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October 25, 2014

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Golf long driving event invades Las Vegas Motor Speedway

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Tom Donoghue/DonoghuePhotography.com

An aerial view of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday, March 10, 2013. The speedway on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, will host a golf long driving competition, with balls landing on the infield grass in Turn 4.

This won’t be your typical sporting event.

The RE/MAX World Long Drive Championship on Wednesday comes to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, featuring eight long-drivers — the “October 8” — hammering tee shots more than 400 yards in a competition for $250,000.

And organizers promise it will be fan-friendly.

While “quiet please” signs are often posted throughout golf courses in an attempt to keep spectators from interfering with golfers' concentration, that’s far from etiquette in this long-driving competition. The finals will include a DJ playing music and participants interacting with nearby fans.

The tee box platform is 45 yards from the race track on the Dale Earnhardt Terrace. Balls will fly onto the infield grass.

“It the most incredible venue in the world to hit a golf ball,” said Art Sellinger, the founder of Long Drivers of America, which is hosting the event.

Sellinger, a former UNLV golfer, has made a career out of hitting a golf ball far. A two-time long-driving champion, he would often make corporate appearances to show off his special skills — people were enamored with someone smashing a golf ball nearly 500 yards.

Then, in the mid-1990s, he found Long Drivers of America, helping take the activity to the next level by hosting championships and getting the events televised by ESPN and the Golf Channel.

“Fans love speed and power and competition,” said Sellinger, a Chaparral High graduate. “They have a rooting interest because the (long-drivers) aren’t multimillionaires. They are guys off the street (hitting it farther) than the pros (PGA golfers).

“If you have a home run hitting contest, the major leaguer is going to win. If you have a slam dunk contest, the pros would win; a football throwing contest, the pro quarterback would win. But in a long-driving contest, the PGA guys don’t win.”

Instead, the “October 8” is a collection of participants with regular jobs — one guy worked as a long-haul truck driver, another works for a chemical company and a few work in investments.

The key to excelling in long-driving, or power golf, involves the strength and agility of the competitors and their ability to create club-swinging speed. It makes for an electric competition, Sellinger said.

Tickets for the event are free if downloaded ahead of time on the group’s website. If not, they are $40 at the speedway. They’ll have a booth set up at the event where fans can test their club speed in comparison to the competitors.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21

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