Long Drivers of America (LDA)

  • Long Drivers of America

Long Drivers of America (LDA)

As far back as 1949, long drive events were conducted in conjunction with the PGA Championship. Although not played ever year, the PGA Championship Long Drive Competition quickly became a fan favorite as the game’s elite golfers “gripped it” and “ripped it” on a designated hole during actual tournament play. Jack Nicklaus (the Golden Bear) won the PGA event at Dallas Athletic Club in 1963 and repeated his win in 1964 in front of his hometown crowd at Columbus Country Club. A decade later, a new type of long driver was emerging and, in 1974, the sport of long drive created a National Long Drive championship dedicated to world’s biggest hitters. That is when the game’s first Renaissance Man, PGA pro Evan “Big Cat” Williams, used his 6-foot 6-inch frame combined with his body-building skills to win the National Long Drive event with a 366-yard drive at Tanglewood Golf Course in NC. Jeoff Long, an amateur long driver from Fort Mitchell KY, won the 1975 event recording a 322-yard drive at Butler National outside Chicago. Nonetheless, Big Cat had redefined the formula for achieving distance in golf and became the sport’s ambassador after back-to-back pro long drive championships in 1976 and 1977. Long drive grew in worldwide popularity as Williams would conduct exhibitions in 45 states and 26 countries around the globe.

Fireworks, Bright Lights & Primal Appeal

When Art Sellinger created the Long Drivers of America (LDA), he had a different vision of what long drive competitions should look like. Sellinger, who had won two world long driving championships in 1986 and 1991, had a vision of how much better the sport of pro long drive could be. Weeks after Sean “the Beast” Fister won the 1995 RE/MAX World Long Drive Championship, which was run by Golf Digest, Sellinger put his ideas in motion to position long drivers as an X-Games version of golf by featuring extreme athletes. He believed having these physically formidable long drivers put on a show under the bright lights with music and fireworks would have a primal appeal to blue-collar fans that didn’t identify with PGA Tour golfers and course marshals who demanded silence before every shot. LDA long drive competitions would allow fans to drink beer and "hoot and holler" for a new wave of big men and women cranking the ball as far as humanly possible. Male and female competitors were announced to the tee with primal nicknames like the Beast (Sean Fister), Golfzilla (Jason Zuback), and the Blonde Bomber (Lee Brandon).

New Home at Mesquite Nevada

Long Drivers of America gave the sport a new home for the World Long Drive Championship finals, which moved to Mesquite NV. ESPN became the first sports network to broadcast the WLDC championship events. The standalone sport of pro long drive continued to attract many new athletes who would train and prepare for year-round competitions. Although some of the professional long ball hitters crossed-over from the collegiate and PGA golf ranks, other athletes like:

  • Sean Fister (a decathlete at University of Florida)
  • Brian Nash (a tight end at Liberty University)
  • Jerry James (competitive body builder and pro wrestler)
  • Lee Brandon (first woman NFL strength coach for the Jets)
  • Ryan Reisbeck (pitcher University of Utah)
  • Will Hogue (homerun hitter Austin Peay)
  • Maurice Allen (wide receiver University of South Florida)
  • Jamie Sadlowski (Canadian hockey player)
  • Jeff Flagg (first baseman with New York Mets minor league team)
  • Ryan Steenberg (football player at Ithaca College)
  • Tim Burke (pitcher University of Miami)
  • Pat Dempsey (catcher for Oakland A's)

LDA's annual schedule of events included three levels of competition starting with local and district qualifiers scheduled for the spring and summer months that would lead up to the championship week scheduled for October at the Palms Golf Course in Mesquite. In 2006, the Texas-based LDA announced the RE/MAX World Long Drive Championship would be $500,000 with the sport’s largest payout of $125,000 going to the winner of the men’s open division.

"Zuback Years" (1472 Days Without a Loss) 

The big hitters of the LDA provided fans a chance to witness athletes who could generate swing speeds in excess of 150 mph and ball speeds of 220 mph or more. In 1996, an unknown Canadian pharmacist Ryan Zuback from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, arrived on the scene and claimed the first of his record six World Long Drive Championships. Swede Sandra Carlborg won a record five titles in the Women's Division. Zuback’s path to competitive long drive advanced through local and regional qualifiers, but at one point the golfer nicknamed “Golfzilla” would go a record 1472 days without a loss in LDA-sanctioned long drive competition. As an original member of the Pinnacle Distance Posse with Art Sellinger, Brian Nash, and Brian Pavlet, the sport suddenly had an international star that appeared worldwide on television programs and golf commercials.

