Spradlin-Vogelsang named Player of the Year

9-year-old’s performance, perseverance merits top award
Ledgestone Open prize pack includes Upper Park bag, six Discraft discs

* Allegany County Disc Golf Club on Facebook
* 2023: A Look Ahead
* 2022: A Year in Review
* 2022: Players of the Month winners

MOUNT SAVAGE — Sometimes it is quite difficult to see the silver lining.

For example, when a 7-year-old boy begins to pedal at the start of what is to be the second-longest bicycle ride of his life. Ninety seconds in, the boy fails to navigate the first turn, goes down a steep embankment and slams face-first into a cinderblock wall.

One could argue that, especially at the time, Luke Spradlin-Vogelsang could not have imagined much good coming from that incident on Oct. 4, 2020. At the time, it’d be difficult to prove him wrong.

But from the incident in which he suffered multiple facial fractures — including one to his orbital bone that needed an operation to repair — and two lacerations on his face that required 18 stitches to close, and lost three teeth, there is, indeed, a comfort in knowing the crash helped put him on a path to becoming a more confident, determined individual on and off the athletic fields. And it opened a door to a brand new opportunity.

One part personality, one part performance, Luke was in the spotlight on Sunday afternoon at Mile Lane Disc Golf Course in Mount Savage to receive the Allegany County Disc Golf Club’s Player of the Year award for 2022. Thanks to a generous donation by the team that runs the Ledgestone Open in Illinois, Luke received a prize pack that included a new Upper Park Shift disc golf bag and six Discraft discs with the Ledgestone Open stamp.

Oct. 4, 2020

Luke’s first ambulance ride, to UPMC Western Maryland Hospital in Cumberland, was a blur. He doesn’t remember it at all. His second ambulance ride happened later that evening, when his doctor decided to transfer him to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, W.Va. He spend nearly a week there, then returned a short time later for surgery.

He missed the last few games of his first soccer season. Over the next two months, friends and family members noticed certain things about post-crash Luke. He no longer liked going fast. In anything. At all. Bikes were out, of course. Anything with wheels was pretty much off limits, including vehicles. He was suddenly afraid of heights. You couldn’t “pretend scare” him, in a joking manner, as you might another child.

Dec. 20, 2020

On a warm sunny day in December — with the scars still quite prevalent — Luke was happy enough to go along to a home school gym class in Mount Savage. We were what was thought at the time to be at the height of a global pandemic. Luke was joined by his stepdad, older brother Josiah, and foster brother Alex.

Luke Spradlin-Vogelsang makes the putt on basket No. 1 at Mile Lane on Dec. 20, 2020.

The assignment? Throwing plastic discs at metal baskets at Mile Lane Disc Golf Course. Course owner and designer Scott Mallery knew no one in the group had any disc golf experience. No one kept score. Instead, this class focused on learning a little about throwing technique, a little about patience, and a lot about how trees could get in the way of an intended flight path.

Unfortunately, one member of the Spradlin group suffered an injury while playing. It happened to be Luke. In a rather once-in-a-lifetime kind of event, Luke’s foot was caught between solid earth and the bottom of a wooden bridge when Alex was stepping off the other side of the bridge. His weight caused the bridge to pull up on the far side — Luke’s side — and when Alex was fully off the bridge, the bridge came down on Luke’s foot.

It ended Luke’s day of playing disc golf. The young man was not afraid to pronounce that he would not play disc golf again.

The determined boy held onto that notion for nine months. In September 2021, he joined family members for a partial round at Central. He threw the most strokes of anyone, but the other players could see he was working things out.

Fall/Winter Doubles League 2021-22

Over the next several months heading into early 2022, Luke began to play regularly. In the beginning, he was a fair-weather player. Luke said he would only play when the ground was dry, when it was not raining or snowy. He wanted conditions to be just about perfect. Luke also said he didn’t want to play when it was too hot (he overheats quickly), yet that was the first of what turned out to be many conditions he gave up for in order to play a game he was growing to love.

Luke played in four of 18 weeks of Fall/Winter Doubles League, but only one after Jan. 1, 2022. He finished a single point behind Josiah in the standings — and Josiah had played in three weeks more than Luke.

At this point, it was uncertain which way his affair with the game would go. January through May passed by without much more than an occasional, casual round with family. But it was during those rounds that Luke found his groove.

