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Rick Hoffa, a former U.S. Air Force airman turned professional disc golf player, puts on the makeshift course at RAF Lakenheath's Peacekeeper Park.
Rick Hoffa, a former U.S. Air Force airman turned professional disc golf player, puts on the makeshift course at RAF Lakenheath's Peacekeeper Park. (Bryan Mitchell / S&S)
Rick Hoffa, a former U.S. Air Force airman turned professional disc golf player, puts on the makeshift course at RAF Lakenheath's Peacekeeper Park.
Rick Hoffa, a former U.S. Air Force airman turned professional disc golf player, puts on the makeshift course at RAF Lakenheath's Peacekeeper Park. (Bryan Mitchell / S&S)
Fernando Brown, 29, watches his first drive fly through the crisp central England air on a recent Saturday afternoon at RAF Lakenheath's Peacekeeper Park.
Fernando Brown, 29, watches his first drive fly through the crisp central England air on a recent Saturday afternoon at RAF Lakenheath's Peacekeeper Park. (Bryan Mitchell / S&S)

RAF LAKENHEATH — Sometimes, you have to make that extra effort to forge a friendship. Especially when that friend shares your unique passion.

That was the case when Fernando Brown left a series of notes on the windshield of Rick Hoffa’s car a few years ago. Brown spotted a disc golf bumper sticker on Hoffa’s vehicle and thought he had found a new partner.

“I kept seeing his car all over base, so I left him a few notes and he got in touch with me,” Brown said. “We started playing together and haven’t stopped since.”

Today, Brown, 29, and Hoffa, 42, have parlayed their hobby into a professional gig that earns them the occasional payday as well as trips throughout Europe and the United States.

The two former airmen, who both have wives still in uniform, aren’t earning enough to buy summer cottages on the shore, but they have won a few hundred dollars here and there.

Brown, who works at the RAF Mildenhall office of the U.S. Postal Service, pocketed $162 for his sixth-place finish at the 2005 British Open, while Hoffa took home $325 after capturing the Master’s division at the same tournament.

And, if you name a country in Western Europe, odds are one of the two have thrown their discs there.

“I have been to Belgium, Switzerland, Sweden, Holland, Finland, France, Scotland and Germany as well as about 13 states to compete,” Brown said.

Disc golf is a simple game that shares many traits with its more expensive counterpart in traditional golf.

A participant throws a disc toward a disc pole hole. The object is to put the disc in the hole’s bucket in as few throws as possible.

“Most courses are set up in city and state parks so you can basically play for free,” Hoffa said.

Many people play with just one disc, but hard-core players carry a full bag of discs like a golfer would clubs.

“There are long-range drivers, midrange drivers, discs that fade left or right and then, of course, we have putters,” Hoffa said. “Anyone with a Frisbee can play, but on some courses it would be better to have a disc to get more distance and accuracy.”

Ed Headrick is credited with inventing the sport in 1975 when he was awarded the patent for the first disc pole hole. That same year, Headrick opened the world’s first course in Pasadena, Calif.

Today, there are more than 1,200 courses worldwide.

For the two unlikely professional athletes — Brown started playing disc golf after seeing the game featured on an episode of “Seinfeld” — the best part of their life of disc is the friends they make.

“The truth is, most disc golfers love to see new people trying the game, and are more than willing to play a round with them and give them advice along the way,” Brown said. “I think people would be surprised at how easily they are accepted on the course.”

For more information on the sport, visit www.pdga.com or www.discology.co.uk.

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