The two handlers have both secured disc golf sponsorships as their ratings climb
March 29, 2021 by Daniel Prentice in News with 0 comments
Ella Hansen and Leah Tsinajinnie have both made sizable splashes in their fledgling disc golf careers. Both top handlers in ultimate for years, they transitioned into disc golf rather seamlessly after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the 2020 ultimate club season. In less than a year, the two have reached the precipice of disc golf stardom, and major sponsors have already taken notice.
Since Tsinajinnie, a national champion with Washington DC Scandal and most recently a player for Atlanta Ozone, made her Disc Golf Pro Tour debut at the Idlewild Open last August, she has picked up sponsorship deals with Wicked Aces, OTB Discs, Empowered Disc Golf, and Perfect Putt 360. She’s been featured on major disc golf Instagram accounts like JomezPro and Throw Pink, made lead card at an A-Tier, and competed in a host of DGPT events across the country.
Amassing those sponsors in such a short amount of time playing the sport “means the world” to Tsinajinnie. “I feel very validated in my efforts to get better and gain skills as a competitor and as an advocate for social equity issues,” she told Ultiworld. “It makes me feel hopeful about the sport because my sponsors, who have voices and pull in this community, want to uplift me as a player! I’m also really excited to be making relationships with such wonderful people.”
Hansen’s rise in disc golf has been even more meteoric. She didn’t play in her first tournament as a pro until September and had never played in anything higher than a B-tier event prior to her breakout performance at the Las Vegas Challenge last month, where she took second place in the FPO division distance throwing competition. The Portland Schwa standout eclipsed a 900 rating earlier this month — an elite benchmark — and not long after announced a deal with one of the biggest disc manufacturers in the sport, joining Discmania’s North American pro team.
“Signing with Discmania is…a mindblower,” says Hansen. “I know that I have big potential in the sport, but it was incredible to have [professional players] Zoe [Andyke] and Dustin Keegan supporting me and vouching for me in Discmania’s selection process, as well as helping me switch my bag to all Discmania. I truly do think I can have a big impact on the sport and be a constant competitor in FPO. I am really stoked to throw Discmania discs too — even before I thought about applying I was throwing my DD3 the furthest of all my discs. Their discs are designed to be thrown with power, which works really well for me.”
Andyke, a touring pro and top 20 rated FPO player in the world, has been Hansen’s coach and mentor through the early stages of her career. And the two have partnered through Andyke and Keegan’s UPlay initiative, of which Hansen is now an ambassador. Like Tsinajinnie, Hansen is also sponsored by OTB Discs, with some more sponsorship announcements to come.
It was not long ago that Hansen was part of livestreaming the top FPO competitors, not competing with them. “It’s definitely surreal considering I was filming the Women’s National Championships 6 months ago but I feel like if I keep working hard I can hold my own with the top players in the sport!” she said.
For both Hansen and Tsinajinnie, their growing brands as players are about more than simply promoting discs or disc golf apparel. “I’m really stoked to be sponsored by OTB Discs,” says Hansen. “They are not only an awesome resource for pretty much anything disc golf related you could ever need, they also are a great support for their sponsored players and women in the sport! They came out to the St. Patrick’s Classic in Sacramento and filmed the women’s lead card only, even though they could easily have just focused on the men or done both.”
Hansen also says that UPlay has given her an opportunity to get involved in the game from a coaching aspect, something she says she enjoyed in ultimate. “UPlay has big dreams and a huge impact and it’s perfect to be a part of an organization that is striving to bring more women and underrepresented populations into the sport,” she said.
Tsinajinnie has put her increased platform to use outside of disc golf as well. “I see these partnerships as beneficial to both my sponsors and me. For me, they can help me grow my brand and give me bigger platforms,” she said. “It is very touching to get messages from players of all levels and backgrounds, including Native and Filipino disc golfers, women, and beginners, that tell me they love seeing my journey. It makes me want to work harder and perform my best. My hope is that these partnerships can continue to help achieve my goals: to inspire people with my play at tournaments and to keep working on social and racial equity issues within and outside of the sport.”
So what’s next for each player? Hansen says she is not planning on playing club ultimate this season and instead will play all of the west coast disc golf tour events and a few of the east coast tournaments like the MVP Open, Delaware Disc Golf Challenge, and potentially the Green Mountain Championships. “I definitely won’t say I’m never going to play high level ultimate again, but I’m really excited about disc golf and exploring my potential in the sport,” she said. “I’m not planning to tour full time right now but I’m not sure what next season will look like for me.”
Tsinajinnie says she’s “definitely willing to keep an eye out for the ultimate season” but with the season still being so “amorphous,” she’s not getting her hopes up for a full season. She does, however, have concrete plans of competing in 10-13 total disc golf events this season with as many Pro Tour and National Tour events as possible. In a five week slate starting in late April, she plans to attend the Mid-America Open, the Dynamic Discs Open, the Challenge at Goat Hill, the OTB Open, and the US Women’s Disc Golf Championship.
So with plenty more disc golf on the horizon for both Hansen and Tsinajinnie, it doesn’t seem their rising stars are going to fade anytime soon. Thankfully for us ultimate folks, we’ll all be able to say “we knew them when…” Tsinajinnie has earned $1,398 in prize money since first playing in the pro open division in July 2020; Hansen has made $820 since September.