Summer 2022

Luke began to heat up, both in desire to play and lowering his scores, in the Allegany County Disc Golf Club’s first public offering: Summer Flex League that ran from early June through August. Play rotated between Mile Lane, Central and The Glades at Meshach Run in Accident. He began to freely experiment with forehands, then tomahawks, and, later, rollers.

AlleganyPlayground photo
Josiah Spradlin (center) won the Boys’ Division, while Luke Spradlin-Vogelsang (left) took second and Gary Schultz Jr. (right) placed third.

June was quite the month for the youngster. Luke turned 9 and celebrated his birthday with a disc golf-themed party, complete with a modified nine-hole course set up at Central with his closest friends billed as the Par 2 Invitational. Luke loved the idea of sharing the game with his friends (he’s a social butterfly). As he continued to learn, he was not afraid to step up and help newer players begin to learn the finer points of the game of disc golf.

Also in June, Luke earned the club’s inaugural Player of the Month award as he had placed third in the Youth Division in Week 1 of Summer Flex Laegue, and second in Week 2. He also tied for fourth in his Par 2 Invitational.

Fans could see Luke was hooked. He began going to the course when it was muddy. Then when it was rainy. Suddenly, the weather no longer mattered and, whatever was on the ground or falling from the sky, nothing could keep him from playing.

Luke finished second in the Youth Division in the Summer Flex League, having competed in each of the six weeks.

Fall 2022

Luke continued to play no matter the weather. In the nine-week Fall Doubles League, he played in seven of nine weeks and finished sixth overall among 27 players. He placed a close second in the Youth Division, with one of his absences coming on double points weekend at The Glades. That’s one of the great things about Luke, though. When it’s time to play disc golf, that’s what he focuses on. When family obligations arise, his focus is squarely on that. His ability to compartmentalize and live in the moment is admirable and his a big part of his successful mental game both in disc golf and as a goalie in soccer.

Luke also played in all five weeks of the club’s Fall Youth League, earning two first-place finishes, two seconds and a fourth.

But what really set Luke apart in the Player of the Year contest was a non-club event. The second annual Ace Race hosted by Mile Lane Disc Golf in Mount Savage in November. There were two parts to the event. First, every player threw from modified tees over 14 holes to see if they could score a hole in one, hit chains, or hit metal (in 5-3-1 point sequence). Only two of the 14 players — who were competing from the same tees — scored more points than Luke. The Beall Elementary School fourth-grader tied two West Virginia players (whose combined years of experience playing disc golf just about equalled Luke’s entire life span), and he finished ahead of nine other players in the field. The 14 players ranged in age from 8 to 54.

Luke (left), with stepdad Kevin Spradlin (center) and brother Josiah at the Frostburg Depot. Picture, then onto the Great Allegheny Passage for all of about a minute or so – before calling 911.

The second part of the competition was a one-disc challenge. Luke competed against one of his best friends in the Youth Division for that, and came away with a four-stroke victory.

Personality

Luke has continually asked for an increase in responsibility while playing. He was thrilled when he was first given the chance to lead a card. Luke enthusiastically reviewed some of the rule-based scenarios that he might be faced with and then confidently led his card through a league round.

Luke has learned from some of the best players around — players with last names such as Mallery, Shreve, Raynor and more. Each of them help Luke become a better player and person on and off the course.

While Luke continues to lower his scores over 18 holes, Luke is one of the nicest players to grace a local disc golf course regardless of how well, or not, he is throwing on a particular day. He is the epitome of the third component of the Professional Disc Golf Association’s Disc Golfer’s Code: “Represent the sport. Be positive and responsible. Teach others.”

Luke’s story was one that caught the attention of the generous team at the Ledgestone Open.

“You can learn a lot from some people,” noted Ledgestone Open representative Andrew Choragwicki. “It is awesome to hear about Luke’s story, and how he is such a strong influence on the disc golf culture there. We need more Luke’s in the world.”

Luke’s play on the course is much like his personality — methodical. He does not get too high, or too low, for very long. He celebrates what he knows are great shots. He dismisses bad shots like a quarterback after a pick-six and gets ready for the next throw. His persona is exactly the image the club wants to portray, which is a big reason why Luke was the inspiration for the club’s first logo.

Luke Spradlin-Vogelsang throws from the No. 12 tee during a Winter Doubles League round on Jan. 8 at Mile Lane Disc Golf in Mount Savage.

Luke Spradlin-Vogelsang is presented as the Allegany County Disc Golf Club’s Player of the Year for 2022.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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