WEST GARDINER — Cathy McDevitt asks the same question every time a woman ventures out onto the 21-hole course at CR Farm Disc Golf she owns to accompany a husband or boyfriend.

“Why aren’t you participating?”

She didn’t have to ask that of anyone on Saturday.

CR Farm’s first Farmer’s Daughters Open — a Professional Disc Golf Association tournament — attracted nearly 65 women for two rounds of play across nine different divisions. The field featured top-flight professional players to women trying out the sport for the very first time, from 61-year-old Advanced Senior Grandmasters to 12-year-old novices.

The tournament was only the third ever held in Maine dedicted strictly to women players, but it was the first tournament in the state to be for women, run by women and played on a course owned by a woman, McDevitt said. The PDGA United States Women’s Disc Golf Championship was held last September at Sabattus Disc Golf, just two months after the Ladies of Woodland Valley was held in Limerick.

McDevitt began talking about a PDGA-sanctioned tournament for women with Ashley Severy of Durham last May. Of the thousands of rounds of disc golf played at her course each year, McDevitt estimated that only 15 percent of those are played by women — a number she said that has actually improved over the last several years.

“I told Ashley she’d be lucky if 25 women showed up,” McDevitt laughed.

Disc golf has blossomed, particularly in Maine and across northern New England, over the last decade. Women, however, have been slower than men to embrace a sport that requires little more equipment than a good pair of sneakers and a $12 disc.

“I started playing it because I wanted to spend more time with my family,” said Susan Streeter, who joined McDevitt in the Advanced Senior Grandmasters division Saturday. “Now, I’m out here playing all the time without them.”

One player from Maine has taken to disc golf wholeheartedly. South Portland’s Nicole Dionisio is the state’s only true touring professional, having played in tournaments all across the United States against the nation’s best disc golfers. She finished in the top 10 in the U.S. Women’s Championship last year, and the 30-year-old has already entered the PDGA World Disc Golf World Championship in Atlanta next month.

Dionisio, better known by the nickname “Pickle” she’s had since she was a small child, for all of her acumen only recently started playing disc golf.

“I’m competitive, and I just got hooked,” said Dionisio, who played basketball and softball in high school. “If you like sports, and you like being outdoors, you can’t beat it… I’m totally addicted.”

But identifing the next Dionisio — or the next top Avanced, Intermediate or even Recreational woman in Maine — was only part of the goal of the Farmer’s Daughters Open, which Severy co-directed with Megan Norton. Introducing women to the sport (Severy’s husband was caddying for two first-time players on Saturday elsewere on the course) was a signficant goal, but Severy also wanted to give players in the region a chance to play closer to home.

“I felt the ladies of New England deserved more tournaments just for them,” Severy said. “It’s a very easy game to play, but the bigger tournaments are expensive to play. Bigger tournaments are more expensive to run, and unfortunately that cost gets passed on to the players.”

Dionisio can relate. She said she’s playing a number of PDGA tournaments in the hopes that she can attract sponsorships to help her pay entry fees and offset some of the costs associated with traveling.

This spring alone, she’s already competed national tournaments in Kansas and Arkansas. She believes there are other women out there who can help the sport grow within their particular demographic.

“Every woman is competitive. Every one of us, deep down inside, I think want to win,”Dionisio said. “A lot of women don’t like to step out of their comfort zone and really see where they’re at. It’s tough. But I think when they do step out and see where they stack up (against other women), it’s a huge eye-opener.

“Over the past two years, the growth for women, it’s been huge. Right now, New England disc golf for women, it’s exploding. Five years ago, I’d come out and play a few casual rounds and not see a single other woman. Now, I come out and I see other women all the time.”

And, as the Farmers’ Daughters Open showed, there are plenty of women eager to showcase their blossoming skills.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.