I don’t find myself nervous often, but when I do it’s typically for a good reason.
In fact, it takes a lot to shake up my emotions, but at 4 o’clock in the morning just prior to the 2022 Ladies World Long Drive Championship, my thoughts were overwhelming.
I’ve competed in long drive events before, but nothing came close to the magnitude of this one. This was not a typical long drive competition format, but one to make it into an official list of the top 32 female long drive competitors in the world.
I had the honor of traveling to Japan this last week for the championship hosted by Professional Long Drivers Association and Japan Professional Dracon Association.
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The event was held at Nasu Ogawa Golf Club in Nakagawa-cho, Japan, from Sept. 7-9.
And the purse? It was a whopping $100,000 — the largest in women’s long drive history. Again, the nerves were justified.
Upon arrival, a shuttle picked us up and took us to the Nanpeidai Onset Hotel, near the course. The JPDA wanted us to experience the Japanese culture and each of our rooms had cushions on the floor to sleep on. Not the most ideal sleeping situation for athletes who weren’t used to the traditional accommodations, but we adjusted quickly. They fed us traditional Japanese cuisine and had kimonos for us to wear to dinner.
The format for the competition was a round-robin where each player had 2:30 to hit six golf balls. The goal was to get three out of the six balls in the 60-yard wide grid. Each player would get points based on how they finished within their games of four players.
This format put many players at a disadvantage. Long drive competitors train to hit the ball as fast and far as possible. Having to get three out of six balls in the grid had players changing their swings to hit in the grid every time. This dropped distances significantly,
For example, if a player were to hit two 300-yard drives but another competitor hit three 230-yard drives, the player with three drives in the grid would win. This format defeated past world champions such as Phillis Meti and Sandra Carlborg.
Top 3 of the 2022 Ladies World Long Drive Championship. (JPDA)
Japanese competitor Sara Owada won the competition with an average of 258.7 yards in the final game. These numbers came as a disappointment to many long drive competitors as the format did not let the true nature of the sport shine.
I failed to make it to the second day, but the experience was incredible — the opportunity to compete in Japan and experience the wonderful culture and food was one I’ll never forget.
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