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Long ball champ is all about power

By Shane Sharp, Contributor

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Brian Pavlet is almost apologetic about the record-setting 435-yard drive he crushed at the 1997 Re/Max Long Drive Championship. It was downhill, downwind and rolled a country mile after landing on a driving range surface with all the cushion of an airport runway, he says.

Hey, no one feels cheated when the wind is blowing out at Pac Bell Park and Barry Bonds hits a 450-foot bomb into McCovey Cove. Why should the 35-year-old Pavlet feel the need to justify himself to us short-knockers?

His time would be better spent explaining how he hits the ball so far that it looks a sunflower seed held up against a bright blue sky before it plummets back down to earth like a discarded Space Shuttle engine.

And this is exactly what he does when he's not competing in long drive events. Pavlet owns and operates a successful corporate outings company out of his west Phoenix home, appropriately named "On.in.Two."

"My golf swing is very standard," Pavlet says, much to the disappointment of hackers expecting him to reveal some secret, long drive voodoo. "I don't go past parallel and I don't have an irregular takeaway. There are no little quirks in it that give me extra power."

The 6-4, 225-pound Pavlet generates most of his power by being 6-4, 225 pounds. His ball speed has been clocked at 196 mph. For those scoring at home, Eldrick Woods caps out around 186.

All conditions being equal, could Pavlet take Tiger off the tee?

"Let's put it this way," Pavlet says. "I would wax him off the tee and he would wax me right off the golf course."

In addition to his size, Pavlet's power also comes from his superhuman hand speed developed during countless hours on the baseball diamond. He was a pitcher for the University of Nevada-Reno until he blew out his shoulder hurling 90 plus mph fastballs.

Somehow, 90 doesn't seem so fast anymore when you can launch a golf ball through a 1 inch piece of plywood.

Pavlet's sport has moved up the respectability scale a few notches thanks in part to the Pinnacle Distance Challenge. He and six of his closest Titanium toting friends traveled to ten sites around the country this year to mix it up with amateur golfers.

The format was simple: the Pinnacle team member and the weekend warrior each hit four balls and the longest ball won. If the amateur caught one flush and came out victorious, he'd take home $10,000 and earn a trip to hit against John Daly in Mesquite, Nev.

Pavlet's record during the tour's inaugural year was 29-1, begging the question, "Who in the heck was responsible for the '1'?"

"Some guy from North Carolina, I think," says Pavlet, frighteningly unconcerned. "I hit four bad balls and hit one pretty good one 340 yards. That is all it takes. Some of these guys that show up at the Pinnacle Distance Challenge are big hitters trying to make their way to the championship."

In fact, when these not-so-sneaky-long amateurs did show up at Si Redd's Oasis driving range to hit against Daly, they stuck it to Big John by taking nine of 12 matches.

"Daly is the longest hitter on the PGA Tour and these guys that beat him and qualified for the championship usually don't make it past the first round against the professionals," says Pavlet. "We swing that much faster than PGA players. But they have their thing and we have ours. Theirs just pays better."

But Pavlet isn't just about the long ball. He doesn't fall apart in the fairways from 150 yards in, or get the yips on three-foot putts. He is a legit 3-handicap who enjoys finessing a 15-yard chip shot to within 6 inches of the cup just as much as he does ripping a 350-yard drive.

Yeah, right.

"My game is all about power and that is what I love," Pavlet says. "I play golf courses from as far back as I can and I take driver on every hole that I can. There's nothing worse than a par 5 that takes driver out of your hand. No one talks about the 30-foot par they sunk for par at the 19th Hole. Guys want to hit it a long way off the tee. You see what happened to that putting tour a while back and why the Long Drivers of America is successful."

Seeing, in this case, is believing.

Shane SharpShane Sharp, Contributor

Shane Sharp is vice president of Buffalo Communications, a golf and lifestyle media agency. He was a writer, senior writer and managing editor of TravelGolf.com from 1997 to 2003.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • long drive contest's

    willie holm wrote on: Jan 4, 2006

    I am looking for more information on how to and where to qualify for the long drive competitions I see on TV.
    I am an avid golfer and have always been long off the tee. The first time I saw this competition I knew I had to give it a shot.Please e-mail any kind of info on how to get more involved


    • RE: long drive contest's

      Ray wrote on: Feb 5, 2006

      go to longdrivers.com and follow the insructions to compete


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