In 1975, Irv Lander, Alex Stein and Eldon McIntire first organized a World Championship for flying-disc (Frisbee) catching dogs and their handlers….and as the event continued annually….Stein and his disc dog, Ashley Whippet, won the first three championships in 1975, 1976 and 1977. McIntire was the owner of another disc dog named Hyper Hank….and since Lander worked for Wham-O, the maker of the Frisbee, which is a registered trademark of Wham-O…..he was a promoter of the Junior Frisbee Disc Championships….an event for humans….and in the early years, the championship took place alongside the “human” Frisbee championships sponsored by Wham-o at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California…. which eventually turned into a contest series and, in the early 1980’s, was re-named the Ashley Whippet Invitational (AWI)…..as the competition series included local and regional events where dog and handler pairs would qualify for the Ashley Whippet Invitational World Finals Championship. Until the mid-1990’s there was only one organization for disc dog competitions…so, for many years the AWI World Finals was the only championship event.
The final event was contested as a one-day “winner take all” type event….while the early qualifying format included 4 to 6 regional competition with the 1st and 2nd place teams each earning a trip to the World Finals Championship….for it was a closed regional system….which meant that the dog and handler team had to live and compete in the geographical area of the regional qualifier competition. Anywhere from 8 to 16 teams would qualify, depending upon the format and number of regional qualifiers that year.
Early tournaments were “Throw and Fetch” contests….with some being judged on style points…while others on distance….plus others by standing in a circling throwing out….and still others on throwing into a circle. Peter Bloeme got involved with the disc dog sport in the early 1980’s….after winning the 1976 Men’s World Frisbee Championship and won a Frisbee Dog World Championship in 1984. He then “retired” from competition and began to work for AWI as a judge and event coordinator. Peter Bloeme pushed the sport in the direction of multiple disc “Freestyle” contests, which changed the disc dog game forever. Over time the World Finals Championship was modified to include a freestyle event (sometimes known as “Freeflight”), and a timed throw and catch event (known as “MiniDistance,” and later as “Distance/Accuracy”).
In the late 1980s a trophy cup was introduced by Peter Bloeme, Eldon McIntire, Jeff Perry, and Alex Stein to commemorate the yearly AWI World Champions. The large silver cup is mounted on a wooden base, which is covered with small plaques inscribed with names of the winners. It is called the “Lander Cup” in honor of Irv Lander, then the Executive Director of the AWI tournament series.
Lander died in 1998 and left the AWI tournament series and the related business to his son, Steve Lander. Many involved in the disc dog sport and the AWI organization had expected Peter Bloeme, then director of the AWI series, to be Irv Lander’s successor. That year was the first time the AWI World Finals Championship was filmed for TV. The event, sponsored by ALPO, was presented on Animal Planet as the ALPO Canine Frisbee Disc World Championship.