|By Michael Barnes, Austin American-Statesman|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
In 1982, a graduate of
Later that year,
He went on to win the Freestyle Championships in 1984 and '85; started his own company,
Now, with his wife, insurance agent and
"Our argument now is economic impact,"
For instance, two resorts near tiny, rural
"She's taking everything to a whole new level," John says, sitting at the dinner table in their unpretentious
For her part, Dee credits their current success to John's restless, curious mind.
"John is always innovating," she says. "He added green (tee) pads made out of recycled shopping bags to replace the concrete ones. I do the day-to-day operational side of the business; he's the creative designer. But we operate as a team. Our values are the same."
The business side
Her father worked for Westinghouse in
"People looked at me and spoke in Spanish," she says, laughing. "I learned as fast as I could. People assume I speak it, except when I'm in
For 20 years, she was a single mom -- her son,
"Lucky for the disc golf world, you were good at commerce," John says.
"I didn't just fall in love with him," she says. "I fell in love with disc golf with him."
Dee played Ultimate Frisbee in her 20s. When she got involved with the World's Biggest Disc Golf Weekend, she helped incorporate a nonprofit element, making the festival into a fundraiser for the
"It's a worldwide event," Dee says. "It introduces the sport to people in 135 cities in 17 countries."
The couple, however, no longer hosts the Weekend. They turned it over to the
Besides CARY and disc golf charities, Dee -- who once hoped, against her family's wishes, to become a psychologist -- is also vice-chairwoman of the
Dee: "I've always believed you should be allowed to do what you love."
The sports side
"You'd do all five events," he says. "Then we'd crown a champion."
In the 1980s, he moved the
While running tourneys, John taught "anything to do with disc sports" in schools. In addition, he started a wholesale business for drivers, putters and mid-range discs, which are smaller, flatter and often heavier than regular Frisbees, with more mass on the rim.
The world record for a disc golf toss is well over 800 feet.
"They are not recommended for playing catch," he says with a sigh. "Now you find people who have exclusively used golf discs and had never played catch with a traditional Frisbee."
After selling his equipment company, his focus turned to design. For each course, he maps the holes, designs the signs, and figures out the distances and pars. He works out safety concerns, especially when the courses are built in existing parks.
"You need balance, variety, challenge, fun," he says. "Making it to where, if you've played that course, you want to come back again, even if to just get revenge on a couple holes. Also, I try to make it a different experience every time you play it, with options off the tee, multiple routes to the basket, as well as more par 4 and 5 holes. Back in the day, everything was par 3. "
John also tries to capitalize on the natural beauty of the settings.
John: "I'm really big on every hole being unique, not just on the course, but in the world."
Thanks in part to the Houcks,
In Austin, besides Zilker, John designed courses at
"Austin got on it good and early," he says. "It was the first city in the country to have five courses within the city limits. And Old Settler's Park in
At the moment, the Houcks are most excited about a course for the
"It's wonderful to see disc golf come so far," John says. "And see Austin become a hub for this sport."
(c)2014 Austin American-Statesman, Texas
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