Marwede finds success on disc golf pro tour
Andy Marwede is living the dream.
With three dozen wins, five figures in earnings and sponsorships — including his own signature discs — Marwede is having fun and finding success as a pro on the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) tour.
“I’m having a blast with it,” Marwede said. “It’s definitely a change from a few years ago playing basketball.”
The Alpena High and Alpena Community College alum didn’t pick up disc golf until he graduated high school in 2014 and, the first few times he played, Marwede admits he didn’t know what he was doing.
Now, he’s traveling the country most weekends to play in tournaments, consistently finishing in the money, improving his ranking, and playing against golf pros he’s watched for years on YouTube.
He’s even picked up a cool nickname. He’s known as the Cookie Monster among fellow disc golfers.
In eight events he’s played in this year, Marwede has won three and cashed in on all of them. One of his biggest wins came last month in the 2020 Ohio Games on June 13 to 14 in Beavercreek, Ohio, where Marwede defeated his nearest competitor by eight strokes.
He followed up with a second-place finish at No Foolin’ on the Summer Solstice in Dexter the next weekend and won the Tilley’s Open in Traverse City the weekend after that.
In 130 career events, Marwede has won 36 times. He’s been a touring pro since 2019 and visited 29 states last year alone for tournaments.
Marwede typically plays in open division B-Tier events — which are usually state-level tournaments — against other disc golf pros. He has also competed in A-Tier events, which are regional and are longer than B-Tier events, and some National Tour events, which showcase some of the best players on tour.
“The impact disc golf has had on me, it’s been a fun learning experience,” Marwede said. “Just going out on tour has increased my experience a good amount.”
Disc golf is similar to golf in rules, style and scoring, but, instead of hitting golf balls toward a green, players throw different discs at a target. Just like there are different clubs in a golfer’s bag, a disc golfer has different discs in their bag for driving, putting, and mid-range throws, and players use different throws for different types of shots.
Marwede didn’t know much about technique when he started playing casually, but noticed he could throw farther than some of the guys he played with. Over time, he learned how to throw different shots and fell more in love with disc golf while attending Western Michigan, especially once he started competing.
In 2015, Marwede competed for the first time, taking part in seven amateur events and two pro events. The next year, he competed in 20 pro events and had 10 top-five finishes, including one win. In one of his earliest events, Marwede walked away with a few hundred dollars, more than enough to cover expenses for the weekend.
“I was like, ‘Sweet.’ I paid for gas money, I paid for food, I paid for the weekend,” Marwede said. “It was cool to take home a few hundred bucks I didn’t expect.”
When he’s not traveling for tournaments, Marwede typically plays every day and often plays on two local courses for practice — Lumberjack Meadows and Eagle Country — both in Alpena.
Continued success landed Marwede a sponsorship last year with Innova — one of the leading disc golf equipment manufacturers in the country — and he competed in 34 tournaments, winning seven of them.
He gained attention on tour after using a cookie as a mini marker to mark his lie during the Discraft’s Green Mountain Championship in Vermont last September. After making a spectacular putt, Marwede was caught on camera taking a bite out of the cookie, earning the Cookie Monster moniker, inspiring his own signature line of Innova “Cookie Monster Marwede” discs, which recently became available for purchase online.
“I’m definitely embracing it. I didn’t think too much of it, it was just something I did,” Marwede said of his nickname. “It went viral the next day and I just rolled with it.”
After tour events came to a halt in the wake of COVID-19 concerns, Marwede and other touring pros will be kept busy for the next few months now that play has resumed. In addition to several events in Michigan, Marwede has plans to compete in events in places like Wisconsin, Kentucky, Illinois and Arkansas through the beginning of October.
Because of coronavirus concerns, many event directors have limited or eliminated spectators to comply with guidelines on large gatherings. Disc golfers are also encouraged to follow social distancing guidelines, sanitize, bring their own food and water, sanitize equipment and even use electronic scorecards.
Marwede has come a long way in the six years since he started disc golfing and never could have imagined the success he’s had as a pro. But it’s been an enjoyable ride, Marwede said, and he plans to keep competing, keep improving and keep having fun.
“I definitely didn’t expect to get this far. Six years ago, when I started, it was a nice leisure activity. I didn’t really get into it until I found the tournament side of it,” Marwede said. “It was a really nice way to get back into competitive sports and I went all in on it. I’m loving touring and playing professionally across the country.”