Ricky Wysocki: A Pro Disc Golfer's Battle with Lyme Disease and Mission for Awareness
In this interview, Ricky Wysocki, the number one disc golfer in the world, shares his experience with Lyme disease. In 2019, while on a trip to Europe, Ricky was bitten by a tick. Several months later, he started to experience symptoms such as fatigue, power loss in his shots, rashes, and eventually became bedridden for 2-3 months. After a blood test, he was diagnosed with Lyme disease. Ricky now uses his platform as a top athlete to spread awareness about the dangers of ticks and the importance of taking preventative measures to avoid tick bites.
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Transcript of the Interview
Mary Collins: Hi, this is Mary with Insect Shield and I'm really excited to be here with Ricky Wysocki, a new partner of Insect Shield. And we'll get into to it a bit later about exactly what we're doing together and why it's so exciting for both of us.
But first I wanna introduce Ricky and so Ricky, you are the number one disc golfer in the world. Correct?
Ricky Wysocki: Yeah. Yeah. So I'm currently in rank number one. Yep. Yeah, definitely. And I won the tour, the Disc Golf tour Championship. We had this year as well.
Mary Collins: That's amazing. And from what I gather, you've toured five time player of the year,
Ricky Wysocki: Mm-hmm.
Mary Collins: Six time major winner. Is that correct? And then I have a, I don't know if you know this stat, cause I was doing a little research.
Ricky Wysocki: Okay, cool.
Mary Collins: So you have won 125 out of 383 tournaments you've played in, that's a 32.6% win percentage.
Were you aware of that? I
Ricky Wysocki: I was not. But a pretty cool stat.
Mary Collins: Okay. Here's where it gets even cooler. Michael Schiffrin, who just became like the number one skier, she's now tied Lindsey Vaughn. She's got a 35.1 win percentage. You're at 32.6, Serena Williams, 30.4. Roger Federer 28.1 and Tiger Woods 20.8.
you are with some elite athletes.
Yes. Your win percentage, isn't that cool?
Ricky Wysocki: That is really cool. That actually would be a cool stat to put up as like a graphic. That would be really cool. I we should probably do that.
Mary Collins: You should. I was, it's, I thought I saw with Michael Schiffrin, cause that happened and they were talking about elite athletes. I'm like, lemme check. But Ricky lies in there. are, you're second in that list, so
Ricky Wysocki: pretty cool.
Mary Collins: And you're still quite young, so you got a to go.
Ricky Wysocki: Good, good. That's great. Thanks for sharing. That's really cool.
Mary Collins: Okay. So if you could just tell us a bit about your background and how you'd gotten to disc golf and, your growing up years, just a quick synopsis would be great.
Ricky Wysocki: Yeah. Yeah. So obviously my name's Richard Wysocki is my real name, and I started playing disc golf in about 2009, and I was the, I played all the mainstream sports, I guess you would say like basketball, baseball. Those are my go-to sports in middle school, high school years. And then eventually early on in high school, I just I went to the local course and fell in love with disc golf and just started playing disc golf all the time.
I would go to the local course practice practice sun up to sundown, and then eventually I talked my parents into homeschooling me just so that way I could have more time to play disc golf and not spend as much time at school. I'll get my schoolwork done in the morning. Knock that all out and then have the whole rest of the afternoon to play disc golf.
And so that was really what created the skillset that I have now, was just the fact that I was able to be homeschooled and spend more time than most kids my age. And so that really set me apart.
Mary Collins: And I wanna, but that probably did that take some time? Cause there's an interesting story that I heard you tell about your father really thought a different sport as in baseball was more would be , the for the way he thought you should go. So what there to change that?
Ricky Wysocki: Yeah, so it was my dad. My dad was the all American dad that wanted me to play baseball, go to college, play baseball, and, potentially have a career in the major leagues, maybe someday. But for me, I just lost the passion and I just found disc golf and. . And so for me it was like when you don't get your parents' approval, you wanna go out there and prove to them that you can make something work.
So with that was how I approached Disc golf was I was like, all right, my dad's not really approving disc golf. Cuz at the time disc golf wasn't really there was no money in it, there was no sponsorships. There really just wasn't as much recognition as there is now. It's obviously grown a lot since then, but back in those years, yeah, there.
