Ken Pytluk (B.S., ’98) was dialed in. He’d finished the qualifying round in third place and was able to get an early lead in the finals that the other competitors were struggling to catch. But the pressure was on. Even as a lifelong athlete who’d played and competed in sports ranging from hockey to mixed martial arts, this was a pressure he’d never experienced before.
The crowd was hushed and the only audible sound was the faint whoosh of the ESPN drone flying overhead. Pytluk thought about the words of his father: There’s something to be said for being the first in something.
He let his putt fly and held his breath. Then he heard the quintessential bounce-a-round sound of the ball falling into the hole, and he knew he’d just made history as the first FlingGolf World Champion.
Pytluk first arrived in Fort Collins back in 1996 after transferring from Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, N.Y. to Colorado State University. He’d shown up with one of his childhood friends from his hometown of Staten Island, N.Y., and was excited to begin studying exercise and sport science. Like most alum who arrive from some far-flung place and stick around for the rest of their lives, Pytluk was hooked the second he stepped on campus.
“Just going to a legit university and not being at home was great. My earliest, fondest memory was that CSU did online registration instead of manually,” he said with a laugh. “My professors and classes, the great sports culture, it all helped me develop into my career as a professional trainer and strength and conditioning coach. It’s a really hard place to beat.”
Pytluk didn’t know it at the time, but one of his classmates, Alex Van Alen (M.S., ’98), would wind up having a big impact on his life. Van Alen, along with his partner John Pruellage, are the inventors of FlingGolf (you may have seen them pitch their idea on Shark Tank).
The game is a cross between golf and lacrosse where, rather than hitting a golf ball with any number of clubs, players use a single FlingStick to launch the ball down the fairway and toward the green. Once on the green, the same FlingStick is used to putt. Like golf, the goal is to get the ball in the hole is as few throws as possible.
Pytluk likens it to skiing and snowboarding where the equipment and technique is slightly different, but everything else is essentially the same.
“FlingGolf doesn’t hinder the infrastructure of the golf course,” Pytluk explained. “You don’t need to make the holes bigger, the ball is the same, and we don’t damage the course.”
The game has been around since 2015, but Pytluk didn’t get into it until mid-2021. As a golfer of more than 20 years whose sons play lacrosse, Pytluk said it was only a matter of time before the Instagram algorithm started putting FlingGolf ads and accounts onto his feed. He didn’t think much of it until he took his sons out golfing when pandemic restrictions began to loosen in late 2020.
“They hated it,” he said with fatherly exasperation.
It wasn’t until the following year that Pytluk remembered those Instagram ads and decided to pick up a FlingStick.
“I just thought it was the coolest thing. Almost immediately I was chucking the ball over 200 yards and was completely hooked,” he said.
Unlike other sports, especially golf, Pytluk added, FlingGolf is an incredibly accessible and inclusive sport. It only takes about 15 minutes to get comfortable throwing the ball, sticks are affordable and you only need one, and people of all capabilities and skill levels can play.
“It’s one of those sports where right off the bat, it’s super fun,” Pytluk said enthusiastically. “You can do it right away, but there’s a lot of room to grow and improve.”
Van Alen took notice of Pytluk’s natural ability and love for the game, and asked if he would like to be the official FlingGolf Amabassador for Colorado. Pytluk was honored, and immediately began hosting clinics, giving lessons, and spreading the word about FlingGolf. His favorite part, though, is the conversation that inevitably sparks when he shows up for a tee time with traditional golfers.
“There’s usually a lot of interesting stares when I walk up to the tee box with my FlingStick, and then I can always tell when I’m being watched while on the putting greens because it gets really quiet,” he said with a chuckle. “But it’s great. I’ve found the golfers are very welcoming and even more interested in it.”
Interest in FlingGolf is certainly growing, and that was evident in May 2022 when Pytluk was excited to see ESPN cameras filming the first world championship at the American Classic Golf Club in Lewes, Delaware.
“It was huge to have them there,” he said. “We’re hoping people watch the championship, get to see how the game is played, fall in love with it, and help it grow even more. There’s really no telling how big it can get.”
Like his father said, there’s something to be said for being the first, and Pytluk thinks it’s great to be at the forefront of a sport that has the potential to be internationally embraced.
But more than anything, he’s happy to have another sport that gets him outside to enjoy the beauty and scenery of the area he fell in love with some 26 years ago. Even more than that, he loves that his wife and sons will go play FlingGolf with him as a family and have fun doing it.
Want to learn more about FlingGolf? Follow Pytluk on Instagram, YouTube, and Patreon via his handle @Kenzo_flings