Frisbee flyer 'over moon' at global recognition

By Harry Pearl

Bob Gentil, a New Zealand disc golf pioneer, will be the first Southern Hemisphere player to be inducted into the Disc Golf Hall of Fame. Picture / Richard Robinson.
Bob Gentil, a New Zealand disc golf pioneer, will be the first Southern Hemisphere player to be inducted into the Disc Golf Hall of Fame. Picture / Richard Robinson.

Public awareness of disc golf may be lagging in New Zealand, but Birkenhead man Bob Gentil has scooped the sport's highest international accolade.

The 58-year-old is the first inductee into the Disc Golf Hall of Fame from the Southern Hemisphere.

Mr Gentil is one of the pioneers of the sport in New Zealand. Having stumbled across it in Hawaii in 1976, he came home and created the country's first unofficial course at One Tree Hill and went on to help establish the New Zealand Flying Disc Association in 1978.

The game - played much like normal golf, but using a flying disc or frisbee instead of a ball and clubs - is played professionally in the United States, Japan and Europe. A national championship is contested over 12 events here in New Zealand.

Mr Gentil said his recognition by the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) was huge.

"On Sunday morning I had a call from the PDGA saying that I was being inducted into the hall of fame this year and I needed to be in Charlotte [North Carolina]. I was over the moon."

Mr Gentil has been a linchpin for disc golf's development in New Zealand, having been involved not just as a player, but as a coach and administrator. He is currently chairman of New Zealand Disc Golf.

"I'd always thrown frisbee, I just loved it. It was just one of those things that I like doing. It was simple - just chuck a piece of plastic around and it flew."

Mr Gentil said he believed the biggest hurdle to disc golf's development as a serious sport in New Zealand was city councils that did not realise the game was a great asset for any district.

- NZ Herald

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