Golf Digest – World Long Drive Championship

  • MEN’S OPEN DIVISION
  • 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
  • 2009 – Jamie Sadlowski 384 yards
  • 2010 – Joe Miller 414 yards
  • 2011 – Carl Wolter 409 yards
  • 2012 – Ryan Winther 343 yards
  • MASTER’S OPEN 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
  • WOMEN’S 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
  • 2010 – N/A
  • 2011 – Sandra Carlborg 285 yards
  • 2012 – Sandra Carlborg 339 yards

In 1997, Zuback became the first LDA WLD champion inducted into the 400-yard Plus Club. Over the next two decades six more champions, including Clayton Burger in 2003 at 402 yards, Jamie Sadlowski in 2008 at 418 yards, Joe Miller in 2010 at 414 yards, Carl Wolter in 2011 at 409 yards, Tim Burke in 2013 at 427 yards, Kyle Berkshire in 2019 at 406 yards, and Justin James’ record-breaking drive of 435 yards in 2017. The 400 Plus Club also features three (3) two-time winners with Jamie Sadlowski going back-to-back in 2008 and 2009, Joe Miller winning in 2010 and 2016 and Tim Burke taking the honors in 2013 and 2015.

The Golf Channel - RE/MAX World Long Drive Championship

The Golf Channel and NBC Sports Group inked an agreement in 2013 with the LDA and the RE/MAX World Long Drive Championship. As part of the deal, October would become the “Long Drive Month” on the Golf Channel culminating with two nights of primetime coverage from the 2013 World Long Drive Championship. Working closely with the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Bureau, the 2013 championship for the final eight qualifiers in the men’s open division was broadcast from the Las Vegas Motor Speedway for a winner-take-all $250,000 championship event. 27-year-old Tim 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 final round against Englishman Joe Miller. In addition to its sanctioned schedule in the North America, global events were officially sanctioned by World Long Drive Association international partners, which included stops in Germany, Japan, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.

Golf Channel & LDA – RE/MAX World Championship Series

  • MEN’S OPEN DIVISION
  • 2013 – Tim Burke 427 yards
  • 2014 – Jeff Flagg 365 yds
  • MASTER’S OPEN DIVISION
  • 2013 – Stephen Kennedy 369 yards
  • 2014 – Jeff Gavin 384 yards
  • WOMEN’S DIVISION
  • 2013 – - Heather LeMaster 306 yards
  • 2014 – Sandra Carlborg 332 yards

Top-Flite, who manufacturers and sells golf balls, golf clubs, golf bags, and a variety of golf accessories, came on board as the LDA’s official tournament ball. After six drives in the final round of the 2014 championship match, 29-year old Jeff Flagg and 43-year-old Jeff Crittenden (Extreme Long Drive Tour) waited anxiously for an exact measurement to break a tie. Flagg’s drive bested Crittenden by a mere 13 inches. The shortest margin of victory in the history of the RE/MAX World Drive Championship competition.

WinStar Casino & Resort at Thackerville, OK

In 2015 Comcast acquired the franchise, re-branding it as the World Long Drive Association. In addition, the World Championship moved from its location in Nevada to the WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Okla.Originally, LDA World Long Drive Champions were crowned in only four adult divisions for Men’s Open, Senior (45-54), super senior (55+), and Women’s Open.

Volvik World Long Drive Championship

  • MEN’S OPEN DIVISION
  • 2015 – Tim Burke 427 yards
  • 2016 – Joe Miller 423 yards
  • 2017 – Justin James 435 yards*
  • 2018 – Maurice Allen 393 yards
  • 2019 – Kyle Berkshire 406 yards
  • MASTER’S OPEN DIVISION
  • 2015 – Jason Zuback 339 yards
  • 2016 – Tom Peppard 347 yards
  • 2017 – Jeff Crittenden 363 yards
  • 2018 – Eddie Fernandes 373 yards
  • 2019 – Jeff Crittenden 388 yards
  • WOMEN’S DIVISION
  • 2015 – Sandra Carlborg 321 yards
  • 2016 – Phillis Meti 310 yards
  • 2017 – Sandra Carlborg 320 yards
  • 2018 – Phillis Meti 317 yards
  • 2019 – Chloe Garner 347 yards
 

*Longest Official Drive in WLDA World Championship Final Round.

World Long Drive Association (WLD) crowned seven champions at the 2015 World Long Drive Championship: open men and women’s, senior men’s (45+), super senior men’s (50+), grand champions men’s (55+), legends men’s (60+) and masters men’s (65+).  In 2017, South Korean golf ball manufacturer Volvik became the new title sponsor of the annual World Long Drive Championship. Previously only the Men’s Open Division championship was televised, but in 2017 the Golf Channel aired new events, including the Women's Division, which was showcased LIVE for the first time, and a new match-play format that was introduced for the men’s division.

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