Our first interview in our Q & A series comes from Mike Krupicka. Mike has been the IL state coordinator since 2012, is the Chair of the PDGA Rules Committee, currently heads up the Illinois Open Series, and has been the Assistant TD of Ledgestone the last several years. We thank Mike for all of the time he puts into disc golf and appreciate the time he took out of his schedule to answer our questions.
Pictured left to right: Ledgestone TD Nate Heinold, Brett Comincioli, Tom McManus, Mike Krupicka
1 - You have been on Ledgestone staff for a while. When did you start and how did that come about?
I came on staff in 2015. Nate liked how I ran my events (Illinois Open Series) and approached me looking for someone he could trust with handling rules calls for the event. After agreeing to that role, the course TD for Lake Eureka Temp backed out and I was given that role as well. What did I get myself into?
2 - When did you first meet Ledgestone TD Nate Heinold? What's it like working with him?
Nate had played some of my events. I didn’t really get to know him until things were going full speed with the 2015 event. Nate has a lot of big ideas. I’m a details guy. That makes for some interesting conversations and we have had some healthy back and forth debates at times.
3 - Do you still get the chance to play disc golf on a casual basis? How about tournaments?
Not very often. I played one tournament last year. In addition to Ledgestone, I ran 6 other tournaments last year. I enjoy getting out to play, but it seems like there is always something that needs to be done for the next tournament.
4 - You were recently appointed as the Chair of the PGDA Rules Committee. What's your philosophy on the rules of disc golf?
There are competing objectives when crafting the rules. They need to be simple to understand and grasp, but they also need to cover those cases that seem to happen more often than we would expect. We need to trust players to do the right thing, but also realize that unfortunately some players do look to see how to bend rules to their advantage.
Probably one of the hardest things about working on the rules is thinking about unintended consequences. I am always asking myself, “If we make this change here to address this gap or issue, how does that change other aspects of play?” Keeping the rules internally consistent is not easy.
5 - In the past Ledgestone has been famous for its stroke and distance OB rules. Some like it, others hate it. Where do you stand on this?
I think there are places where it is appropriate. The key is knowing when and how to use it. I have no problem with it being used on holes where it creates more risk on the high reward shots as long as there is also a safer route that can be taken to avoid or minimize it (Winthrop Gold 17 comes to mind). There are also some cases where it is difficult to know if a disc has crossed over to determine the last place in bounds. Using stroke and distance here can help make the call (and penalty) consistent.
I’d like to see the PDGA loosen up on the restriction of stroke and distance some, but also TDs need some guidance on when it should be used. (Can’t you change it? Aren’t you the chair of the rules committee? Yes I am, but I don’t have that much power).
6 - Disc golfers love to debate, and one of the things they like to debate is the jump putt. Will this ever be outlawed?
Between jump-putts and the latest basket designs, putting has moved from a finesse game to a power game. There are plenty of pros and cons to debate there. I have advocated a deliver and stay approach when not on the tee as a way to disallow jump-putts. This is where the supporting point needs to remain in contact with the lie after the throw until balance is demonstrated. It still allows run-ups and follow-through. 80-90% of players already do this when not jump-putting, but unless there is a request from the Board of Directors to address jump/step putts, the idea will not be put up for discussion in the Rules Committee.
7 - Some people have argued that disc golf is too easy and the targets need to be made smaller. Is that true, or should disc golf continue to cater to the masses? Or is there a middle ground?
The courses that are the busiest are generally the easier courses. That said, putting does seem too easy (even though some days I can’t hit anything). Smaller baskets could be considered, but they still need to be able to catch some of the larger lids out there (e.g. an Ultrastar). Sometimes I think the older baskets which required a lighter touch might be something else to relook at. Finding a way for players to have to shape their shots rather than drilling a line drive at the basket I think could enhance the game. The sport is still relatively young; there are other innovative ideas that just haven’t been found yet. This is one of those things that will slowly evolve over time.
8 - You are the Course TD for one of the most challenging courses in the country, the Lake Eureka temp course. What traits are required to oversee a course with OB on essentially every single shot?
One needs to be very detail oriented. We have spent long hours trying to make sure that the course rules are solid and account for all that can happen. Every year the first thing I do when I get in town is check out all of the OB on the course. We have a great crew that gets this all set up, but it’s on me if something is not right. Each morning we do another quick inspection to see if any lines need to be repainted or string retightened.
The other thing required is making sure all of the staff and volunteers are where they need to be, have what they need, and are taken care of. It takes a lot of staff and volunteers to make it run smoothly. Being able to react quickly and calmly when the issues do pop up is a must.
9 - Many TD's volunteer their time to run events, and others run tournaments as a business. Is there anything wrong with a TD making money running an event?
Disc golf tournaments have come a long way from someone setting up a card table behind the trunk of their car, going out and playing a couple rounds with everyone else, and then calling it a day. TDs should be able to earn some money running events. In addition to being at the course from sunrise to sunset, there is a lot of time, effort, and money that goes into running a quality event beforehand. I know I have to use vacation days from work to get ready for every tournament I run. I have seen good TDs no longer run events because they were barely breaking even or losing money on their tournaments. Just like the rest of the disc golf ecosystem, if we want people that can do the job well, they are going to need to be compensated.
10 - In your many years of being around Ledgestone, what is the craziest rules situation you have seen?
There definitely have been some stressful rules situations over the years. There is a lot of money on the line and players can be very passionate. The first thing I do is grab my copy of the course rules and PDGA rule book to see exactly what is written. That matters. As does getting all of the details from multiple players to determine exactly what happened. That is not always easy.
The most high profile rules call I made was in the second year I was at Ledgestone. Handling Paul McBeth’s provisional on Hole 5 at Lake Eureka generated a lot of chatter.
One of my favorites, a player was throwing their upshot uphill on hole 1 at Lake Eureka. They were way off line and the disc landed on a mini boat ramp probably 60 ft over the water west of the basket. Nate and I happened to actually see him throwing from there. We had no idea how he got there and had a good laugh (sorry whoever that was). So when the player came at the end of the round to resolve the question on whether or not that was OB (it was not), we had already double checked the course rules and let him know that was the correct play. After the ruling, I think we found out that he actually had a better score from there than if it was OB.
Thanks to Mike for answering our questions. Stay tuned over the next ten days as we release the rest of our articles, including interviews with Dan "Stork" Roddick, Paul McBeth, Paige Pierce, Elaine King and others!