Chris Tellesbo of Holladay discovered a love of space and disc golf around six years ago, and he excels in both fields. At 26, he's already completed an internship with NASA, landed a research assistant job in the astrophysics department at the University of Utah, and become a sponsored touring professional with Dynamic Discs, one of the largest disc golf companies in the world.
What about astrophysics and disc golf appeals to you? Do they complement each other?
Astrophysics is kind of limitless. You can think up stuff and then go experiment to see how correct—or how totally wrong—you are. There's a lot still to learn about it, and it's literally out of this world. Disc golf is just me against my own head. They're both a mental workout, but they use different parts of my brain. They're absolutely complementary. School is me sitting at my computer, not moving, stressing. Disc golf is walking around and having fun with friends. If I've learned one thing from both, it's that nothing goes totally your way. ... But it's cool, because it forces you to develop your problem-solving skills.
What does being a sponsored, professional disc golfer entail?
I have to wear Dynamic Discs' logo at events and pretty much every time I golf. Any time I cash in an event, I have to thank them. I only throw their discs as well as those of their two partner companies, Latitude 64 and Westside Discs. More than winning, more than social media shout-outs, I aim to represent them well by helping out local players, trying to be a good role model for kids, and working to dispel some of the incorrect stereotypes about disc golf.
Tell me about your internship at NASA.
Right after I got my bachelor's degree, I landed an internship at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. I put off grad school and worked there for a semester doing meteor shower trace-back on orphan showers, tracing them back to their parent bodies.
What do you do as a research assistant?
The New Horizons satellite that just took all the pictures of Pluto is now headed into the Kuiper Belt, which is a big asteroid belt of comets outside the solar system, near Pluto. I'm working on a proposal that looks at the dynamics of Kuiper Belt binaries—which are two Kuiper Belt objects orbiting each other—to find the likelihood of the satellite's target having a binary partner, or moon, or ring system.
You're applying for a graduate fellowship with NASA, then completing your thesis and graduating. What does that mean for disc golf?
The cool thing about the NASA fellowship is I'd get to keep working here, doing what I want to do—they'll just pay me more to do it. And I also get my name in the hat with NASA again. It depends on the job, really. But I don't think I'll ever quit the game until I'm old and broken.