My dad didn't see a future for me, so I had to create the path and pave the way for my career. And then my dad's, and I used that as motivation to get to gain my dad's approval for my career path. And so that was a huge motivational path for me in the beginning of my career is just I want to play well.
I wanna make a name for myself in the sport so that way my dad gets me his approval. And of course, he definitely has now, but it was. It was cool. It was definitely a big motivation in my early years to gain my dad's approval through my performance.
Mary Collins: And then so you said you started playing in 2009, but then you turned pro in 2010. Is that correct?
Ricky Wysocki: yeah so I played, like I started playing in the beginning of 2009 It was I guess you could say like late 2008, early 2009, right around in there. And then, yeah, I turned Pro in 2010. That was my first pro event. And like I said I just started practicing playing so much that I just escalated through the amateur ranks real quickly and then started feeling comfortable in the professional ranks at the local tournaments in my area.
And that's really what paved the way, like I said, to turn pro in 2000.
Mary Collins: Right. And then even so you, and then even pro, you probably moved it pretty quick cuz 2012 was your first player of the year. So in two years you're player of the year. So you were pretty much a wonder kin coming through the ranks. Yeah.
Ricky Wysocki: Yeah. Yeah. So I was actually one of the I was, I think I'm still the only player to win 2011. I won rookie of the Year, and then I followed it up the next year with Player of the Year, so nobody's ever done that in sports. So yeah, it was that's a great accomplishment that I'm really proud of. And like I said it, I attribute a lot of that to just the dedication I had and it went all the way back to my school.
I was in high school and I still made, I dedicated myself to the sport and practicing as much as I possibly can. That meant. Getting homeschooled so that way I could get my work done real early in the morning and then have just all day to play disc golf instead of, like most kids, they spend a lot of time at school, which is great learning and stuff.
For me, in my head I was thinking's taking away time from golf. So I optimize as time as I.
Mary Collins: No, that's, yeah. So then, so talk, so you're 20, so 2012, you're Player of the year, and at this point you're playing, are you going all over the world and playing mostly in the us? When did it, when did you get up to that, that next rank when you're traveling everywhere
Ricky Wysocki: yeah, definitely. So I think 2011 was my rookie season and that was just a, to see where I was in the sport. And I was able to obviously perform and play really well at a lot of different events. . And so that sparked my interest in 2012 to just keep with it keep practicing, keep training and really just dedicate myself.
And then 2013 was really the year that I really started traveling a lot all over the country. I played tournaments, I think I probably played 25, 30 tournaments anywhere from playing in states like Vermont, all the way to Oregon, California. And then eventually I went. And Japan. I went to Japan, Australia playing the Australian Open.
I won that in 2014 is when I won the Australian Open. And then, yeah, so I, and then Japan opened. I also won that on my 21st birthday. That was really, that was a really fun experience.
Mary Collins: I don't think a lot of, I didn't realize, I know it's was, Europe is really popular, but it's everywhere at disc golf. Yeah.
Ricky Wysocki: Yeah, it's grown all over the place. Yeah, Europe is the most popular of the countries. But there's, yeah, we have majors in Japan, we have majors in Australia, and it's growing worldwide. It's really, and at that time, we're, the sport was really just starting to make a name for itself and a lot of people were really taking note of it.
So I was pumped to go to their countries and win their biggest tournament They had.
Mary Collins: Yeah, that's, it's fantastic. Okay, so you are, everything's great. Life is good. Ricky Wysocki number one. Playing, playing, just living the dream. And then talk to us what happens in 2019 when you run into a tick.
Ricky Wysocki: Yeah,
Mary Collins: tell us the story of where you were and all of.
Ricky Wysocki: Definitely. Yeah. So yeah, fast forwarding to 2019 I obviously was touring every year I was, year in and year out. I'm traveling, playing tournaments all over the country, all over the world, really. And then yeah, 2019 I went, I made a trip to Europe and I was playing a European Open and I made another trip to a country called Estonia and was doing some demonstrations, doing some clinics in Estonia.
And I. Getting a tick and pulling it off and basically not really thinking anything of it. And then I got back from Europe probably and then couple, like I would say, probably three to four months after, probably three months after I got the tick, I really started showing like symptoms.
Like I really got fatigue. I was playing tournaments. I got really fatigued. I was like not, didn't have any power in my shots that I normally do. So I lost all power, super tired, and I just felt off. And and then eventually I started getting all the rashes, all that thing, all that stuff from the Lyme disease.
