St. Louis native Nikko Locastro is a polarizing figure in the disc golf world. At least this is how I’ve come to see it. He carries a reputation of a hot-headed, young, skilled player and this rubs some people the wrong way. Granted, nobody actually enjoys being near a person shouting “FUCK!” or stomping on their discs out of frustration, but this is an intense game whether you like it or not.
Early last year I was playing a solo round at my home course, when I threw a terrible shot into the woods and completely lost sight of my favorite disc. I stomped around the trees and long grass shouting at myself, cursing a blue-streak, unaware of my surroundings since I was wearing headphones. When I finally found the disc, just sitting in the open on some grass, I looked up at the basket and saw a guy standing maybe 20 feet away from me. He proceeded to ask me all about disc golf, and how to play… I’m pretty sure he heard all of my poetic monologue, yet thankfully he asked about disc golf anyway. All of this is just to say none of us are perfect, especially myself. I don’t assume we’ve all had childish hissy-fits on the golf course, but it’s pretty clear that with disc golf (as well as ball-golf), things reach boiling point quickly.
When it comes to Nikko Locastro, I’m just a fan of disc golf, so I’ve rarely witnessed first hand the hot-headed behavior. What I have witnessed (unfortunately mostly through YouTube) is the ridiculous putting range that he exhibits anywhere within 80 feet. To see a person playing at that level is just amazing. I often wonder how he, or any of the other top touring pros, would tear up my home course. But I’ve also seen the local message boards light up with debates on his tournament behavior when he’s in town. Did he act stand-offish to so and so? Did he skip the ceremony for such and such? Do I care? Simple answer: not really. Not until I become pro and start playing on top cards (probably another year away, right?) or until I’m the one hosting tournaments with $50,000 dollar payouts will any of this actually effect me. In addition to this, I don’t think slander is a useful type of information. When a message board person gets angry, they tend to exaggerate and trumpet a trivial cause with much more vigor than is necessary. Besides, fans are fans because of skill, talent, and the game- not here-say.
As an addendum, I will say being a nice person to your fellow humans makes a huge impression. Maybe Nikko isn’t killing people with kindness? A friend of mine brought his son out to the 2011 Vibram Open last week, and we all played a round of disc golf across the street at Pyramids. His 14 year old son went looking for an errant drive and found a blue disc. He asked us if we threw anything blue over there- we all said no. We asked him what the name on it was- he responded, “….Avery Jenkins?” and looked up at us while he said it with an expression of obvious recognition. His father said, “Not the name on the top, the name on the bottom!” But it WAS the name on the bottom. Long story short, when his son went across the street to watch the tournament, he brought the disc over to Avery in the middle of his Saturday Vibram Open round, and was greeted with a big friendly thank you. Avery stopped what he was doing and talked with him, thanked him for returning the disc, and even gave him a custom mini and a patch. It was a class act all around, and it made a big impression on the kid’s father (as well as me, when I heard about it). So admittedly, a little kindness goes a very long way. Avery has played the game a lot longer than Nikko, and is a World Champion, so perhaps his experience has taught him how important behavior can be at a tournament? Or perhaps he’s just a nicer guy. We can always re-visit the subject in about seven or eight years and see if it was a matter of maturity or personality. For now I’ll keep dialing it in on YouTube, and rooting for the 80 foot putts to hit chains.