Power Shot

GWU Alum Wins Amateur World Championship in Disc Golf

In 2013, when GWU alum AJ Carey (’17) was a senior at Crest High School (Shelby, N.C.), he was diagnosed with cancer. The devastating discovery of a malignant tumor sent him into surgery and through weeks of follow-up chemo and radiation therapy. He felt the walls closing in. So, after his treatments, he found respite playing disc golf with his friends.

He discovered he really enjoyed the game. His mentor and coach, the late Dale Sollars of Bostic, N.C., told him, “One day, you’ll be good.” Sollars’ words proved prophetic July 22, when Carey won the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) Amateur World Championship at West Lake Park in Davenport, Iowa.

The achievement came just two months after Carey earned a bachelor’s degree in sport pedagogy from Gardner-Webb University.

“Before my cancer diagnosis, I was going on a completely different path,” Carey explained. “I was looking at a military career. That changed because cancer made me ineligible to pursue that. So it led me to embark on a different avenue.”

Carey dabbled in the sport of disc golf in high school. He and his buddies enjoyed playing local courses at Crest, GWU, and in Bostic. But after learning about the cancer, he amped up his practice sessions. “At the time, I was stuck inside for long periods and I just wanted to get outdoors,” he recalled. “I’d go to treatment, leave, and then try to go play disc golf. Playing really kept my thoughts in a better place.”

At GWU, he was able to take many classes that positioned him for success. “One of the most influential courses was a Sports Psychology class taught by Dr. Brooke Thompson,” he shared. “Most of the students who take that class are thinking how to apply the information as a future coach. I actually used the information from the perspective of a current, competing athlete.”

After winning the amateur world championship, Carey plans to keep competing and join the professional ranks. “I’d like to teach kids and help athletes with their performance,” he said. “Right now, I feel like there are many opportunities at my fingertips and I feel extremely blessed.”

Learn more about programs available in the GWU Department of Health, Sport, and Physical Education.