So I'd contracted Lyme, but it was just laying dormant in my body. And then eventually through stress or whatever may have caused it to come out and really just show its head. I was getting all these symptoms and debilitating symptoms where I couldn't barely stand up. I couldn't, definitely couldn't throw a disc to the point where I was bedridden.
Once I started showing all the symptoms, I was probably bedridden for two, three months. And so the whole rest of that season was pretty much done. I didn't, wasn't able to play tournaments, which means I wasn't able to, gain points for player of the year, any of that stuff. So pretty depressing time for me.
And so that's when I really had a disc golf for buddy of mine that was a nutritionist and he had actually fought Lyme disease before, so he was like telling me, Hey, I can help you out.
Mary Collins: Did they, sorry to interrupt, but did they, were you diag, did you go to a doctor and they diagnosed you immediately? So you didn't have, cause I know there's a lot of stories of people, it's like they get diagnosed or it takes years. So how. Did get your diagnosis?
Ricky Wysocki: Yeah. So I did the blood test and I did all that. The Western block test, I did all that stuff. Which is what they test for when you think you have Lyme disease. So I tested positive and it was totally totally positive for it, which I guess in a way is lucky cause some people, test for it and they don't actually, they don't actually see it test, which, then they don't how to approach what's going on with you.
Luckily in, not that I wanted to get Lyme disease, but in a way I'm glad that we found out what it was. some people don't re, like you said, some people don't catch it that early and so yeah, I got
Mary Collins: did you think back to, and did you think back to the tick when you started to feel poorly, did did that rank come in your head afterwards? Yeah.
Ricky Wysocki: Yeah so once I pulled the tick off, I'm like, all right, a couple days went by, I'm like, all right, I'm fine. then fast forwarding to three months went by, and then I started feeling the fatigue, started getting the rashes. and all that stuff. So I guess I'm lucky in that way also, where I actually started getting the symptoms, the rashes, the fatigue, that's all Lyme disease symptoms.
And so I was lucky that I showed that. Cause some people don't show the symptoms either and so it makes it even harder to diagnose what it actually is going on,
Mary Collins: And you connected it to the tick too, which is,
you know, not everyone would too, they would think something else cuz three, four months ago. Yeah.
Ricky Wysocki: Yeah, you would think that it would, some people can get a tick and then not show symptoms for 2, 3, 4, 5 years down the road. So it's, it can lay dormant and that's why it's so hard to diagnose that.
Mary Collins: exactly. So then, okay, so you were saying, and then so you, okay, so you were diagnosed and you knew what was going on, and then you're in bed, you're struggling, you're trying to find some care, and then you, so you were saying one of your friends was also a nutritionist who has had Lyme disease.
Ricky Wysocki: Yeah, so he had nutritionist, he's got clinical experience in treating people with Lyme disease through basically natural. I had, natural ways like changing your diet, eating the right stuff, taking the right supplements. All this whole game plan. It wasn't just one thing or the other. It was a wide variety of different things.
And so I basically went on his protocol, went on a strict, cut out, all processed sugars, processed food, junk food, and I just ate a strict, strict diet, organic clean meats and clean vegetables, you know, smoothies, that kind of stuff. and in addition to a lot of different supplements and and all that stuff, so that I was on that, I'm still basically following that protocol because it's so I'm still working with that same nutritionist and it's been about, three years now and we're going on four.
And so that's That's been really working. It's been, a blessing to have him go through what I went through. So anytime you as if you go, if you can have someone to fall back on their previous experiences to help you through the future experiences like he did that was huge for me.
So I was super thankful that he was, that he's able to formulate the game plan and keep me healthy.
Mary Collins: and you have to, and from my note, cause this last summer you had a small relapse, so you have to stay on top of it all the time. There's no rest from Lyme disease
Ricky Wysocki: Yeah. No Lyme.
Mary Collins: Yeah.
Ricky Wysocki: Yeah, Lyme is basically a lifelong thing, but the other the one positive thing that I've found is that it forces you to eat healthy, take supplements, which you should all be doing that anyway, but it forces me to not ever be able to really lapse. and not stop, start, fall off the train, start eating junk food and then maybe the Lyme's gonna come back.
