ALPENA, Mich. (BVM) — Growing up, Andy Marwede’s main sport was basketball. He played throughout high school, and was even recruited by several colleges. But it was after high school where Marwede would take up a different sport, and realize he had a natural gift for it.
Over the summer of 2014, Marwede first began playing disc golf. In his first time on a disc golf course, the 24-year-old just went to play casually with some friends, not knowing what the sport all entailed. But after a couple more times playing, Marwede realized he had some talent at it. Continuing to grow a love for the sport, he began playing disc golf everyday.
Marwede first began playing competitive disc golf in local leagues, but then discovered there were different tournaments in the sport. Success would come for the disc golfer right away, as he won the first tournament he ever played in — in the intermediate amateur division — by eight strokes.
The game of disc golf is laid out very similarly to regular golf. Drivers, fairways drivers, mid range and putter discs are all used. Courses primarily consist of par threes, but some professional level courses will have par fours or par fives.
There are primarily two different ways of throwing the disc according to Marwede: backhand and forehand. The forehand throw is one of Marwede’s best skills in the sport.
“The forehand is actually my dominant way of throwing and it has really helped out my game,” Marwede said. “You throw it kind of like a side arm pitch in baseball. It’s a little bit of a different way of throwing but it has the same result and I prefer it.”
Some professionals reach throws of 70 mph with their drivers, and from there use their mid range disc or putter to complete the hole. Marwede began learning these things and more about the game as he continued to first play early in his career.
After playing amateur disc golf for about a year, Marwede decided he was ready to begin competing in pro events. Increasing his number of tournaments each year since, Marwede officially became a touring pro in 2019.
The Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) season typically begins with tournaments out west in February, and continues through the summer and fall in the midwest and east coast.
The tour consists of A-Tier, B-Tier, and C-Tier events in addition to the pro and national tour competitions. Marwede typically finds himself competing at the A and B-Tier levels, but also competes in some pro tour tournaments – which range anywhere from 70 to 140 of the best disc golf players in the world.
Marwede’s first official pro tour event came at the Ledgestone Open in Peoria, Ill. While he had played events in the lower level tiers before, this was the first time where the 24-year-old got to compete with the top pros in the sport.
“Obviously I knew I wasn’t going to win my first one but I did end up cashing which was a big feat for me,” Marwede said about his first pro tour event. “That’s when I realized that I wanted to be one of those top pros and have a chance to win one of these someday. That’s what really led me to take the sport so serious.”
Although Marwede is still waiting for his first pro tour event win, he did finish fourth in a pro tournament in Delaware which he holds as one of his top accomplishments within the sport. However, he has won several times in the lower tiers of the PDGA, with one of the biggest being an A-Tier competition in 2018 in his home state of Michigan.
“The feeling that I got after winning such a big tournament like that was amazing,” Marwede said. “It made me want to push myself more to get a win in a pro tour event against the best players in the world.”
Overall, Marwede has competed in over 130 disc golf events, taking home 36 wins and over $40,000 in earnings. He is proud of what he has accomplished so far, and is enjoying getting to do what he loves everyday.
“It feels pretty awesome to not have to sit behind a desk and do a 40-hour work week,” Marwede said. “I can actually travel the world and play disc golf which is my passion. I’m just living the life right now.”
Beyond his wins, Marwede has begun to make a further impact in the sport. While playing in a tournament in Vermont last September, the 24-year-old was part of a group that featured two former world champions and was streamed on JomezPro – the main YouTube channel for disc golf coverage.
Although he felt pressure going into the round, the disc golfer decided to keep the mood light by using a cookie as a mini marker. After making a big put, he took a bite out of the cookie which went viral, dubbing Marwede as ‘the Cookie Monster.’
Did Andrew Marwede just become our favorite player?
Yes. Yes he did. Cookies are for closers. 🍪 pic.twitter.com/FcDENrmBZq
— PDGA (@PDGA) September 14, 2019
Marwede has also earned a sponsorship with Innova — one of the top disc golf manufacturers in the country. Last year, the company created his own line of discs called, ‘Cookie Monster Marwede.’
“When I first started playing I always threw Innova so it was my dream to one day get sponsored by them,” Marwede said. “I’m happy with how this ended up turning out and Innova has helped me out so much on the tour not only financially but with all their support as well.”
Like any sport, disc golf has also been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The tour season was suspended in March, which continued for nearly two months. However, the tour is now back and holding events. Marwede has upcoming tournaments in Iowa and Kentucky, and will head out to the east coast to finish off his 2020 season.
Some of the touring pro’s favorite disc golf courses in Michigan include Hickory Hills in Traverse City, Vicksburg Recreational Area in Vicksburg, and Victory Park in Albion. But traveling the country over the last couple years, Marwede has also had the chance to play elite courses like Iron Hill in Delaware and Maple Hill in Massachusetts.
While he is not on the disc golf course, Marwede is at Alpena Community College, helping out the men’s basketball team as an assistant coach.
Marwede attended Alpena High School where he played baseball and basketball. His team on the hardwood excelled at Alpena, going on a 20-game winning streak during Marwede’s senior season. He would also win Alpena Athlete of the Year to finish off his prep career.
He would keep his basketball career going by staying home to play for Alpena Community College, averaging 22 points and 12 rebounds in his sophomore season. Marwede considered transferring to a Division II school in Ohio to continue his career on the hardwood before his junior year.
However, this was at the same time when his disc golf career was beginning to take off. Marwede decided to attend Western Michigan University instead, where there are eight disc golf courses within 20 minutes or so of the university. But he still holds a love for basketball, and now gets to pass down his knowledge to the younger generation at his former school.
“Last year I was invited to become an assistant coach and I was very happy to take that,” Marwede said. “I still have a great passion for basketball and still have a great amount of knowledge in the game. During the winter in Michigan it’s pretty hard to disc golf so I enjoy trying to help out the college kids and absolutely love being an assistant coach for that team.”
Marwede has had a special rise in the sport of disc golf in just the last few years. Perhaps his greatest accomplishment came this summer when he got his rating up to 1027, which is the highest rating for any disc golfer from Michigan in the state’s history.
The 24-year-old hopes to continue to improve his finishes in national and pro tour events, and would like to break through with his first official pro tour victory. Marwede is also excited to help continue to grow the sport, hoping to eventually see it televised while attracting more athletes to the game.
Not many people can say they are a professional athlete, and not everyone can say they love the job they get to do day in and day out. But Andy Marwede can. His rise in the sport in just six years has been tremendous, and there seems to be no slow down in sight for the pro disc golfer.
“I’m honestly having the time of my life doing this,” Marwede said. “I didn’t expect it at first but I’ve been able to support myself doing the thing that I love. Being able to travel the world while making disc golf my job is all I ever wanted and more.”