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The year-round disc golf course keeper

Airiq Tibbits is a regular disc golf player at C.P. Adams Park in Hastings. He also takes the time to clean up trash in the park and clear the tees in the winter. Star Gazette photo by Katrina Styx

For some people, disc golf disk is one of those sports that starts in the spring, after there’s been enough sun to dry the ground and turn the parks green, and ends when the snow begins to fall.

For Hastings resident Airiq Tibbits, it’s a year-round activity. He can be found on a disc golf course just about every day of the year, often at C.P. Adams Park, which he considers his home course.

If he’s not playing the course, he can often be found cleaning it up. He and a few other players regularly go through the course, picking up trash, he said. And on those winter days when snow has covered the tees, he’s out there with a sled full of salt and a shovel to clear them off, making sure they’re safe to use even in the coldest weather.

“I have a lot of friends who come down here to play,” he explained. “I keep it up so they keep coming down here.”

Plus, he said, he just doesn’t like to see it messy.

Tibbits didn’t play any disc golf until 2008. He was laid off, he said, and a friend suggested he come out and join in a game of disc golf.

“I’ve been playing ever since,” he said. “Every day.”

The sport, which has been growing in popularity in recent years, is something that keeps him active, he said. It’s also affordable, since most courses are free to play, and the competitions – both formal and casual – satisfy his competitive side.

It’s also helped him medically, in a sense. Three years ago, Tibbits was diagnosed with a mild form of autism. Social activities can be difficult for him, but through disc golf he’s made a number of friends. Every Saturday for the past four years, he’s gotten together with a group for random doubles play, said Julie Stancer, Tibbits’ best friend. The repetitive nature of the sport and the routine of cleaning the course up have also been helpful, she said.

Disc golf is a hobby for Tibbits, but it’s also one he’s become fairly good at. He’s earned professional status with the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA), and just this past March won the Masters division of the Minnesota Spring Open tournament, which was held in Hastings.

Since 2010, Tibbits has played in anywhere from 40 to 50 tournaments, he said. And at each one, he’s made sure he’s recognizable. Tibbits likes to wear some pretty wild outfits, Stancer said, including crazy socks and colorful matching outfits.

The habit comes from Tibbits’ bowling days, he said.

“When I bowled, I always wore … stuff … that made me stand out,” he said.

Despite his sometimes exotic outfits, Tibbits is, in fact, fairly modest about his success. His humility is nothing new to Stancer.

“He won’t talk himself up, but he’s such an athlete,” she said.

Of all the courses Tibbits plays, C.P. Adams is one of his favorites.

“It’s one of the nicest courses in the (Twin) Cities,” he said.

The mix of long and short, wooded and open holes give the course good variety that many other courses don’t have, he said. He added that Chris Peterson and Rob Knapp, who run the Hastings disc golf club, have contributed quite a bit of effort into keeping the course well-kept, adding plates to each basket to help identify them and arrows to point players from one hole to the next.

Of course, perhaps the best thing about the Hastings course is its proximity to Tibbits’ home.

“It’s two minutes from my house,” he said.