If Kyle Klein could give other disc golfers hoping for success one piece of advice, it would be that nothing comes easy. Something Kyle knows about first hand.
Most nights, Kyle has homework to do. He’s a varsity swimmer and an active member of the Grandville High School marching band. He’s also the 2019 U.S. Amateur Disc Golf Champion.
He first starting disc golfing in 2013, when he was 11. He played in his first Professional Disc Golf Association tournament in 2016, was runner-up in the Michigan State Disc Golf Championship, and finished second in the Arizona Next Gen National Championship in 2018.
“I don’t know if people think of disc golf necessarily when they hear about a professional sport, and I don’t know that a 17-year-old student is who they think of, either,” Kyle said. “It’s pretty cool to represent a sport like this early on in my career.”
Kyle’s dad, Doug Klein, said disc golf came naturally to his son. “I can’t say that his mom or I ever thought we’d be having to prepare one of our kids for life as a professional athlete,” he said. “It’s really unchartered waters for us.”
On the plane ride home from the Next Gen National Championship, Kyle told his dad his goal for 2019 was to win the tournament, which he did as a senior in high school, playing for Team Discamania.
“It’s awesome to set a goal like that and then achieve it,” Kyle said. “It was a lot of hard work, but totally worth it in the end.”
The level of dedication Kyle devotes to his athletic career is present in every aspect of his life, including his academic studies, said his mother, Cathy Klein.
“Kyle has never been afraid to walk a path different than everyone else’s,” she said. “When he finds something he likes to do, he puts his heart and soul into it. He practices all the time, day or night, and doesn’t stop until he’s mastered something. I admire that so much about him.”
All About Balance
Kyle said he takes homework and study materials with him when he travels for competitions. This year, he has missed two weeks of school for competitions, which means he has to make up work before and during travel times.
“It’s definitely a little different, my experience traveling for competitions than for most, I would say.”
Doug Klein said learning to balance school and sports at such an involved level is a growth opportunity for his son.
“He’s learning to use his time effectively and proactively communicate with his teachers in order to stay on top of his studies,” he said.
Joel Breazeale, dean of students at Grandville High School, said Kyle’s success is encouraging to all students.
“It’s encouraging to see when student athletes like Kyle achieve in multiple facets of their lives,” Breazeale said. “It’s a sign that they are learning how to manage a range of expectations and challenges to be successful. We wish him continued good fortunes and are grateful that he’s a Bulldog.”
Playing to Pay for Education
The success Kyle has had on the course hasn’t clouded his academic future. With his winnings from disc golf competitions, Kyle will be able to pay for school at Grand Rapids Community College out of pocket as he goes. Kyle plans to attend college in the disc golf off season, saving money to pay for it during the competitive months.
“It’s great that I have a way to pay for college that keeps me from going into debt,” he said. “And it’s a fun job to have to pay for college, too.”
Before his freshman year in college, Kyle plans to tour as many competitions in the Midwest and beyond as he can, adding to his college fund and trying out his skills at the professional level.
“I’m excited to see what I can do, where I can go with this,” Kyle said. “This is a chance for me to really get out there and test my skills.”
Doug Klein said he is very grateful for the opportunities disc golf has afforded Kyle.
“We never thought that disc golf would provide Kyle an opportunity to earn money for college, let alone make a living,” he said. “He’s really fortunate to be able to use his gift to help design his future.”
Cathy Klein agreed.
“I love that he is thinking ahead into his future, and the fact that he can pay for school out of pocket as he goes,” she said. “What an amazing opportunity for him.”
Kyle hopes his success with disc golf inspires others to pursue their goals, no matter how far-fetched they seem at first.
“It’s not easy, that’s for sure. It doesn’t matter how old you are,” Kyle said. “I have to practice as much as I can to keep up, just like in school and in any other sport or program. Practicing so much and seeing results from work, that’s what makes it worth it.”