Never before has a group been named so aptly. The Friends of Sedgley Woods are truly friends in the most sincere sense of the word. “All of us here are good friends and we come together from all walks of life. From the homeless to millionaires, we are here in Fairmount Park to play a sport we love, celebrate together and make sure this park is here for future players,” says Derrick “Turtle” Eason, a regular disc golfer. Most of the regulars at the Sedgley course have nicknames and the jovial, joking tone among the players resembles that of a pep rally more than a sporting competition.
The course at Sedgley Woods is located in East Fairmount Park and is the second oldest course in the United States. Disc golf uses Frisbee-like discs that players use to aim for the holes, which are metal cages.
One of the founding members of The Friends of Sedgley Woods is Paul “Old Goat” Fein, who has been building, maintaining and playing this course since its inception in 1977. “This place looks like a desert compared to when we first started this all those years ago,” say Fein.
While the tone among the players may be lighthearted, the mission is serious business. “We do everything here except for haul the garbage away,” says Gerome “Rome” Vernon, oversight director for The Friends of Sedgley. The group even provides the trash bags for the numerous waste baskets around the course. “The bags that The Fairmount Park Commission gave us weren’t strong enough, so we buy our own. This is an all volunteer effort and the group remains self-sufficient,” says Treasurer, David Prue.
The group has many different ways to maintain its coffers ranging from selling disc golf discs at the beginning of the
course, to selling individual slices of pizza. “All this money goes right back to maintaining this course,” says Fein. While the group now are the proud stewards of a gorgeous and world renowned course, it wasn’t always like this.
Many of the members spoke harshly about the early days of the course, mainly because of the crime and litter problems that plagued the area. “The group is great for this community. Before we were here the ground was covered in coke vials and hookers walked the street outside the course openly, but now it’s a clean place you can take your family and have a great time and feel safe,” says Eason.
As well as a place to have fun and enjoy the surroundings, the course is host to national tournaments and internationally known. “I have played all around the world and when I say I am from Sedgley, people know about it,” says Fein.
Recently, The Friends of Sedgley teamed up with the Fairmount Park Commission, The Horticultural Society and City Year to plant 39 trees. “The Friends do a lot to help maintain the health of the park like replanting efforts and cleaning up debris after big storms come through. We also have the Adopt-A-Hole Program where an individual or group can be assigned a hole to clean and make sure the hole is playable,” say Eason. The Friends of Sedgley hold the health and well-being of the park higher than even the playability. “We are here as guests and, as guests, we have a duty to leave the place better than we found it,” says Fein.
This sense of community and responsibility is immediately evident when approaching the course. Greeting you on your way to the first hole, besides a group of players palling around, is the lost and found where new players can borrow a disc or two for their round and return them when they are finished. The pile is a heap of brightly colored plastic discs that embodies the mindset The Friends of Sedgley hope to foster.
The Friends of Sedgley also publish a disc golf magazine on a quarterly basis with issues coming out in January, April, July and October. The magazine entitled, NiceUp, has sections written by people who regularly play the course. Many of the articles in the most recent issue concern cleaning up the park, a
call for more volunteers, results and pictures from recent tournaments as well as reports from different courses around the country.
While the group’s main mission is to maintain and preserve the course at Sedgley Woods, there is a camaraderie among the participants that is palpable. This may have much to do with the relatively newness of the sport, but it also might be attributed to the attitude of those who chose to participate. “These are just good people who want to have fun and take a walk in the woods,” says Eason. Others like Fein talk about the sport as a taking back of the property from drug dealers and other nefarious types. “A while back my son was 12 or 13 and I was watching him play and, all of a sudden, it dawned on me that we have created an oasis here that will, hopefully, be around for future players to enjoy,” says Fein.