MANCHESTER — When Frank Johnson returned to the Manchester area from Colorado, he brought something back with him.
No, it wasn't gifts from the Rocky Mountain state, but the sport of Disc Golf.
The former Burr and Burton Academy grad started playing the sport as a way to get business for his Colorado ski resorts in the summer.
When he came back to Vermont two years ago, Johnson, who is nearing 60, felt that Disc Golf would be a fun recreational activity for people here as well.
"When I moved back to the area, I noticed that at Riley Rink had a Disc Golf course that wasn't really getting used," Johnson said. "Then I started to running into people that wanted to try to play the sport and the numbers then started to grow."
As he got more into the sport, he began to play competitively at a professional level and even reached a handful of national tournaments, where he competed against players from all over the U.S. and other countries.
"Disc Golf is growing like a weed right now," Johnson said. "More courses around the U.S. are being built every year. Here locally, we have been able to get more people involved and that is helping us make it a big recreational sport in the community."
Disc Golf is just like golf, same rules, same way of scoring, very similar.
The only difference between the two sports is that instead of using a club to hit a golf ball into a hole in the ground, you're using a frisbee or disc into a basket.
With the help of Jon and Lisa Larson, the managers of Riley Rink at Hunter Park, Johnson has set up a Disc Golf rec league that plays for a couple months at the facility's nine-hole course.
Around a dozen people participate in the league that runs on Tuesday nights.
Johnson believes more people will get involved with the course being extended to 18 holes by the end of the year.
"A nine-hole course is small and you can't have a lot of people playing on the course at once, so by expanding it to a 18-hole course, it allows us to get more people involved in the league," Johnson said. "Also with more people playing it gives the Rink more business as well."
The growth of Disc Golf, which was invented in the 1960s, has even gotten the attention of BBA, who will use the Riley Rink course for a Disc Golf unit in their physical education curriculum starting this fall.
Johnson said he will be holding clinics for BBA gym teachers on how to play as well as anybody else in the community who wants to learn how to play the sport.
BBA has also told Johnson that the school will be buying their own discs for the kids to use in class.
"I think it's awesome that BBA is involved with Disc Golf," said Johnson, a 1976 graduate when the school was still Burr and Burton Seminary. "It get more kids involved in the sport, which is what needs to happen because the kids are the future and for the sport to continue to grow, you need more and more kids to be involved with it. BBA having it in their gym program definitely helps that out."
A major selling point about Disc Golf is that it's very inexpensive.
Most discs range from $15-$30, so you're not paying an arm and a leg to play, Johnson said.
One person that has gotten very involved in Disc Golf in Manchester is Steve Metcalfe.
Metcalfe, another BBA grad, met Johnson two years ago when he started to play the sport and just fell in love with it. He now even plays with his five-year-old son.
"It's such a fun sport to play and the best part is anybody can play it," Metcalf said. "I have gotten my son into the sport and he really enjoys playing it. It's just a fun sport that you can play with all your friends and family."
Still only in the early stages of its growth, Johnson feels that Disc Golf is making great strides around the community and has a bright future ahead of it.
"One thing about this sport that is great is that you can play anyway you want," Johnson said. "You can use it for exercise. It can be used as recreational activity or can like me play it competitively. It can be anything you want it to be. That's what's fun about it."