There were some heavy hitters on the line at Pheasant Glen Golf Resort last weekend, as 40 golfers from as far away as Ontario turned out for a RE/MAX World Long Drive Championship regional qualifier.
It is believed to be the first time a regional qualifier for the long-running competition, which dates back to 1994, has been held on the Island, and punching his ticket to the World Championships, slated for Mesquite, Nevada, Sept. 19-27, was Qualicum Beach’s own Tom Freeman.
Married with two kids, Freeman, 53, read about the qualifier and went to ‘the Glen to watch, with no intention of participating, but signed up with a little prompting on the part of organizers and ended up finishing first in the seniors division.
“The guys running it were very supportive so I thought I’d give it a go, there’s no real pressure or anything, you just hit some balls,” Freeman said Sunday.
Freeman paid the $40, which gives each golfer six balls to whack.
In World Long Drive qualifying there is a grid set up 50 yards wide and the golfers’ ball must land in the grid to count.
“My biggest thing is I just wanted to get one in the grid, if you don’t the length doesn’t count, I got my first one in the grid and then I was away. You don’t want to hit six balls out of the grid,” he chuckled, pointing out “that would be embarrassing.”
The event ran last Friday through Sunday, and Freeman qualified for Sunday’s finals Saturday afternoon with a drive of 285 yards, and won his senior division with a 280.
Sunday he said “had a bit of a wind blowing into you and across, but it was the same for everybody, you have to definitely adjust, you can’t just wind up and whale.
In the qualifier they get six balls with their longest drive counting. In the semi finals — there were three in his group — it’s double knockout head to head.
In the final against an opponent who made the trip from Edmonton, “he actually hit a ball that went 279 and it was rolling a long ways and I thought he might get past me, but it stopped a yard short so that was kind’a nice.
“It felt great (to win),” he chuckled.
“I like golf generally, and I like watching the long drive stuff, it kind of fascinates me,” he said, adding “I’ve just never entered an event before — I’m a bit of a lasher; I like lashing at the ball hard, like most people.
“I’m planning on going down, just for the experience,” he confirmed when asked if he’ll be taking his swing to finals, pointing out Mesquite “is like the shrine of long drive golf and all the big names are there. I just think it would be a lot of fun.”
From what he’s read he says he expecrts there will be between 40 and 50 golfers in the senior’s category.
The drive he qulified with he said is a stock 45” driver, “but now I want to get a specialty long drive driver,” which retail for between $400 and $600 for a good one.
As the newly crowned regional champ Freeman was presented a skookum keepsake crystal trophy.
“Great weekend,” event co-organizer Matt Leslie from Victoria offered from the sidelines Sunday, adding “Pheasant Glen is a perfect venue for this event and we’re looking at bringing it back here next year . . . making it an annual event.”
Both of the Open event qualifiers — Leslie, and Jesse Pettersen — are from Victoria. Leslie won the championship by coming through the winners’ bracket with a drive of 345 yards, while Pettersen had to come through the back door to claim the second qualifying spot with a weekend best drive of 352 yards.
“I thought it was great,” PGGR head pro Gord Melissa said after it was over. “They were very well organized and very appreciative to have the facility available to them. It was lots of fun — it was just great to bring a different energy to the golf club.”
For those following along at home, the reason that Pheasant Glen was chosen to host the long drive qualifier “is because we’re the only course on the Island, maybe even the west coast, whose driving range is long enough to handle the big hitters.”