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World Disc Golf Hall of Famer Tom Monroe was known as the Johnny Appleseed of disc golf and won 21 world titles. The Huntsville native recently passed away at age 77. Photo Contributed

Remembering Tom Monroe- “Johnny Appleseed Of Disc Golf”

MADISON- For all the accolades Tom Monroe received through the years including being inducted into the inaugural class of the World Disc Golf Hall of Fame, the Disc Golf Hall of Fame and the Huntsville-Madison County Athletic Hall of Fame, the 21-time world champion disc golf player said, “I always wanted people to remember that I brought a smile to their face.”

Known worldwide as the “Johnny Appleseed of disc golf,” the Huntsville native died on Feb. 10 at the age of 77 after a year-long battle with cancer. The City of Huntsville has named the disc golf course he designed at Brahan Spring Park in his honor while friends of the sport trailblazer are working to raise money to erect a monument in his honor at the course that hosted the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) World Championships in both 1983 and 1993.

To those who knew him and played against him, Monroe was the ambassador for the sport he introduced to North Alabama in 1976. “Tom is the single most influential person in the history and development and progression of our sport,” said Lavone Wolfe, a Huntsville native, Madison resident and close dear friend of Monroe’s.

Monroe and Wolfe met when both attended college in the early 1970’s in Florence at what is now known as the University of North Alabama (UNA). Monroe was playing freestyle disc nearby and Wolfe sat down to watch a master at work. The next day Monroe introduced Wolfe to the sport of disc golf where Wolfe himself would soon become a World Champion in the sport. Wolfe was not the first nor the last to be exposed to the sport of disc golf by Monroe.

Besides designing and building disc golf courses throughout the country, including the one located on Redstone Arsenal, which was built in 1977, Monroe was a fierce competitor and won close to 100 PDGA titles. He would travel town to town to not only play in events but sow the seeds of the sport to whomever cared to listen. He was regarded as the first superstar of the sport and was named the PDGA Player of the Decade in the 1980s. He even became a board member for 10 years of the PDGA.

“Tom was more than just a player. He was a fan favorite,” said Wolfe. “Even in the heat of battle and world championship competition, he would play to the crowd, trying to make people laugh or smile. He would take risky shots, just because he could. And that meant more to him than actually winning.”

Monroe’s take on the sport was the fact the game could be played by anyone, no matter their age. He loved the sport so much, he taught disc golf as a school credit at the University of Alabama-Huntsville (UAH) in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Then in the mid 80’s, he and his wife, Denise, moved to Florida where he taught a similar course at the University of Florida. A decade later they returned to Alabama living and working in Birmingham where Monroe continued teaching the sport for school credit at both the University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB) and Samford University.

Monroe was more than the ambassador disc golf- he was disc golf.

Four years ago, the Monroe’s returned to Huntsville where Monroe would spend the finals years of his  life not knowing it would be cut short by a disease. He could be seen many days at his home course at Brahan Springs Park where his smile greeted every golfer he came across while playing the course he designed and conquered many times in the past. He told stories of his past, instructed all of those who asked for assistance to excel in the sport and many times gave away free discs.

“Tom brought an outgoing personality to disc golf that perhaps resonated more than his talent at the game,” added Wolfe, who helps Monroe’s legacy live on by designing disc golf courses himself like the one opening soon in Madison’s Sunshine Oaks Park.

Monroe’s legacy links him directly to thousands of players and champions that have followed in his footsteps, and who were guided by his smile that brought happiness to legends across the world just as he hoped for.

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