Archive for Friday, July 21, 2000

Big hitters to tee off for longest drives

July 21, 2000


Randy Tangmo digs the long ball.

As the host for the Great Plains Long Drive Championship at Eagle Bend Golf Club this weekend, Tangmo and 63 other heavy hitters will try to reach maximum distance at Eagle Bend's driving range.

"The longest hitters in the world are going to be here," said Tangmo, a quarterfinalist at last year's National Long Drivers Assn. tournament in Mesquite, Nev. "These guys all hit deep."

By deep, Tangmo is talking in the range of 380 to 390 yards. The long hitters use drivers with shafts in the 48- to 50-inch range. Some clubs reach 65 inches.

Also, accuracy does count. The drives have to land and stay within a 40-yard wide "fairway."

"A lot of people denigrate long drive competition because the guys don't putt, but these guys are passionate about golf," tournament director Gary Winters said. "A number of them are good players, not quite tour caliber but good, scratch golfers."

One of those golfers, Jamie Chandler, was good enough to make a hole-in-one on the 195-yard No. 8 hole Thursday evening. He used a 7-iron.

The weekend event, which opens at 6:30 a.m. today and runs all day, is open to the public free of charge. The finals are set for approximately 3 p.m. Saturday.

"It has a lot of crowd appeal," Winters said. "It's quick. You don't walk around the golf course half a day. It feeds the American need for immediate gratification and bigger is better."

Winters said 16 of the top 25 long hitters in the world, including one from South Africa, will play this weekend for the first-place prize of $6,500. The entry fee was $250 per player for the double-elimination tournament with a match-play format.

"It's much more mano a mano," Winters said. "There's a lot of one-upmanship, and 'I can hit it further than you.' This a type of sport that appeals to people like a home run derby or slam dunk contest."

Among the Long Drive entries is Michael Hooper, a three-time world champion in 1996-98.

All golfers must complete hitting six balls within a five-minute span. Also, golfers must use the same ball -- Pinnacle's Titanium Extreme.

"Everything must conform to United States Golf Assn. standards," Winters said.

Winters said the golfers could be challenged if winds continue to blow in their face like they were on Thursday evening.

"The winds are coming from the north and that's going to knock us down," Winters said. "Normally we'd have a south wind. Even if the wind is in the face, you'll still see big drives, bigger than 99.9 percent of the golfers in the world can hit it."

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