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Southeastern Nevada is the site for heated competition—minus the putting and chipping.
Photo: PR (Mike Dobbyn)
You know Phil and the PGA Tour, the Walrus and the Champions Tour, and Annika and the LPGA Tour. Do you know Mike Dobbyn, Frank Miller, and Sheila Kelliher? They’re golfers, reigning world champions, in fact. Not exactly Tiger, Watson, and Ochoa when it comes to name—and paycheck—but players with hearts as big and drive, no pun intended, to match.
They’re long drivers. And their Augusta is Mesquite and their Masters is the RE/MAX World Long Drive Championship, coming to the little burg on the border, October 20-25.
The event must be witnessed—admission is free—to be fully grasped, and all players and fans should make at least one pilgrimage to the mecca of Surlyn. During lead-in rounds, combatants hit side by side with rock ’n’ roll blaring from loudspeakers, so fear not a snarling caddy having someone removed for blinking while his guy is in the throes of a six-step pre-shot routine. Come finals, some 2,500 celebrants pack the stands, anticipating someone going deep and another a bit deeper. They cheer and holler—including participants who bowed out in earlier rounds—in the cool fall air, and in tribute to ESPN’s broadcast of the event around Christmas time, many ham it up for the cameras with “Happy Holidays” signs. (Sorry if we just blew your cover with Aunt Nora as to why you’re never able to make it to her place for Christmas Eve fruitcake.)
As a matter of practice, long drivers are given two minutes, 45 seconds to hit six drives toward a 50-yard-wide grid. If you’re thinking that’s easy, time how long it takes you to put a peg in the ground, tee one up, gyrate, choke the grip to death, waggle, and fire. Now do it six times in less than three minutes, with AC/DC banging your inner ears and another gorilla of the grid doing the same right next to you.
While there are indeed close friendships among the guys who play on the PGA Tour, the long drivers are a throwback to the days when the likes of Sam Snead and Byron Nelson barnstormed around the country going from event to event by whatever means possible. There’s a basic camaraderie among the long drivers, and it shows. Sure, David Mobley cashed the first-ever six-figure check in the sport when he captured the 2004 championship, and this year’s Open Division winner will garner a cool quarter-million, but it’s a far cry from the PGA Tour, and that’s not a put down.
Golf balls are absolutely crushed. Punished. As in top-dog Dobbyn going deep to the tune of 385 yards in the 2007 final. As in Brian Pavlet once airing it out 435 yards in a preliminary round. To the fans, it’s a drive for show, but these guys also do it for the dough.
The video at left, provided by Long Drivers of America, is a teaser used by ESPN to preview the 2007 RE/MAX World Long Drive Championship.
Long Drivers of America
MORE NEVADA GOLF EVENTS
American Century Championship
(Tahoe Celebrity Golf)
Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course, Stateline
Legends Reno-Tahoe Open
July 31-Aug. 3
Montrêux Golf & Country Club, Reno
Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open
TPC Summerlin, Las Vegas
View this story at tripatlas.com.
“Re/Max World Long Drive Championship qualifiers scheduled,” worldgolf.com
“Re/Max World Long Drive Championship features military part,” worldgolf.com