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Cloquet senior has sights on going pro


August 9, 2019

Caleb Swanson

Jonny Dunaiski of Cloquet is expected to turn pro in disc golf once he turns 18. He is one of the top players in the state. He recently played a round at the Hilltop Park course in Cloquet.

Many of Jonny Dunaiski's peers know him from his work on the volleyball court and during floor hockey season, but one activity rises above the rest. Disc golf is the Cloquet High School senior's main focus.

For those unfamiliar, disc golf is played with special discs (like Frisbees, but evolved) and follows the same rules as golf. The main difference is the players are trying to get a disc into a basket instead of a golf ball in a hole.

Practicing for hours, competing, and traveling for disc golf is Dunaiski's nine-to-five. One of the best amateurs in the area, once he turns 18 he will be officially recognized as a professional disc golfer by the Professional Disc Golf Association. That pro title is important in the professional tournament world. With the title from the PDGA, players can collect prize money from tournaments and earn sponsors. That is of course, if they are good enough. Dunaiski is coming up on his fifth year playing the sport and is on track to turn pro when his birthday rolls around.

The Pine Knot News went with Dunaiski for a quick round on the Hilltop Park course this week and asked him a few questions.

Q If you were sitting next to someone on a plane and they asked you what they do what would you say?

A I am a disc golfer. Disc golf is what I do, it's a sport like golf except you start at a cement tee pad and throw a disc into a metal basket in as few throws as possible. The reason I love disc golf is because it gets you outside and it gets you active, plus it's fun, enjoyable, and a lot cheaper than real golf. For disc golf, you can buy a starter pack of discs for around $20, where golf clubs can be hundreds of dollars. Also, most disc golf courses around the area are free.

Q How did your career start?

A My career started in the summer going into eighth grade.

I was hanging out with my auntie and she said, 'Do you wanna go disc golfing with me and my two boys?' And I had no clue what that was. I went and I was really, really bad but I had a lot of fun. I have been playing ever since, and every year I have gotten more serious with it.

Q How many contests have you participated in, and where have you traveled to participate in them?

A This year I have participated in four events. Three of them were in Emporia, Kansas and one was in Minnesota. Last year I also competed in four events, one in North Dakota and three in Minnesota. Two years ago, at my first event in Minnesota, I finished 48th out of 52. That was some good motivation, and after that I practiced really hard.

Q What are some of your most memorable moments playing disc golf?

A Winning the Minnesnowta open with my buddy Jace Rockstad. That was a lot of fun and was my first tournament in the snow. It was really cold. But my most memorable moment would be competing in a national tour event called the "Glass Blown Open" in Emporia, Kansas last April. That tournament took place for a full week. I took 104th place out of 1,700 participants. I played really well my first round of the tournament but my last round was pretty poor. That was my first tournament of the year so my mental game was pretty weak.

Q What are your goals with the sport?

A My biggest goal right now is getting the sport more popular and getting more people involved. A few days ago I introduced three new people to the sport and I am hoping that they will show new people and start a chain reaction. I'd also like to get to the level where I can tour full-time and play in tournaments every weekend from February to October, making a living.

Q What are the best disc golf courses around the area for the average disk golfer?

A There is a great beginner-level course at Lincoln Park in Duluth alongside a river. The course at Hilltop in Cloquet is beginner-friendly, but very technical because of all the obstacles. If you are looking for a more challenging course in the area I would recommend Spirit Mountain in Duluth. It is a pay-to-play course and you will get quite the workout, but it's a great course. Lake Superior College has a good intermediate course.

Q Are there any perks of being a professional in the sport?

Caleb Swanson

Jonny Dunaiski says "the course at Hilltop in Cloquet is beginner-friendly, but very technical because of all the obstacles."

A You get a decent salary from your sponsors, enough to make a living. And what I look forward to doing is being able to travel in the U.S. for eight months of the year and if I chose to, I could spend July in Europe playing in tournaments out there. Also the people in the sport. I have met so many great people already, and everyone in the sport is super nice.

Q If you could hangout with any three living people who would they be and why?

A That's a hard one. Probably Gunna, because he is my favorite singer. I listen to him a lot before tournaments, so he helps me out getting in the zone for tournaments. Eagle McMahon, because he is arguably the best disc golf player in the world. I have met him a couple times, and he is kind of my role model. And last but not least, Mrs. Motzko. She's my favorite teacher and also my volleyball coach.


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