Eric McCabe says that 2012 will be his best year ever! How does someone who has won a PDGA World Championship in 2010 plan on improving on that effort?! Read on to find out!
Speaking with Eric for forty minutes brought a few things to light. Some of McCabe’s characteristics began to crystallize. He certainly has the heart and mind of a champion. And champions do not sit on their laurels and pat themselves on the back for previous accomplishments. Champions look toward the next test.
When McCabe said that he planned on 2012 being his best year ever, he meant it primarily as a challenge. The statement was a motivational appeal to himself. He wanted to push himself and commit to practicing hard over the winter. And champions like Eric McCabe get there because of the hard work they do.
Last winter Eric spent a lot of time in Kansas. The weather didn’t allow him to spend as much time working on his disc golf game as he would have liked. This year he will spend much of the winter in the San Diego area. And he plans on using the consistently good weather there to his advantage.
I asked Eric what parts of his game he planned on working on over the winter. His answer was both surprising and insightful. Eric said that the most important part of the game is putting. While he said he has always been a good putter, he will place his focus on honing his putting skills in the winter months.
He went on to say that it is impossible to have a hot day without putting well, and that you can’t win a tournament unless your putt is on (much less a major tournament). So instead of working on a perceived weakness in his game, Eric is working on the most important part of his game, and one he recognizes is already his strength!
McCabe said he feels confident running at putts out to about 100 feet. When deciding whether to go for a putt he will take all factors into consideration. If he decides it is not worth the risk, his goal will be to put the disc next to the pole.
Asked whether visualization was an important factor to his routine when playing, Eric quickly answered yes. He said he visualizes every shot before he takes it. He added that every single shot is important and requires focus and concentration. Clearly the mental aspect is a strength of his game.
Eric, who won the Player’s Cup in 2008, and the PDGA World Championship in 2010, said that he feels due for another major. His major wins have come two years apart, and he is ready for that trend to continue. In 2012 he wants to win his third major, and at least of couple of national tour events.
McCabe takes his preparation leading up to a major tournament very seriously. He arrives a week early and plays at least three rounds on each course, with two of those rounds being “scoring rounds”. He thinks it is crucial to make sure he never faces any situation “for the first time” during a tournament.
Eric makes sure to get plenty of rest leading up to the event, avoiding staying out late in the days leading up to the tournament. He won’t eat heavy meals the night before and during the competition, preferring pasta.
We all see the amazing shots from the top pros. We are envious of the booming drives, the clutch shots, the consistent putts. And most people just think those pros are just better, just more talented. And that in that regard, that they are lucky to be so good. But really, nothing could be further from the truth.
McCabe said he and the other top pros are very close, usually traveling in a “pack” to the various events. He knows all of them have worked very hard to get where they are, and continue to put in the time to stay there. The rest of us don’t see the countless hours of preparation that goes into the making of a champion.
Eric said the best (and highest rated) player in the world, Nikko Locastro, spends more time on the course and practice fields than anyone else. After competing hard in a big tournament, Nikko is always right back on the course, doing what he loves to do. That commitment to excellence is what separates the disc golf elite from those with undeveloped talent.
While they are tremendous athletes, it is obvious that neither McCabe or Locastro are the strongest or the biggest players on the course. Yet they are able to out throw others (who are in great physical condition) by several hundred feet. What is the key to their ability to crush a disc?
Eric answered that question in two parts. First he said that spin is the key to making a disc go far. The more spin you can put on a disc, the farther it will go. The other factor is flexibility. While Nikko is twenty one years old and can corkscrew like a contortionist, McCabe’s background includes ten years of gymnastics. He credits that period of his life for helping him to be able to do the twisting motion necessary for the big drives. Balance was also mentioned as a key for both putting and driving.
With all the hard work these players put into their craft, it would be nice to see the monetary rewards be commensurate to the other sports. Even in comparison to skateboarding and other X-Games endeavors, disc golf is far behind in money making potential. And with a game that will translate so well to T.V. and is so marketable to the masses, it leaves one scratching his head as to why this is!
The PDGA does a great job of supporting the sport. But it is fair to wonder, with all those PDGA membership and tournament fees, if they could do more. The PDGA receives $2 from every player for a B-Tier event, and $5 from every player in an A-tier event! Add that to the membership fees from over 16,000 active members in 2011, and there is a good bit of capital available for marketing and promoting the sport we all love.
Eric thinks that big things are right around the corner for disc golf. Television coverage would lead to major sponsorship and bigger purses. At that point it could snowball and we could see the sport where it belongs as far as purses available for these world class athletes. McCabe stated he thinks the PDGA should consider buying time on television to showcase our sport and jumpstart this process.
Eric is so grateful to have two sponsors that have supported him tremendously over the years. He gushed about how Discraft has done everything they could, and just about everything he has asked, enabling him to focus his life on the sport he loves. Eric would appreciate you buying a few of the Eric McCabe signature Discraft Z Buzzz SS discs that were put in production after Eric’s world championship result. He agreed that it seems common knowledge that Discraft is the most consistent plastic on the market today, and his bag is stuffed full of Z plastic (his favorite).
He also has been with Jeremy Rusco and Dynamic Discs since the inception of the company. He considers Jeremy a great friend and is proud to represent the “Double D”.
One of the most memorable and exhilarating opportunities for Eric was when he was able to show off his disc booming skills to a packed house at a Wichita Wranglers minor league baseball game. He literally threw them “out of the park” as the enthusiastic crowd went crazy.
Of course Eric will never forget his World Championship victory in 2010. He said he was never ahead, but remained near the leaders on the second card or so most of the tournament. He had a hot round just before the semi-finals which vaulted him into a tie for the lead. It was when he hit a forty five foot putt on the seventh hole of the final nine that he felt sure the tournament was his. That putt put him up five shots ahead with only two holes to play.
Eric is somewhat of a metroplex homeboy. His family is in Corinth, near Denton. His brother runs a country club there and his sister and parents also reside in that area.
His favorite courses in DFW include the legendary Veterans Park in Arlington, Z. Boaz in Ft. Worth, and Towne Lake in McKinney. McCabe credited Ron Silleman with a great job in designing a world class course at Towne Lake.
McCabe was incredibly generous and gracious during our interview. He is a true gentleman and terrific ambassador for disc golf. Remember to root for him next time you see him in a championship playoff.