Some of the top drivers in the world gripped and ripped for yards and yards at Eagle Bend Golf Club's driving range on Friday.
Golfers from across the country and one from South Africa were bashing drives more than 350 yards as part of the Great Plains Long Drive Championship.
"These are the biggest hitters in the world," said local long driver Randy Tangmo, the tournament host. "Just being among your peers and the greatest hitters in the world ... the adrenalin is flowing, I guarantee it."
Bart Hartsell unleashed the top drive a blast of 359 yards, 1 foot, 4 inches heading into this morning's quarterfinals. Hartsell, a Greeneville, Tenn., resident, placed third last year at the world long drive tournament.
The 55 drivers at the Great Plains event had to hit six balls within a five-minute span. Also, the drives had to land in a 40-yard grid.
Charles Hartley delivered on his sixth and final attempt with a 358-yard, 9-inch drive second to Hartsell's gargantuan blast.
"I was a little nervous," Hartley said following the clutch drive. "If you watch some of the people teeing up the balls, their hand is shaking. It's pretty nerveracking."
Hartley, a 27-year-old from Macon, Ga., was lured to Lawrence for several reasons.
"The host sent me a letter, it's a good first-place prize (approximately $6,500) and my grandparents live in Kansas (Seneca)," Hartley said.
The 6-foot Hartley, a solid 189 pounds, has participated in long-drive events for two years. It didn't take long for him to realize he needed to tone up to hang with the big drivers.
"I started working out last year after coming to these events and seeing some of the linebackers out here," he said with a laugh.
Hartley, who uses a driver with a 48-inch shaft, is hooked on long-drive competition.
"A lot of people don't know about it," he said. "I think it'd be a really good sport if it'd be properly marketed and pushed in certain areas. It's really fun. It's like home run derby for golf."
Tangmo missed qualifying for today's quarterfinals. His best drive was 331 yards, 5 inches.
Regardless, Tangmo remained in awe of the field.
"They're swinging between 140 and165 mph," Tangmo said. "Those are some serious swing speeds."
Adriaan van Rensburg racked up some serious miles. He came to Eagle Bend from South Africa.
"It's quite exciting doing this," said van Rensburg, who normally averages 345 yards but was hindered by a breeze from the north. "It makes it tough when the wind is blowing in your face."
The quarterfinals are set for 10 a.m. today. The finals, a four-man, 10-ball shootout, are set for approximately 3 p.m.