I don’t often feel nervous, but when I do, it’s usually for a good reason.
In fact, it takes a lot to shake my emotions, but at 4 a.m. just before the 2022 Women’s Long Distance World Championship, my thoughts were overwhelming.
I’ve been to long distance events before, but nothing has come close to the scale of this one. This was not a typical long drive competition format, but a format to make it an official list of the top 32 female long drive competitors in the world.
I had the honor of traveling to Japan last week for the championship organized by the Professional Long Drivers Association and the Japan Professional Dracon Association.
The event was held at Nasu Ogawa Golf Club in Nakagawa-cho, Japan from September 7-9.
And the stock market? It was a colossal sum of $100,000 – the largest in the history of women’s long drives. Once 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 Japanese culture and each of our rooms had floor pillows for sleeping. It’s not the most ideal sleeping situation for athletes who weren’t used to traditional accommodations, but we adapted quickly. They fed us traditional Japanese food and had kimonos to wear for dinner.
The competition format was a round robin where each player had 2:30 to hit six golf balls. The objective was to get three of the six balls into the 60 yard wide grid. Each player would get points based on how well they finished their four-player games.
This format has disadvantaged many players. Long distance competitors practice hitting the ball as fast and as far as possible. Having to get three out of six balls into the grid required players to change their swings to hit into the grid every time. This has considerably reduced the distances,
For example, if a player was 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 has beaten former world champions such as Phillis Meti and Sandra Carlborg.
Japanese contender Sara Owada won the competition with an average of 258.7 yards in the final game. These numbers disappointed many long-distance competitors, as the format did not reflect the true nature of the sport.
I didn’t make it to day two, but the experience was amazing – the opportunity to compete in Japan and experience the wonderful culture and food was an experience I will never forget.