, and to help propel the growth of women’s sports (1).
Gottesman’s mission—and I think it’s a good one—was to soothe a social injustice. But there are plenty of other reasons for news organizations and individual writers to cover women in sports.
For one thing, there’s money in it, and especially in co-ed sports like disc golf. Even a hardboiled economist would see the Professional Disc Golf Association’s small percentage of female members as a missed financial opportunity. Between 1999 and 2015, the proportion of female PDGA members ranged from 6.9 percent to 7.7 percent. Other fast-growing co-ed sports like CrossFit and Quidditch are attracting far more women, and will likely convert their gender diversity into gym memberships, equipment purchases, and organizational stability.
If Jane Gottesman knew about disc golf, I’m sure she would advocate for greater investment and media attention for female athletes, but so would financial gurus like Warren Buffett.
Social justice and financial gain are powerful incentives for promoting female disc golfers, but there’s more … much more. Put simply, women and girls are incredible, fun to watch, and serve as excellent teaching models. To further these points, consider the case of Saika Hori.
Here are three reasons to celebrate this outstanding disc golfer.
1) Big wins at a young age
Before reaching her fourteenth birthday, Saika Hori has racked up more first-place finishes in major disc golf tournaments than many disc golfers will achieve in a life time. She won a PDGA Women’s Global Event in 2014 (U13 Girls), the 26th Tokyo Open in 2015 (Advanced Women), the 17th Nippon Open in 2015 (Advanced Women), and a second PDGA Women’s Global Event in 2016 (Junior II girls).
Hori also took fourth place in the Open Women’s division at the Okinawa Open in 2015. This was a twelve-year-old girl competing against veteran players, such as the 929-rated Mayu Iwasaki who currently has 31 career wins, and the 920-rated Rika Tsukamoto who has 30 wins. As you can see in the PDGA results below, Hori’s overall score fell short of the competition, but she made it to the final nine where she carded a 33—just one stroke off Tsukamoto and tied with Iwasaki. View some great footage from the final nine here.
2) Jaw-dropping distance
Hori holds six outdoor distance world records, as well as records in accuracy and MTA (max time aloft). Check out this video of Hori smashing a 417-foot drive to capture the outdoor distance record for U14 girls. At thirteen years old, she can throw farther than most full-grown men.
3) A poster child (literally) for disc golf form
At age nine, a skinny, four-and-a-half foot Saika Hori was already throwing 250 feet. I’m not an expert on disc golf biomechanics, but she must have been doing something right. Most kids her age are still having trouble with the basics, such as coordinating shoulder and hip movement. Before entering the fourth grade, Hori had already moved well beyond the basics.
Take a look at the video below. This is Hori at nine years old. Like a young Catrina Allen, the timing of Hori’s upper body movement looks effortless. She has an impressive reach back, dynamic shoulder rotation, butterfly foot work and a clean release.
Saika Hori is an exciting disc golfer. She deserves public attention because she’s fun to watch.
But most importantly, she’s not alone. Parked would like to find and highlight more stories about the girls and young women of disc golf. If you have a story for us, please let us know in the comments section below, via Twitter or Facebook, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Parked also strives for accuracy. If you have more information about Saika Hori, or see a correction that needs to be made, please contact us.
(1) Gottesman, Jane, and Geoffrey Biddle. 2001. Game face: What does a female athlete look like? New York: Random House.
Video source: YouTube channel Horiant.
Photo source: JPDGA Flickr.