It’s a golf sound you rarely hear. Imagine the noise when the metal clubhead of a guy nicknamed “Golfzilla” meets the hard plastic shell of a golf ball. The energy of that nearly 150-m.p.h. swing sends the golf ball tearing down the fairway so fast, it whistles as it goes by.
These are the sounds of power golf, the kind of power unleashed by professionals on the Long Drivers of America (LDA) Tour.
For two days next month you’ll not only get to hear but also witness some of the longest, jaw-dropping drives you’ve ever seen (and heard) at the Endless Summer Invitational, the first officially sanctioned LDA Tour event contested in Southern California at Alta Vista Country Club in Placentia.
The event June 10-11 will be a dream come true for Jeff Farley, 35, of Huntington Beach, an LDA Tour member whose prodigious drives have been long enough to earn entry eight consecutive years in the RE/MAX World Long Drive Championship, the Superbowl of long-drive events.
“I’ve always wanted people in Southern California to see one of these exciting competitions, but nobody’s stepped up to put on a tour event, so I figured why not me,” Farley said with as much nonchalance as he needs to hits 350 yard drives. The former Pepperdine golfer who played junior golf with Tiger Woods and college golf with Jason Gore turned to professional Long Drive events when the putts on the mini-tours wouldn’t fall for him.
Like most people, Farley loves the long ball.
“These guys coming to town hit the ball so hard, so high and so far, to really appreciate the power they display you have to see it live,” Farley said. “I just know if people come out they will get hooked.”
To make it even more fun “and to reach a more diverse crowd,” Farley and his producing partners are promising the Endless Summer Invitational will include much more than the grunts of 25 finalists competing for a $50,000 purse.
The Sunday schedule includes qualifying rounds in Corona followed by a black-tie gala at the Marconi Automotive Museum in Tustin. Monday features a ProAm at Alta Vista that leads into a tasty Top Chef Orange County competition, a scrumptious hors d’oeuvre to the real meat of the day, the Long Drive shootout.
The Long Drive Pros hope this becomes an annual stop on the LDA Tour. So does the man who started it.
Art Sellinger, CEO of the LDA, is thrilled. “This Endless Summer Invitational hits the three points we think draw crowds and make them want to come back; a quality venue, a quality field led by some big names on the tour, plus [Farley’s] been able to attract quality, high-level sponsors.” Added Sellinger: “And the event will support a wonderful cause.”
The Endless Summer will benefit Golfers Against Cancer, a grassroots, all-volunteer, 12-year-old national charity; Farley heads up the local chapter. “Too many people in my life have been stricken by this awful disease, and I wanted to do something,” Farley said. The designated beneficiaries this year are Children’s Hospital of Orange County Cancer Institute and the Cancer Center of Irvine.
A great deal of those funds will be generated by the gala Sunday evening, which the players attend. “It’s tough getting these guys to go black-tie, but they’re doing it,” Farley said with a chuckle.
A number of Long Drive Pros on the tour hail from Southern California, and you know they’ll be here for a purse in their own backyard. The field includes Farley, who’s finished as high as fifth in the world; Fred Groth from El Segundo; Pat Dempsey of Sunland, a former Senior Division World Long Drive Champion; and Vince Ciurluini of Los Angeles, last October’s runner up to Senior World Long Drive World Champion David Mobley, who also will compete.
The two in the Open Division you don’t want to miss are Mike Dobyn, 6-foot-8, 295 pounds, a former World Champion, and Jason “Golfzilla” Zuback, a five-time Open Division World Champion. Both have recorded drives longer than the par-5, 540-yard first hole of Alta Vista where the Shootout will take place.
Shorter holes can be a problem for Long Drive Professionals.
“Once, in a Pro-Am,” Farley said, “we came to a 320-yard hole at Pelican Hill. I only packed a driver that day, which was way too much club for the hole. So I got down on my knees to hit the drive. My partners said, ‘Hey, we’ve got a chance to win this thing; be serious.’ I told them this was the right shot for the hole.”
Yes, on his knees, Farley reached the green, “and I’ll never forget the look on their faces.”
Let’s face it, no matter the sport, power and distance sell. In baseball, it’s the home run. In basketball, it’s the dunk, In football, it’s the 99-yard bomb. If you want to see distance conquered and hear golf balls hit harder then you’ve ever heard before, the Endless Summer Invitational is for you.
For information on the Endless Summer Invitation, visit endlesssummeinvitational.com. Sponsorships, tickets to the gala and spots in the Pro-Am and the Top Chef OC competition are available - but not for long.