16th October
Open Category

Dan Konyk

American Golf Long Drive Champion Dan Konyk teed it up at the WinStar Casino resort near Dallas on Friday in a bid to add the World Long Drive title to the American Golf title he had won a month before at the American Golf National Academy.

The Huddersfield golf pro, who had qualified for the American Golf Championship at his local Wakefield store, is well known in Long Drive circles, recently beating previous world champion Joe Miller on the European circuit. He had won the American Golf title in pouring rain at the American Golf National Academy, hitting an impressive 333 yards with his last legal drive.

Now the competition moved up a level and Dan would be representing American Golf and Garmin against the best in the world and we would get to see what a wet 333 in Cheshire went like in the sunshine of a Dallas afternoon!

In each round competitors had 2min 45s to hit 6 balls into a defined landing area for the drive to count. In Round 1 Dan was teamed up against Marcus Summers, Derek Hines and Erik Keehn and he immediately showed his class with a monster drive of 405 yds that took him to the top of the group and straight through to winners section of Round 2.

Round 2 saw Konyk hit an impressive 395 yards but with quality competition all around, sub 400 wasn’t enough so with 1 win and 1 loss he needed a win to progress. In a tough group Konyk pulled out his second winning drive of over 400 yards with a 406 yard effort that topped the group. This placed Konyk one step closer to qualification for the matchplay competition that would take place later this week.

In a group of 4, with the top 2 qualifying Konyk again broke through the 400 yard mark with 405 yards but the competition stepped up to the plate and he was beaten into 3rd spot by Mark Swinford (413 yds) and Justin Moose (425 yds).

Dan was understandably frustrated at losing out by just 8 yards but at World Championship level the finest of margins make all the distance. With 128 competitors in the qualifying rounds for the Open competition Dan had found himself up against the toughest competitors and to add further disappointment saw competitors progress to the matchplay section from other parts of the draw with lesser drives than his own.

All through this event, from qualifying at the Wakefield store to winning at the American Golf Long Drive Championship and then heading all the way to Dallas, Dan has been a fantastic ambassador for American Golf and Garmin and has been a huge help to the less experienced competitors around him. A true pro and a nice guy, we look forward to seeing Dan next year to defend his title.

We caught up with Dan straight after the competition to get his reaction to the event.

Talk me through the tournament and how it feels being here.
I’m used to it to be honest with you, you do get a bit of nerves when you first get on the tee box but all the bits you do when you start off, I’ve done it so many times so it doesn’t really phase me.

When you’re up against some of the competitors here from all over the world does that make you nervous?
What I try to do is not really focus on what everyone else is doing and just do what I can do myself. If you don’t beat yourself then you’re never that disappointed. If you don’t hit it good or you don’t show up properly then it’s annoying, which I’ve done loads of times, but I didn’t really do that this time, just got a little bit unlucky in Round 2, but that’s the way it goes. I hit it good to be honest.

Do you think Long Drive can grow in the UK?
If you ask me, it needs to be more like darts, it needs to be better on TV, live on TV – matchplay is better, it needs to be quick fire. This event will be the first time they’ve done head to head matchplay on TV. But I think it has to be more like they do it at darts, because darts isn’t that exciting but they’ve made it exciting, everyone’s enjoying themselves. It could be massive but someone needs to put some money into it and get it on TV.

If you’re preparing for a Long Drive tournament what kind of things do you do to prepare?
Just hit loads of balls, basically. I do a little bit of gym stuff but not loads. Some of the guys here look like they can’t move – I don’t think that’s a good thing. If you can make a decent golf swing, and do it at a higher tempo, a higher speed, that’s what it’s about, so just work on speed really. I can’t do it all year long because it’s too, you’re elbows start going, so I’ll do maybe a month, the last few weeks I’ll be a bit more intense on how I train swing-wise, but I quite like hitting balls so I just hit balls every day to be honest and then step it up tempo-wise a couple of weeks before.

Do you think the American Golf tournament could grow into something more like the World Championship?
Quite easily yes. Here it’s dead professional when you get announced, when you’re at the range. It’s like being at a professional golf tournament. But unfortunately it’s only once a year. All the other tournaments don’t compare. The World Matchplay is about as close as it gets. This year, the only thing I’ve not liked is usually you get an estimate on every ball, which comes up on a scoreboard. Here you can ask one of the scorers what you’ve hit, but it’s irrelevant compared to what everyone else has hit. You need to really know what you’re up against and I’m not sure why they didn’t do that, but that’s how it needs to be, and for people watching, the information is important. On TV you’ll be able to see it with the crane camera, but it’s different for people watching live.

Do you think Long Drive is something amateurs can get into quite easily?
As long as you know about it. There aren’t that many tournaments. You can probably go to 10/12 tournaments in Europe, but it’s just knowing about it, what the websites are. You can follow the guys on Facebook, so anyone can enter, if you fancy ago. It does lack a little bit of people just turning up. If people are aware of it, I know loads of PGA guys who would be up for it if there was a little bit of money to be won. If you’re not playing for anything then guys don’t think it’s worth it.