Ali Dorato sipped a cup of coffee at a Longmont café, but it wasn’t the caffeine that perked her up that Thursday afternoon — it was talking about the women’s disc golf community she helped to build.
“Obviously, I get a little amped up about it,” Dorato said. “It’s definitely something that makes me tick. I start glowing when I talk about it.”
Dorato, a payroll compliance analyst for a Denver company and advanced disc golf player, is the founder of the Boulder Ladies Disc Golf. Dorato first started playing disc golf as a University of Colorado Boulder student and quickly noticed that the sport was missing something: women.
With the intent of promoting and encouraging women to participate in the sport, she started the Boulder Ladies Disc Golf Club in 2017. The club meets once a week at 5:30 p.m. on Mondays at the Valmont Disc Park in Boulder.
Dorato’s work to create a women’s disc golf club in Boulder has created a ripple effect. A Boulder club member who wanted to make disc golf accessible to Longmont’s women followed Dorato’s lead and started the Ladies of Longs Peak Disc Golf Club.
“I want (women) to feel like they can play as well,” Dorato said. “I just want women to find joy out of disc golf on their own terms and as a bonus, you get to make a group of friends.”
There’s a reason Dorato thinks fewer women are involved in the sport.
“Like golf, it’s very much a little bit of a boy’s club,” Dorato said. “The intimidation factor is just there. When I started, I started with a couple of my guy friends when I was in college. Naturally, they could just throw farther than I could and I just didn’t know the mechanics of how to improve my playing, and so I just got frustrated and didn’t really want to play.”
Since starting the club more than four years ago, Dorato, a Boulder resident, has watched what she has cultivated grow. The club began as a group of four women and has since blossomed into a core group of about 25 people.
The members that join Dorato on Monday have a variety of skill levels, from pro-level players to those who are just learning how to throw a disc.
For pro player and Boulder club member Karen Sattler, disc golf has always called to her. When she was an engineering student at Colorado State University in Fort Collins in the mid 1980s, she would hear the continuous “plink” of discs smacking the tone poles on the course right outside her dorm window. Following her curiosity, she decided to give the sport a shot.
“For me, it was always something I just loved,” Sattler said. “It represented sunshine, happiness, nice people and a walk in the park.”
Sattler put disc golfing aside when she moved to Germany to finish her college education. When she came to Boulder a year later, she had job and life responsibilities that kept her from thinking too much about disc golf. But in 2010, she stumbled on a bag of discs in her closet and knew she had to get back in the game.
Sattler started playing at Harlow Platts Community Park, 1360 Gillaspie Drive in Boulder. Like Dorato, Sattler noticed how rare it was to see a women playing disc golf.
“It was kind of a big deal like, ‘Oh my gosh there’s a lady!’ It was like seeing a white elephant or something, like an anomaly, ‘Look, look!’” Sattler said.
It was while disc golfing at Valmont that Sattler and Dorato first got connected in 2015.
Disc golf is similar to golf in that players want the least number of strokes. Players try to throw a Frisbee disc from a tee box into a basket, using the least number of throws or strokes. While the sport may be frustrating to the novice player at first, Sattler said the club helps people push past that. The women encourage each other and swap tips and tricks.
“To me it’s the bomb diggity to be able to play golf with a rad group of ladies right here where I live,” Sattler said.
Emily Martens, of Longmont, was one of the original four members of the Boulder Ladies Disc Golf Club. Martens in January 2020 began the Ladies of Longs Peak Disc Golf Club to give Longmont women a chance to get involved in the sport.
“It’s definitely a legacy of Ali Dorato and just trying to get more women involved in disc golf,” Martens said. “I think it’s important to get women involved in anything, especially when you’re talking about athletics and male dominated things. I always joke about how there’s 150 guys per woman out here. It’s really nice to have that sense of community within the women.”
The Longmont club has about 12 to 14 core members and meets once a month. Club members play at Loomiller Park and Clark Centennial Community Park.
Much like she’s working on her skills as a disc golf player, Dorato is always seeking opportunities to grow the club. She keeps a stack of cards handy. The cards have the club’s name, a QR code and email address. Dorato leaves cards wherever she can and when she sees a woman on a disc golf course, she’s sure to introduce herself and leave them with a card.
To recognize her work to create the club and inspire women to join the sport, Dorato was the first-time recipient of the Spirit of Rocky Mountain Women’s award — an ambassador award to the sport. She was presented the award on behalf of the women’s disc golf community at a disc golf championship in August at Purple Park in Superior.
“That was pretty special to me,” Dorato said. “I was pretty emotional when I was being presented with the award. I didn’t expect it, and we obviously don’t do it for the recognition, but having that little moment of ‘we see you and love the work you’re doing,’ — it meant a lot.”
Dorato encouraged other women to join in the sport. To learn more about a membership, people can visit the group’s Facebook page or email Dorato at email@example.com. Those interested in a Longmont club membership can visit the group’s Facebook page to learn more or email Martens at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I find so much joy in disc golf and the community and friends that I have found through disc golf, I want other people to experience that, too. And, I just want more women to play the sport,” Dorato said. “I want more women to play because it would be good for all of us.”
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