History of Long Drive

  • History Of Long Drive

History of Pro Long Drive 

The World Long Drive Championship has been a part of the golf landscape dating back to 1976, which was the first year the championship event was contested. Since then, the event has moved around some, with a long-time home in Mesquite, Nevada, before moving to the Winstar World Casino and Resort in Oklahoma starting in 2015. Evan "Big Cat" Williams won the first two contests. Art Sellinger, eventual owner of the Long Drivers of America, won two, in 1986 and 1991. Jason Zuback dominated the sport, winning six titles, including four in a row from 1996-1999. Sean Fister has won three times. Jamie Sadlowski, Tim Burke and Carl Wolter have two titles each.

PGA Championship - Pro Long Drivers Events

  • 1949 – Chick Harbert 340 yards
  • 1963 – Jack Nicklaus 341 yards
  • 1964 – Jack Nicklaus 357 yards
  • 1974 – Evan Williams 366 yards
  • 1975 – Jeoff Long  322 yards
  • 2014 – Louis Oosthuizen 340 yards
  • 2015 – Anirban Lahiri 327 yards
  • 2016 – Byeong-Hun An 347 yards
  • 2017 – Justin Kokrah 321 yards
  • 2018 – Byrson DeChambeau 331 yards
  • 2019 – Max Home 318 yards
  • 2020 – COVID-19

Although you would have to think that many side bets were made between golfers dating back to the origin of the sport, the PGA Championship Long Drive Competition started in 1949 at Hermitage Country Club in Richmond, Virginia. When Chick Harbert step to the tee box on the designated hole, he was looking for one big swing to launch a towering drive while staying in the fairway. Harbert’s 300-plus yard drive earned his a spot in the history of long drive as the first winner of a PGA Long Drive event. Harbert would go on to win his first and only major event five years later at the PGA Championship. The long drive competition became a popular contest conducted on Tuesdays during Championship weeks but was not contested every year. In 1963, the Golden Bear put his stamp on the history of long drive winning the PGA Championship long drive competition at Dallas Athletic Club. Jack Nicklaus ripped a 341-yard tee shot with a permission driver and wound golf ball. He also won the PGA Championship that same year. At the 1974 PGA Championship Long Drive Competition, Evan “Big Cat” Williams set the record for the PGA event with a 366-yard tee shot at Tanglewood Golf Club in Clemmons, North Carolina.

Rebranding World Long Drive

Beginning in 1976, South Korean golf equipment manufacturer Volvik became the major sponsor for an annual long drive event that would decide the world’s the longest golf drivers. Events were initially scheduled early in the week in conjunction with the PGA Championship. In 1995, the Long Drivers of America (LDA) was established and a Master’s Division was added a year later to add to the history of long drive by allowing pro long drivers over the age of 45 to compete. In 2000, the LDA added a Women’s Division to the world championship schedule of events. A little over a dozen years later, NBC Sports Group founded the Golf Channel, and the new-concept network began airing LDA championship events. Two years later the franchise was purchased by Comcast and became the World Long Drive Association and the World Championship event in 2015 was relocated from Nevada to WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Oklahoma. Somewhere along the way, the sport became filled with elite athletes and to become PDLA World Champion went from 350-yard winning drives to seeing competitors needing consistent drives above 450-yards.

Men's Open Division

  • 1976 – Evan Williams 316 yards
  • 1977 – Evan Williams 353 yards
  • 1978 – John McComish 330 yards
  • 1979 – Andy Franks 314 yards
  • 1980 – Scott DeCandia 295 yards
  • 1981 – Lon Hinkle 338 yards
  • 1982 – Andy Franks 346 yards
  • 1983 – Terry Forcum 307 yards
  • 1984 – Wedgy Winchester 319 yards
  • 1985 – Dennis Paulson 323 yards
  • 1986 – Art Sellinger 311 yards
  • 1987 – Mike Gorton 318 yards
  • 1988 – Jim Maynard 334 yards
  • 1989 – Scott DeCandia 327 yards
  • 1990 – Frank Miller 328 yards
  • 1991 – Art Sellinger 326 yards
  • 1992 – Monte Scheinblum 329 yards
  • 1993 – Brian Pavlet 336 yards
  • 1994 – Darryl Anderson 345 yards
  • 1995 – Sean Fister 326 yards
  • 1996 – Jason Zuback 351 yards
  • 1997 – Jason Zuback 412 yards
  • 1998 – Jason Zuback 361 yards
  • 1999 – Jason Zuback 376 yards
  • 2000 – Viktor Johansson 315 yards
  • 2001 – Sean Fister 376 yards
  • 2002 – Carl Wolter 384 yards
  • 2003 – Clayton Burger 402 yards
  • 2004 – David Mobley 377 yards
  • 2005 – Sean Fister 377 yards
  • 2006 – Jason Zuback 368 yards
  • 2007 – Mike Dobbyn 385 yards
  • 2008 – Jamie Sadlowski 418 yards

Masters Division

  • 1996 – Michael Hooper 333 yards
  • 1997 – Michael Hooper 371 yards
  • 1998 – Michael Hooper 354 yards
  • 1999 – Fred Hooter 352 yards
  • 2000 – Mike Gorton 310 yards
  • 2001 – Ted Fostey 357 yards
  • 2002 – Pat Dempsey 342 yards
  • 2003 – Eric Jones 381 yards
  • 2004 – Bobby Wilson 360 yards
  • 2005 – Gerry James 366 yards
  • 2006 – Gerry James 378 yards
  • 2007 – Frank Miller 394 yards
  • 2008 – Dan Boever 366 yards
  • 2009 – Bobby Wilson 374 yards
  • 2010 – George Slupski 389 yards
  • 2011 – David Mobley 459 yards
  • 2012 – Eric Lastowka 355 yards
  • 2013 – Stephen Kennedy 369 yards

Women's Open Division

  • 2000 – Stacey Shinnick 249 yards
  • 2001 – Lee Brandon 291 yards
  • 2002 – Stacey Shinnick 292 yards
  • 2003 – Nancy Abiecunas 332 yards
  • 2004 – Sally Dee 287 yards
  • 2005 – Stacey Shinnick 311 yards
  • 2006 – Phillis Meti 326 yards
  • 2007 – Sheila Kelliher 329 yards
  • 2008 – Lana Lawless 245 yards
  • 2009 – N/A

*Justin James hit the longest Official Drive in WLDA World Championship final round. But, Maurice Allen (2018 WLD Champion) hit the longest confirmed drive in WLD competition with a 483-yard blast at the Mile High Showdown in Denver during his quarterfinal round. 

Pro Long Drivers Faced with a Pandemic

On today's pro long drive stage, adrenaline-drenched pro long drivers compete in the Men’s Open, Women’s Open, and Master’s Division under the bright lights with packed grandstands. Although a few of the early qualifiers for the 2020 World Long Drive events scheduled for 2020 received permission from state health agencies and were contested, the coronavirus pandemic played havoc with the history of long drive upending tournament plans and the conducting of competitive events for the bulk of the season. Moreover, as the spread of COVID-19 accelerated, the increase in travel restrictions and requirements placed on event organizers, officials, and competitors caused the remainder of the season to be put on hold. It should be noted, out of respect for the pro long drivers from the European Long Drive Games (ELDA) and long drivers from other countries who were not allowed to travel due to the pandemic, none of the sanctioning organizations crowned a 2020 World Champion. The 2020 U.S. National Long Drive Championship was was won by Kyle Berkshire. Visit KYLE LD for a sneak peak at Berkshire's powerful swing.

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Video Gallery - The History of Long Drive

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