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Madison Tomaino: Educating and Advocating

Madison Tomaino: Educating and Advocating

The 2023 Becky Zallek Award Winner

Tuesday, April 16, 2024 - 14:07

2023 Recipient: Madison Tomaino

A highlight of the United States Women's Disc Golf Championships players' meeting is the recognition of the new winner of the PDGA's Becky Zallek Award – a recognition of a peer-nominated individual who has advanced the game of disc golf among women due to exceptional organization and execution of disc golf events. Madison Tomaino #60798, was nominated by women who described her as having all of the attributes of a women-friendly tournament director. Some of the specifics include:

  • On site bathrooms
  • All female divisions offered or at least offer identical divisions for mixed & women
  • Gender inclusive players pack (e.g. options for lightweight discs, option for unisex or women’s cut t-shirts, etc.)
  • Increased registration access for women (e.g. early registration for gender-based divisions, lower registration fees, saved spots for women or uncapped spots until a certain date)
  • Appropriate course selection and layout designs for offered divisions: good score separation, reasonable chance to score, challenging and fun holes rather than simply shortened versions of MPO holes

One nomination form added, "She allows players to have input, makes sure different divisions are taken care of according to their skills, she makes sure she is available for any questions regarding rules, etc."

Wanting to know more and share more about Madison's experience as a well-liked tournament director, we had some questions for her.

How did you get into disc golf?

I started playing disc golf in 2013 and almost immediately jumped into playing sanctioned tournaments. I had never played competitive sports (ok, any sports) and really struggled in the beginning with my mental game and sportsmanship. Learning good sportsmanship as an adult is rough when you’ve never experienced it as a child – but I think it’s the most important thing about disc golf. It took me YEARS of work on my mental game to be able to have a good time playing golf competitively against other women. This experience made me realize just how important having a supportive and encouraging women’s community is! Women make up such a small percentage of tournament golfers – we really need to band together and support and encourage each other. 

Was there a catalyst to get you into TD’ing? Tell us about your TD experience.

My husband started running sanctioned events in 2018 and I joined him in 2019 simply because he needed help! Prior to that we both played a LOT of events… and through participating in those learned what we liked and didn’t like about events from a players perspective. I live in Oregon – home of one of the oldest and largest women’s tournament, The Chick Flick. I played my first Chick Flick back in 2013 and it’s really what hooked me on playing competitive golf. Ever since that moment I’ve know that having all-women’s events is crucial to growing our sport. After COVID, The Chick Flick TDs decided not to run the event – leaving a huge hole in our community as they had historically also hosted the local WGE event. I decided to run my first all women’s tournament for the 2021 WGE. It was a huge success with 76 players. And then there was no going back! We now have a huge community of excited, encouraging, and positive women in Oregon that want to play events. 


Madison at the 2024 USWDGC. Photo: Justin Anderson / PDGA

It looks like all four events you directed last year are women-only events. Of the five you assistant-directed, two of those were women-only. What is so important about women’s events?

I mean, let’s face it – we’re just nicer and more fun! But, in all seriousness, it’s important for events to exist where women feel like they really belong. TDs can do everything right – but if you only have one or two women in a tournament, it’s innately discouraging. 

What advice do you think is important for all new or potentially-new TDs to hear?

I think all TDs should have played or attended many many sanctioned events. Learn from others mistakes. Decide what you like about events and what you don’t like. Know the PDGA rules, and if you don’t know something, know where to look it up. Follow the PDGA rules and guidelines. Be approachable and kind. Don’t guess about what you think women will want – ask! 

Anything else you want to add?

Don’t be discouraged by small numbers if you run women’s events. When I started running leagues in Oregon we only had three-to-four ladies each week. That’s grown over the years to 15-20 and huge tournament participation. Perseverance is the key to growing women's disc golf. Small numbers can also be an advantage– it allows you to set the tone for your women’s community. We need to want good golf from each other, and to be positive and supportive at all times. I also believe that all women should educate themselves on the PDGA rules and tournament guidelines. The PDGA has great guidelines and policies out there to help grow women’s disc golf – know the rules so that you can respectfully advocate for yourself if something isn’t right at an event. Many TDs are just ignorant of the rules and guidelines when it comes to women’s divisions. If you know these rules, you can help educate and advocate for yourself and others! 