And so it just forces me to be strict and disciplined, which, being a top professional athlete, I should be doing that anyway. Treat my body, right. So if, for me it's not really a negative and it's something that I should be doing anyway, and that the Lyme just basically forces me to do it, because I know if I do everything right, my body's gonna be good.
I'm not gonna have flareups and I can play and perform at the highest level.
Mary Collins: Right. No, that's so I guess so it's great. So obviously, it's horrible you got Lyme disease, but then it did, and I've a lot of people I've talked to and read about, they knew things happened in their life, it changes something but, always trying to find a positive out of a negative is, I think, and to be a professional athlete or anyone, if we can do that to keep going, it's important.
Because the mental part is just as much as the, if you think you're just gonna be tired and sick forever, then you're gonna be tired and sick forever. So it's important to have that attitude. and so then just talking about us, Insect Shield, you, we're really excited cuz you're gonna be partnering with us and helping to spread the word because if any sport, I was been trying to think, disc golf has to be one of the top, the top or one of the top of people coming into
areas where there's ticks. So and just, you're in parks in forests, in areas where just deer running around during the day. It's just, they're not these, there's not like a ball golf course that potentially has a lot of pesticides on it that are keeping insects at bay.
So the disc golfer is really, at risk and keeping, ticks away. And, we also, mosquitoes and other, and ants. There's, red ants that can really harm people. Have you seen since your diagnosis, so like more awareness or you've been, and you're talking about Lyme disease, do people come up to you all now and ask you more about like ticks and what they can do and Lyme disease prevention?
Ricky Wysocki: Yeah, I think that, once I got hit, it was like a reality check for a lot of disc golfers. They're like, all right, this can happen to anybody, so I think I, I've turned into like an advocate for it. Prevention for the most part is a lot of disc golfers. They see me and then they wanna say, Hey, I saw what you went through.
What can I do to prevent getting that? And so I use my platform and I'm glad I can, partner with Insect Shield, you guys, and and be able to have a great product to be able to spread with the disc golf world that can go out there and prevent what I went. . And so I think that's gonna be huge.
And like I said, a lot of people are paying attention to my story and everything that I've went through, so that way they, like I said, they, because lot, most disc golfers know that there's ticks out there. Even if you haven't got bit by one, they're always right there. We playing bushes, we play, like you said, trees, long grass.
It's all our perfect course and our perfect terrain is also perfect for ticks. That's that's bummer. But so yeah, I think that, over the years, I'm really embracing the role of being an advocate for Lyme disease and Lyme disease prevention through ticks and through partnering with you guys at Insect Shield.
Mary Collins: Well, That's awesome. So well, thank you. And so you'll be you this spring when the season starts. We'll be doing more with us, but I was just gonna show everyone like, just a couple things cuz we've got our Insect Shield. Oops. Spray. Spraying your shoes, spraying your bag. A really easy way to protect from
ticks and then just, Insect Shield socks. Ticks crawl up. So if you can, if you're, playing the course, walking along always checking down in that lower area against ticks, it can just, keeping the ticks off can is that's the number one thing to preventing Lyme disease.
And there's a lot of other diseases that tick spread depending on where you are. And it is a myth that Lyme disease only exists in New England. You got it in Estonia and
Ricky Wysocki: I get it pretty much in every state.
Mary Collins: Oh yeah.
Ricky Wysocki: Pretty much every state you can
Mary Collins: you are. That's, I was one, there's so many people, like in California, they have gone, they've gone to the doctor and said I was bit by a tick.
and I think I have Lyme. I'm like, but you're in California. And they're like . There's Lyme. There's just a lot of, there's so many myths about where ticks are and how they, and who they're biting. It's a, it's a
it's absolutely a, it's a global issue, we're, are absolutely thrilled to be working with you and thank you for giving us a little introduction to you. Cause I'm, the disc golf. It's, we're super psyched. It seems like such a wonderful community of folks and you're number one, so it's just, it's awesome and we wish you the best for the next for the 2023 season.
Ricky Wysocki: thank you. Yeah, it's gonna be great. Partnerships spreading the spreading awareness, spreading the product with with our disc golf community. I'm sure they'll be thankful to be protected.
Mary Collins: Okay. That's awesome. Thank you so much Ricky. And we will be seeing you soon.
Ricky Wysocki: All righty, thanks.