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Huntsville - Madison County Athletic HOF Member

NAME:Tom Monroe
BORN:  
INDUCTED:  2018
SPORT:  disc golf
  
The Huntsville-Madison County Athletic Hall of Fame has inducted dozens of Huntsville High School graduates over the years, including stars with last names like Luna, Samples, Nelson, Warden, Davis, Boles, Neighbors, Moore, Anderson, Wynn and (tonight) Miller. As of tonight, you can also add Monroe to the list – as in Tom Monroe. If you don’t know Tom Monroe and his specialty sport, you should. Monroe, a 1965 graduate of HHS, is a multiple world champion – and widely considered both nationally and internationally as the foremost expert – in the rapidly growing niche sport of Disc Golf. He has dominated virtually every category of flying disc sports, including Frisbee, Ultimate, Freestyle, Field Events, but especially Disc Golf, for almost 40 years. Many of his successes came in Huntsville and northern Alabama, including two world championships in Disc Golf in 1983 and 1993. But the bulk of his victories were at diverse sites throughout the United States and Sweden. In his sport, he was The Man. It is not hyperbole to suggest that Tom Monroe was the Jack Nicklaus of Disc Golf. Not that Tom’s sport and Jack’s sport are as dissimilar as you might imagine. To paraphrase the Professional Disc Golf Association’s official literature: Disc golf is played much like traditonal golf. Instead of a dimpled ball and a bag of clubs, a golf disc or Frisbee is thrown from a tee area to a target – usually an elevated metal basket – which is the “hole,” one of a number of disc golf targets. As a player progresses down the fairway, trying to avoid such obstacles as trees, bushes and ditches, his or her final shot on a particular “hole’’ concludes when a “putt" lands in a basket. Among the plusses: Disc golf rarely requires a greens fee, you won’t need to rent a cart, and you never get stuck with a bad tee time. And it’s designed to be enjoyed by all ages, male and female, regardless of economic status. At last count, Tom Monroe had captured 19 World Championships, including nine straight Master’s Singles and Doubles titles between 1992-2000, and more than 90 titles on the PDGA professional tour. He won overall state championships in Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, Mississippi, and Florida between 1975 and 1983. He was named “Disc Golf Player of the Decade’’ in the 1980s and was inducted in to the Disc Golf Hall of Fame’s inaugural class in 1993. He is primarily responsible for starting and promoting Disc Golf from a game played with Frisbees to a sport played professionally by thousands around the world. As part of his efforts, he has also taught Disc Golf and Flying Disc classes at UAH, the University of Florida and UAB, and is currently teaching at Samford University in Birmingham Born in Baltimore in 1947, Monroe moved to Alabama in the early 1960s after his father, who worked in the aerospace industry, took a job first in Birmingham, then Huntsville. Following graduation from Huntsville High, Monroe attended Florence State, now the University of North Alabama, where he first started playing frisbee with friends in his spare time. After dropping out for a while and working in Georgia to earn money to re-enroll at Florence, he learned Atlanta’s Grant Park would be hosting the 1973 “Great American Frisbee Fly-In,” an offbeat event sponsored by radio stations from across America. On a lark, Monroe entered to test his skills against hundreds of other competitors from around the country. He signed up in two categories, distance and accuracy. He won both. As a senior at Florence State the following year, Monroe met the man who came to be known as the “Father of Disc Golf," Ed Headrick, while visiting in California to attend his sister’s wedding. Headrick told Monroe about all the evolving possibilities of flying disc sports, including disc golf. When he returned to college, an excited Monroe quickly laid out an 18-hole frisbee golf course around the Florence campus, which eventually led to a job with the International Frisbee Association. Soon Monroe was traveling the country, doing frisbee shows at venues such as Major League baseball games, NASCAR races and NBA basketball games. “Frisbee greats like John Kirkland, Victor Malafronte and Ken Westerfeld helped with new throws and catches," said Monroe. “Dan Roddick was my inspiration for tournament organization and direction. Ed Headrick put me on the path to meet these players and excel in this new and exciting sport of disc golf. I’m forever thankful." He’s thankful, too, for the friendship of Lavone Wolfe, whom he met in college in the ‘70s. Wolfe, a Huntsville pedorthist , is the Founder of the Disc Golf Hall of Fame and a co-tournament director of the 1993 PDGA World Championships in Huntsville. Like Monroe, he became a world-class disc golfer, winning 66 national tournaments. “Tom Monroe from Huntsville is generally recognized as the first disc golfer in the Southeast,” says Wolfe. “We were both in school together at UNA in Florence, and in the ’70s we took up frisbee golf, or disc golf as it is called nowadays.” If Monroe has been one of the top players in relatively short history of the sport, and he has, he’s also one of the premier disc golf course designers in the world, just as Nicklaus became one of the premier designers in “ball” golf. Lavonne Wolfe had a hand in that, too. In 1976, he and Monroe collaborated in the building of the first disc golf course at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. “Our first course at UAH was set up by making our targets out of what we had or could find,” Wolfe told reporter Jim Steele in a 2016 interview. “We started out by taking 25-gallon oil drums and cutting a U-shape out of the front of them. Then we put a carpet in the back and the disc would hit the carpet and fall into the oil drum. That course was set up around the College of Nursing building. “Several years later we switched out from oil drums to concrete culverts about three feet in diameter, with a cedar post that stuck up out of the middle of it. The disc would hit the post and fall into the culvert. We kept that in the ground from 1980 to 1988.” Wolfe held a fundraiser in 1988 to install the chain targets on campus that are still used today. The course was moved to its present location on the south side of the campus in 2005, and Wolfe says UAH has included the course in its master plan so that it will remain on campus in the years to come.