Dave Feldberg's Journey To Eugene, Oregon
A Cherry Coke bottle is the only thing behind the passenger seat of David Feldberg's Jeep that isn't related to disc golf. Disc-filled boxes and baskets made for the sport make vision out of the windows nearly impossible.
Crammed into the backseat, it's difficult to image there being room for the Coke bottle but there it sets, untouched by discs, boxes, or baskets. It's a strange look into the man who currently ranks No. 1 in the world in the alternative sport.
Dave Feldberg, a Michigan transplant, drives his Jeep off of the University of Oregon campus headed towards River Front Park. The jovial 31-year-old talks about reducing carbon footprints, recycling, and helping the environment making his choice to live in Eugene, Ore. seem like a perfect fit.
“I went to Western Michigan University,” he says, “We're considered pretty green, but we always heard about this place. Oregon. Eugene, and how environmental they were.”
Feldberg lights a cigarette, resting his elbow on an open window, letting cold, gray air into the Jeep.
“I don't know I imagined, a different type of living, completely,” he says of Eugene.
In 1997, at age 18, Feldberg's girlfriend at the time invited Dave to visit family in Washington and Oregon where they drove up and down the coast exploring Oregon. It was his first trip to the state.
He laments that after he turned pro in 2000 he never really had a chance to see Oregon again. He didn't get close until he went to Grass Valley, California for the Sky Pilot Open.
There he met the commissioner of the Professional Disc Golfers Association, or PDGA, Theo Pozzy, who is a native Oregonian. Pozzy invited Feldberg and his touring partner, Avery Jenkins, to visit Oregon to teach a clinic at Danby State Park.
At 24, Feldberg reached a critical career decision.
“Avery and I were good but we didn't know if we would be great.”
The touring partners decided that they needed to finish college. Their decision was aided by their driver and touring partner, Todd Branch, who retired from disc golf and returned to Michigan.
“We told people that we were looking at Colorado, Northern California, and Oregon,” Feldberg recalls. “But in all honesty, we only applied to Oregon.”
They were accepted into the University of Oregon and moved to Eugene that fall. It was the nicest, cleanest place, says Feldberg.
“This is a little weird, but I thought that if we [the United States] were going to get attacked, no one would attack Oregon,” he says in reference to terrorists.
According to Feldberg, the reason that he's really living in Eugene isn't based on his desire to live in a clean, sustainable city, but rather one man who Feldberg describes as a genius.
He blames it all on his friend and roommate, Sam Hielman. Hielman is an Oregon native who Feldberg met through his sponsor, Innova Championship Discs.
Whenever Oregon came up in conversation Hielman would “pump up” the state. Feldberg believes that Hielman had an ulterior motive of getting Jenkins and Feldberg to Oregon so he could move back and have friends to live with.
“He always says that he tricked us into moving here. I believe him,” Feldberg says.
Feldberg applied to the university to become a teacher but he graduated with a bachelor of arts in Japanese and a minor in business. He ended up becoming a teacher anyway.
While he was studying, Feldberg started a charity event on campus called Duck Chuck. He would take UO students to fifth grade classrooms and help them learn to read, then afterwards they would come on to the UO campus and play disc golf.
At one of the events, he met Elaine Coller, who wrote contracts for professors. Her group was the last to finish the course that Feldberg had laid out.
He had to go out and find them. Coller was having trouble with her throws and kept losing the disc off the course, Feldberg helped her refine her throw.
“She told me that she was going to quit,” he recalls. “I made sure that she finished.”
Coller ended up having a great time, according to Feldberg, and a few days after the event he received a copy of an email imploring the physical education department to hire him on as a disc golf instructor.
“I pretty much had the job handed to me,” he says.
Currently, Feldberg teaches two disc golf classes and a flag football class. His goal is to eventually become a permanent instructor with seven different classes a term.
“I want to build up the popularity of disc golf and get seven classes,” he says.
Feldberg feels that he goes above-and-beyond what most P.E. teachers at the UO do during classes. He says that he's very hands-on with students and he's received a lot of praise from students in his teacher evaluations because of it.
When asked if he feels that he's made the right decision to live in Eugene, Feldberg hesitates. He talks about how he enjoys the cleanliness, the good food, and attempts to be green.
He pauses before saying, “In general, I'm disappointed with the attitudes of Oregon people.”
Feldberg feels that Eugenites judge people by look. His analogy was that if you look like a hippie, then you must be a hippie.
“Instead of telling you what's wrong, they judge. They go out of their way to ask, 'What's wrong with you?'”
Still he says, “I plan to live in the area as long as I can.”
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