What makes a great Tournament Director

Here are a few more excerpts from Madison Tomaino's nominations:

Madison continues to be huge driving force for the women in the Pacific Northwest for ladies disc golf year after year. Not only is she an inclusive player, a fair TD across the board, kind to everyone she comes in contact with, she is a fierce component for our local women’s golf. She has done so much for our community.

Madison has built an incredible women's disc golf scene in the Portland, Oregon and surrounding area. Women's disc golf is a strong presence here mostly due to Madison. Her resume is huge. She not only leads the Oregon Women's Series and many tournaments, she also shares her knowledge about how to plan inclusive, women-friendly tournaments and influences others through interviews and her strong social media presence. She also started and owns All Day Disc Golf, a disc golf shop, with her husband. All Day sponsors many fantastic locals. Those are just some of the things she does, but we know that being a good leader isn't simply about what do you, but about how you do it. The way Madison shows up is with strength, reliability, fairness, and intentionality. By being this type of person, she has built a positive and friendly culture for women in this sport, no matter their skill level.

Madison is an incredible woman who is a clear leader in the Portland women’s disc golf community. She is excellent at running tournaments with professionalism and approachable kindness. This season she co-ran the first women’s points series of sanctioned events in Oregon, among many others, and will continue that next year. She also runs a spring women’s league that travels all over town to accommodate women who live across the metro area. She always selects courses that foster participation for women of ALL skill levels and ages and does her best to keep events affordable, too. Madison has proven to be a strong leader and advocate for women’s disc golf, always keeping us ladies in mind.

Her dedication to the growth, longevity, and positive environment of women’s disc golf is unparalleled. She conducts professional, fun, and competitive tournaments that I always try not to miss. She is amazing at community building.

Madison wears many hats, including the state PDGA coordinator. But being a TD is a role she certainly excels at. Madison has helped to grow women's disc golf in the state of Oregon by organizing events and creating community. During the disc golf season she along with other lady TDs (that she has supported in their TD growth) host a traveling women's series around the state of Oregon. She also hosts a traveling local league in the Portland metro area. Her events always have amazing themes, prizes, and divisions for every age and skill level. You can tell she is genuinely passionate about growing women's disc golf and she always makes personal connections with all the women she meets through her events.

You can follow Madison on her Instagram account.

The Becky Zallek Legacy

Becky Zallek’s exemplary organizational and fundraising skills spearheaded the growth of disc golf in central Iowa. Many central Iowa disc golfers' first exposure to the sport was via Becky and she was proud to see that these disc golfers' children are now participating in the sport. Her efforts were instrumental in the installation of several disc golf courses and winning the bid for Des Moines to host the 2004 Pro/Am PDGA World Championships, where she acted as Co-Tournament Director. The PDGA has bestowed to her awards for Services to the PGDA and the Sport, Volunteer of the Year, Tournament Director of the Year and a shared Honored Sportswoman award.

In 2013 at the Professional World Championships in Crown Point, IN, Becky was inducted into the Disc Golf Hall of Fame. Her plaque, which resides in the Hall of Fame at the International Disc Golf Center in Appling, GA, reads: “Becky Zallek’s infectious smile and bubbly personality is known in the countless places she has played and promoted disc golf.  Her exemplary organizational and fundraising skills have spearheaded the growth of disc golf in central Iowa… Becky has shown so many how to give back to the disc golf community.”

When the Women's Committee proposed the Women's Choice TD of the Year Award and who it could be named after, Becky's name was immediately mentioned and enthusiastically embraced. 2022 was the inaugural year for the award, which was awarded to Sara Nicholson, #33589.

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