Pro Long Drivers on TV
ULTIMATE LONG DRIVE NEWS:
Long drive action for the Xtreme Long Drive professionals at Crush the Canyon on April 17 in Mesquite, NV is available from LONG DRIVE TV. If you missed the action, click here for the full coverage (10 hours 45 minutes) of XLD Tour World Challenge Event including the Men's Open, Women's Open, Masters Division, Seniors Division, and Super Seniors Division.
History of Pro Long Drive on TV
As a standalone sport, professional long drive began in the mid-70s with the branding genius of two-time champion Art Sellinger. Art and others saw a diamond in the rough and formed the Long Drivers of America. LDA encouraged competitors, promoters, and fans to embrace this new vision for pro long drivers on TV. Moreover, long drivers were now marketed as extreme athletes who focused on building the strength, mental discipline, and coordination needed to consistently drive the ball 450-yards (or longer). in addition, Sellinger felt the event format needed to encourage rowdy fans in the grandstands to root for big hitters the same as at other X-Games events... plenty of bright lights, beer, and loud music. In other words, made for TV.
Pro Long Drivers Appear on Today Show
In 1991, a rookie long ball hitter named John Daly exploded onto the scene after winning the 73rd PGA Championship at Crooked Stick Golf Club. As the event’s final alternate, Daly drove through the night to claim his starting spot and won the event without having played a practice round. His powerful swing, non-country club appearance, and controversial attitude was right in line with Sellinger’s newly branded image of extreme pro long drivers. Nicknamed “Long John”, Daly was often seen exiting his motorhome in the mornings with a clear plastic cup of beer in one hand and a lit cigarette in the other. Nonetheless, he had game... and became the first PGA Tour player to average more than 300 yards per drive over a full season. He did so again in every year from 1999 to 2008. Pinnacle connected the dots and paired Long John with Sellinger’s Pinnacle Distance Posse (himself, Brian Pavlet, Brian Nash, and Jason Zuback) for a series of TV commercials. Moreover, the Posse would make TV history with a live appearance on the Today Show.
Golf Channel Changed How Fans Consume the Game
A 24-hour golf channel was the brainchild of Alabama businessman Joe Gibbs and his Hall of Fame partner Arnold Palmer. With the birth of The Golf Channel, the idea of televised long drive events appealed to NBC’s new-concept network. Suddenly, global interest in long drive events was on the rise. Under the guidance of Art Sellinger and title sponsor RE/MAX, World Long Drive Championships were, not only on TV, these competitive LDA events excited and entertained the cable network’s fan base. As part of the broadcast deal, October became the “Long Drive Month” on The Golf Channel. The season culminated with two nights of live primetime coverage from the 2013 World Long Drive Championship. For the first time, the final eight qualifiers in the Men’s Open division would compete under the lights from an elevated tee box high above the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
WLD finalists Tim Burke and Englishman Joe Miller each got six drives, over two rounds of three shots apiece, with the longest shot that stayed within a 50-yard-wide grid counting toward their world championship score. The big hitters did not disappoint. As fans watched on live TV, Burke went 414 yards in the quarter final, 416 yards in the semi-final, and set a RE/MAX world long drive record at 427 yards in the championship round to claim his first World Long Drive Championship. In 2015, NBC’s major cable network provider Comcast acquired the rights to the long drive championship and re-branded the series as the World Long Drive Association (WLD). Two years later, Maurice Allen won the Mile High Showdown in Denver, which included a televised quarter-final blast of 483 yards that was seen live in prime time. After the WLD world championship finals were moved to the WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, OK, pro long drivers on TV were regularly seen on The Golf Channel through the 2019 World Long Drive Championship.
COVID-19 Impacts WLD Championship Season
When the coronavirus hit the United States in March of 2020, many of the world’s longest hitters were sent scrambling with upsetting changes to travel schedules and notices of WLDA event postponements. Since the acquisition of World Long Drive by The Golf Channel, the concept of pro long drivers on TV had seen rapid growth with global interest in helping the sport become mainstream. Nonetheless, while most local golf courses and product-related businesses were enjoying record sales during the COVID-19 Pandemic, TV ratings for the PGA Championship, U.S. Open, and Masters dropped dramatically in 2020. Although promoters, sponsors, and players jumped onboard to reschedule many golf events that were usually broadcast in spring and summer, competing with sports that are normally televised in the fall and winter would prove tougher than expected. By mid-summer, The Golf Channel’s headquarters in Florida were closed and pro long drivers around the globe received notice that the World Long Drive Association’s world championship series was permanently shutdown. Since the costs of television coverage relied heavily on sponsorship, pro long drivers on TV will likely look a lot different, as everyone begins to recover from the pandemic.
PLD TV Founded to Support World Long Drive
There is no doubt that the sport has gained serious momentum as a niche market, In fact, the United States Golf Association recognizes amateur and professional long drive as a Golf Skills Challenge. Moreover, the USGA provides the governance over long drive’s rules, equipment, and amateur versus professional status. PLD TV was founded to support World Long Drive by helping to provide media exposure and coverage for the niche market of pro long drivers. We feel there is sufficient evidence to speculate on market growth, especially for the additional pipeline of long drive-specific products, such as specialty equipment and training aids. Like so many industries impacted by coronavirus, the future of long drive will have to face many post-pandemic challenges and make innovative adjustments to determine "what is the new normal". Routine televised long drive events were changed forever with the downsizing of The Golf Channel. However, the growth of social media and online streaming during stay-at-home orders certainly provides ample new opportunities where PLD TV can help fill the void.