If you were to poll disc golfers around the world, especially in Europe, to find who has the best mental game, one name will be a common answer: Leo Piironen.
The 2012 and 2016 Finnish Champion, and reigning European Champion, Piironen has been able to take down some big tournaments while also maintaining a strong focus and demeanor on the course.
The 24-year-old Piironen currently lives in Lahti, Finland with his girlfriend as he studies sports instruction at Haaga Helia University of Applied Sciences. Before the weather warms up and he hits the course, we talked with Piironen about the upcoming campaign.
How and when did you find disc golf?
I found disc golf back in 2006 when I was still in primary school. I had classmates who had played disc golf and they took me and my friend to try it. It also turned out that the strange metal things I had seen in the park nearby at Pajuniitty were disc golf baskets.
The first time when we went to try disc golf we didn't have real discs. I remember having one white ultimate style frisbee and playing the course with it along the others. As you can guess, it didn't go so well and later when I came back home my mother asked me how was it. I remember answering, "It sucked.” Well, things have changed since then.
Leo took home the European Champion's title in 2016 at Oulu. Photo: Eino Ansio.
You’re not just a player either. Tell us a bit how you’re active in disc golf in general?
I'm part of the SFK which translates to Finnish Disc Golf Trainers. I'm teaching people how to teach disc golf to other people.
My clients can be such persons as PE teachers, personal trainers, or local club members who want to teach disc golf. Basically, I'm giving them simple tools to teach beginners to throw correctly, safely, and enjoy the sport.
Did you have anyone who instructed you during your early years?
I'm one of those disc golfers who started the sport watching YouTube videos and tried to learn as much as possible myself. We had a nice group of three of us learning the disc golf (Teemu Nissinen and Ilari Tuoma) so I could say we have learned from each other.
I also could say that we haven't had anyone instructing us but we were given some advice from here and there.
One of the best memories about receiving advice was when we asked one of our local club members what could be a good midrange disc to get as a beginner. He said, “Get a Roc."
We went to local sport store and what do you know the first thing we saw was Champion Classic Roc (Putt & Approach). It's nice memory to have and even more fun disc to own.
What are your greatest strengths as a competitor?
My nerves and somehow good long distance putting game. I'm a pretty calm person and I like sinking those long 15-20 meter putts.
The start of the 2018 season is right around the corner. How are you feeling heading into this season? How have you prepared for it?
I'm really looking forward the 2018 season. I have prepared different this time and trained more in the off-season than before. I had opportunity to get a training program and I have trained with the exercises shown in Discmania Disc Golf Academy videos and I'm happy to tell you that I have gained good results.
Leo is know for his rock-solid short game and keeping is nerve in all situations. Photo: Eino Ansio.
Do you have a specific goal in 2018?
Of course, I want to compete at my best and win tournaments and tours. I would say this is a big year once again with the European Disc Golf Championship coming up. My goal is to bring a some kind of a medal for Finland.
What do you look forward to most in 2018?
I’m sitting among piles of moving boxes as I just moved to Lahti for my studies and it’s snowing outside… I think I'm really looking forward the summer. I'm really waiting to get to play some disc golf.
Is there a specific Discmania disc that has helped you to reinvent your game?
It's hard to pick one of them and I have to say that signing for Discmania back in 2010 has reinvented my game in a big way. If I’d have to choose, I'd say my putters, D-line P2s.
Two completely normal D-line P2s have brought me two Finnish Championships and one European Championship. They have seasoned well and become my favourite discs. By the way, the Reinvented FD2 will be awesome!
Leo starts the 2018 season in just two weeks, as the EuroProTour kicks off with the RE/MAX Open at Vierumäki.