“The hardest choice I ever had to make was the college I picked, but that’s probably the best choice I ever made. It was an amazing experience. I wouldn’t change a thing.”
– Gavin Babcock ’21
Gavin Babcock ’21 left Central College with his sights set on reaching the top of his chosen profession. It’s a common theme for a recent graduate.
Babcock, however, is chasing a different dream. He wants to be a world champion in disc golf, a sport he truly took to during his four years at Central.
“I’m pretty competitive, and I always try to set my goals extremely high,” Babcock says. “I think it’d be the coolest thing to be a world champion.”
It seems a distinct possibility for Babcock, who went from an amateur playing at a recreation and intermediate level when he arrived on campus to a professional touring the country by the time he left.
Just weeks after graduation, Babcock took off on a cross-country trip to Oregon where he played his first post-graduation tournaments, including the Portland Open in the Disc Golf Pro Tour Elite Series.
A sport he first played late in high school, Babcock worked his way to the professional level by playing local and regional tournaments, eventually earning a composite score high enough to be considered a professional by the Professional Disc Golf Association.
Babcock qualified for the United States Disc Golf Championship in October 2020 in Rock Hill, South Carolina. He finished 67th.
“I was hooked and super fascinated from the start,” Babcock says. “I would watch YouTube videos and every technique video I could find. I’d set up in my room and record myself trying to perfect the form. Like I said, I’m competitive and stubborn, so not being able to do it right away just made me want it even more.”
Babcock had always been an athlete and wrestled at Central. In three seasons, he recorded a record of 54-25 with 37 wins by fall. He wrestled primarily at 197 pounds.
He credits wrestling and things he learned in Central’s program for some of his success in disc golf. Lessons like work ethic certainly overlap sports.
“Wrestling requires so much mental toughness and focus,” he says. “You learn to work hard and kind of grind out your problems. There’s a lot of little things that stick with me and add up. If I go out and make 100 putts a day, that’s 700 by the end of the week and I’m getting better.”
Babcock did the bulk of his disc golf training, some by trial and error, on the 18-hole course on Central’s campus. It wasn’t the primary reason he chose to attend Central, but it didn’t hurt.
“It was like the first thing I checked out on my visit,” he says. “It’s a fun little course, for sure.”
Babcock eventually landed on Central for a variety of reasons. He liked the wrestling program and the liberal arts education Central provides. Also, his uncle is Mark Babcock ’90, the M. Joan Kuyper Farver Endowed Chair in Music and professor of music. Gavin took a class with his uncle and even ended up with a music minor.
“The hardest choice I ever had to make was the college I picked, but that’s probably the best choice I ever made,” Babcock says. “It was an amazing experience. I wouldn’t change a thing.”
As he’s done throughout life, Babcock is putting everything into his latest endeavor. He and his stepfather worked for months and months to turn a van into his way to travel and sleep during his journeys. Complete with a personal logo wrapped around the van — and splashed with stickers from his sponsors — Babcock will make his way around the country.
He’s scheduled to compete in more than 15 tournaments through the end of September, the journey taking him from Iowa to the West Coast, back through the Midwest and on to the East Coast to finish.
While Babcock’s career aspirations might differ from others, he too got his start at Central.
“I’m literally getting to live my dream,” Babcock says. “If you work hard enough and really want it, then you can make it happen.”
Follow Babcock’s progress at pdga.com.