The Rockford Pro-Am golf tournament Monday had a field of pros that brought some PGA up-and-comers, some top LPGA players and one of the world’s longest drivers.
The field included Ken Duke the winner of this year’s Tournament Players Championship. There was Billy Hurley the third. He won the PGA’s Quicken Loans National in June. Martin Piller finished fourth at the Texas Open this year. Boo Weekley has three PGA wins under his belt in his career. Bobby Wyatt, a four time All-American at Alabama was fourth at the Zurich Classic this year. And it’s only a matter of time before four-time Illini All-American Charlie Danielson makes his mark on the tour.
The field was also stacked with five female pros including , Brittany Lincicome who’s ranked 32nd in the World and has won two major championships. And this year’s winner of the women’s U.S. Open Brittany Lang.
But one of the most popular pros was a man who hasn’t won a professional tournament.
Dewald Gouws competes on the World Long Drive Tour. He has been a finalist many times and a runner-up in 2008. His longest drive in a competition is 465 yards.
So does he simply grip it and rip it?
“Basically. I was pretty much given a good piece of advice when I started doing long drive professionally,” says Gouws. “One guy told me it’s still a golf ball. You’re still needing to make a golf swing to hit a golf ball, so I try and kind of get the best of both worlds. Like trying to hit it as hard as I possibly can while trying to make a good golf swing. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t.”
Gouws says he was driving the ball more than 300 yards when he was 14. In his long drive competitions, most notably the ReMax long drive he and his competitors use different drivers than the rest of us use.
“Our drivers need to be USGA conforming,” says Gouws. “They’re about two inches, maybe two and a half inches longer than standard. The faces need to be conforming as well. The only thing that really changes except for the shaft length is degrees of loft on the club heads. For instance I hit a three degree club head with a triple X flex shaft.”
So is competing in long-drive events more nerve-wracking than competing in regular golf tournaments?
“Yes because you’ve got X amount of time to hit,” says Gouwes. “You’ve got three minutes to hit eight golf balls. Three minutes sounds like a long time, but believe me when you’re up there under the gun and the adrenalin is pumping it’s not that much time.”
Gouws also dabbles in trick shots. He demonstrated a few of those at the Pro-Am like driving ball of the tops of club handles, blasting a ball through plywood, and driving through a watermelon.
Here are the top scores shot by the Pros Monday at the Rockford Country Club:
67 Troy Merritt