May 25, 2013 in Sports

Here’s your chance to send some golf balls into orbit

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Baseball has Home Run Derby. Golf has the long-drive contest.

The goal is similar: send a ball into orbit as far as humanly and technologically possible.

Baseball adds up the number of home runs and crowns a winner, but I watch the annual event at the All-Star game to see the moonshots, the ones that ricochet off scoreboards or sail out of the stadium.

Golf’s version is the Re/Max World Long Drive Championship where competitors routinely generate 140 mph clubhead speeds, 210 mph ball speeds and drives in the neighborhood of 400 yards.

Everyone digs the long ball.

For the second straight year, The Links in Post Falls will hold a local qualifying event. Last year about 70 showed up – one with a custom-made $2,000 shaft, many others just pulling their normal drivers out of their bag – trying to advance to the regional stage.

The open-division winner cranked one 373 yards. The senior (45 and up) champion belted one 343 yards.

“They fought a little headwind last year,” said The Links’ Bill McInturff, event organizer. “Normally we have a south, southwest wind that can help them a little bit.”

The June 22-23 competition will be held on the par-5 18th from the white tee box level with the fairway. The ball has to come to rest inside the 40-yard wide fairway grid. Drivers can be up to 50 inches. Tees cannot exceed 4 inches. Balls are provided.

Competitors pay $40 for six swings that must be completed in 2 minutes, 45 seconds. You can enter more than once. Forms are available at The Links and at longdrivers.com or you can register the day of the event.

Six moved on to regionals last year. That figure depends on the number of entrants.

“We had some that tried it four times,” McInturff said. “One of those guys got it on his last try and went on to the next round.”

A variety of competitors showed up last year.

“We had people coming from all over the place. (Former Gonzaga basketball player) Colin Floyd busted one out there 370,” The Links assistant pro Brian Young said. “You could definitely see the guys that were top-level and taking it seriously. A couple of guys requested a private area to stretch.

“One guy went into the back room and came back out covered in sweat. Watching guys on the range you could see a couple that brought a baseball swing. There’s a bit of a tough-guy element.”

The Links’ event is a qualifier for Region 1 (Oregon, Washington) and Region 3 (Idaho, Montana, Wyoming). Organizers are planning on bringing in grandstands, concessions and possibly music to attract more participants and fans.

The Re/Max finals will be televised by Golf Channel on Oct. 30 from Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The champion earns $250,000.

According to longdrivers.com, the longest recorded drive at the world championships was Ryan Winther’s wind-aided 469 yards. The tallest champion was 6-foot-8 Mike Dobbyn; the shortest 5-10 Jason Zuback. The oldest champion was 43-year-old Sean Fister; the youngest Jamie Sadlowski, 20. Average loft of drivers: 5.75 degrees. Sandra Carlborg won the women’s division with a record 339-yard drive last year.

The Links’ driving range is about 310 yards to the woods. They extended it by having participants tee off in the right corner and aim for the left corner.

At one point, Young gave in to temptation and took a spot on the range.

“They have special balls that are a little harder and I went out and hit a few of them,” he said. “I ended up jamming my thumb and hurting my back a little. I decided to leave it to the pros.”


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email