DESTIN, Fla. - Watching Brian Pavlet hit a golf ball is like watching Babe Ruth or Barry Bonds smash a baseball.
You can't help but marvel at their strength and power. The 6-foot-4 Pavlet is one of the game's greatest sluggers.
As he tees up his next shot during a clinic at the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, I train my eyes in on his ball. If you're not paying attention, in a split second, that ball will disappear into the stratosphere.
It takes off so fast, I lose the ball instantly off his club. The few who can actually track its flight, watch it land somewhere over the building that houses the golf school roughly 365 yards away.
"He flew (the building) by 10 or 15 feet," said Sandestin's golf sales and marketing manager Craig Falanga, who was one of the many witnesses that day. "He hit it 365, and we are at or below sea level. That's a 400-yard drive. He hits the ball so far, you lose it. If it's not a nice day, you really can't see it."
Welcome to the power game, Pavlet style. Since winning his first world long drive championship in 1993, the Arizona resident has been wowing clients with his clinics for more than a decade.
He estimates he hosts 50 to 70 corporate events a year. His clinics showcase his power, but he's also an outstanding trick artist. He blasts balls through phone books and plywood. He hits mini-drivers and putters 250 yards. He hits balls off of four-foot tees and blasts balls he tosses into the air.
"No matter where you go, people all want the same thing," Pavlet said. "They want to see something get broke. What I try to do mostly is let people enjoy it and laugh. I want them to have a good time."
Pavlet's personality and sense of humor usually add to the fun. He never takes himself too seriously.
During the outing on Sandestin's Raven Golf Course after the clinic, Pavlet hit a 605-yard par-5 in two - with a driver and 7-iron. On the ensuing par-3, he attempts to hit the par-3 by throwing a golf ball. He tries again and again before his arm begins to give out. His score isn't important. Entertaining the crowd is.
"The PGA Tour players are celebrities, but the long drive guys are like rock stars," Falanga said. "They do it bigger, faster and harder than anybody else."
And longer. Maybe more impressive than how far Pavlet hits the ball is how long he's been able to sustain his success.
Pavlet didn't start playing golf until his college years at Nevada-Reno. A shoulder injury ended his baseball career, beginning his foray into golf. Although he hasn't won another championship since 1993, he's still ranked fifth among the world's longest hitters at age 37.
A sub-par showing at the 2004 ReMax Long Drive Championship has motivated him for one more run at the title, if he can shake his nagging elbow tendonitis. He's been the first loser too many times, finishing second in 1999 and 2001 and third in 1997 and 2002. His 435-yard blast in 1997 still ranks as the longest at the world championships.
"I have shown my consistency," said Pavlet, a member of the Pinnacle Distance team. "I'm very happy and proud that I've been able to stay near the top so long. When I competed, we had the best ever out there. Jason Zuback was the best. To be competing when he did and to know that I was close to his level, that's incredible.
"I would like to win it again. If I'm able to, I will have shown my consistency was even greater."
He's proud to see that long drive competitions are gaining in popularity, even though the advances in equipment have leveled the playing field, allowing more and more amateurs to compete with the big-name bangers.
He believes more TV coverage and a change in the rules will continue to improve his sport's image. He said long drive competitions will begin following United States Golf Association rules that don't allow shafts to be longer than 48 inches.
He's tired of people believing he's just a gorilla who can't play golf and can only hit the ball far with juiced equipment. He's a pretty good player himself who still holds the course record at the scenic and spectacular Wolf Creek Golf Club in Henderson, Nev.
"We are more of an extreme sport than anything else," Pavlet said of long drive. "We will always have that (image problem) to a certain degree. Wherever we go, people think we can't play golf (because we use illegal equipment).
"Now that everything we use is a standard club, that should help us dramatically.
February 20, 2005
Simply select where you want to play, find a tee time deal, and golf now!