Local long drivers head to championships


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Grip it and rip it! That is the essence of long drive. Five Bay Area golfers have been bombing away at the Pleasanton Golf Center, getting set for the Remax Long Drive Championships next week, just outside Las Vegas.

In this event, you go big or you go home.

"This isn't golf, this is like a tractor pull. It's definitely not golf, so it's trying to hit the ball as hard as you humanly can," said Gary Rodrigues, a long drive competitor.

John Kikes has been ranked as high as 5th in the world in long drive. They call him the "Greek Gorilla." Kikes is a former competitive body builder who looks like he bench presses Volkswagens in his spare time, but there's a lot more to long drive than just showing up like the Incredible Baulk.

"You've got to have a good balance and those hands have to be fast for the swing speed," says Kikes.

And you need attitude. It actually helps to show up and show up angry.

"There's borderline violence and rage that has to take place. You can't be nonchalant and go up there and take a swing," says Tomislav Kralj, the "Croatian Crusher."

Vince Howell is an absolute beast in long drive. Some of these balls look like they're going to be picked up on Russian radar. When asked what was the longest ball he ever hit was Howell replies, "In competition 462 yards."

Just to give you some perspective, Tiger Woods' average drive this year on tour was a measly 298 yards.

"When you put a long driver together with a tour player, the results are astonishing. I mean anywhere from 20 to 60 yards the long drivers would outdrive the tour players. It's amazing," says Eric Jones, a long drive competitor.

"In this area, Tiger wouldn't be Tiger. He'd be like the guy on the Frosted Flakes box, Tony," says Kikes.

Check out Wayne Freedman's Northern California Golf Guide

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