15th October
Senior Category

Steve Kent

Thursday morning saw the first of the American Golf and Garmin Long Drive Championship winners take their spot in the big time at the World Long Drive Championship.

Caerphilly councillor Steve Kent, our Over 45 winner, had started his journey way back in May at our Cardiff store. Winning his regional title he progressed to the American Golf Long Drive Championship Final at our National Academy in September where a monster 328 yard drive had secured him the Senior title.

Over 4500 miles and a month later, Steve found himself teeing it up alongside the reigning Senior World Champion Jeff Gavin in the first round of the World Long Drive Championships at the WinStar Casino Resort near Dallas.

In each round competitors had 2min 45s to hit 6 balls into a defined landing area for the drive to count. In Round 1 Steve hit against Canadian Jeff Gavin, Japanese Takuya Anraku and American Anthony Walker.

Stepping onto the biggest sporting stage of his life Steve struggled to contain his nerves. His fellow long drivers were hitting drives only equal to that which Steve had hit to win the American Golf Championship in the pouring Cheshire rain a month previously but Steve’s radar deserted him. He hit 5 out of 6 drives out of bounds with his 6th being a disappointing 287 yards.

Steve had one more chance with the second round, and while his competitors were hitting drives well within Steve’s range he couldn’t maintain his accuracy, recording 6 out of bounds drives and an early exit from the competition.

Steve’s Long Drive experience had been cut unexpectedly short. But nerves and disappointment aside, an average golfer from Caerphilly had taken a chance trip to his local American Golf store on a wet May Bank Holiday weekend all the way to the World Long Drive Championships. All through the American Golf finals and the trip to the U.S. Steve’s good humour and love of the game has made him an incredible ambassador for American Golf and Garmin and we look forward to seeing him defend his American Golf title in 2016.

We caught up with Steve straight after the disappointment of his final to get his thoughts on the experience

So talk me through what happened when you arrived?
You sign in, register as a player, you can use the practice range for 2 hours the day before, which was great because the practice went really well! Unfortunately I should have taken the practice to the tee. There was a very good setup – it was a very professionally run event, they’ve done it for 19 years so they know what they’re doing. I think next year will be different as it’s been taken on by Golf Channel/NBC. The resort, range and course are fantastic. They have made me feel really welcome, the Americans are known for their politeness, maybe even over politeness, very nice people.

Talk me through the competition today, how did you feel this morning and as you went out?
I’m not a big morning golfer, I woke up at 4am, but I felt OK. A little bit nervous but not too bad. Had a few practice shots on the range, felt OK. But when I stepped foot onto the competition tee, I didn’t realise how nervous I’d be. I’ve never been in this situation before and never experienced it. After speaking to other people they’ve told me you need experience in competition to get the experience of dealing with the nerves.

How did you feel about the other competitors in the competition?
I didn’t actually think about them I just thought “I can beat you”. I went in thinking “I can beat you all. I know I’m capable of doing it” but unfortunately, it’s got to be straight and with the nerves I just couldn’t control it. I couldn’t play my normal game.

Do you think you’d like to take part in the competition again?
Definitely. I think it’s quite niche. There’s a small talent pool where people can hit the ball a really long way. I think it’s something I’ve got to concentrate on – practice for next year. Maybe get some lessons! I play off 16 so I’m not a professional golfer by any means, so maybe a few lessons are in order.

Do you think that Long Drive is something that can grow in the UK?
Definitely. I think it’s something for golfers of all abilities. When they see people hitting the ball that far, it’s like shock and awe. They don’t believe people can do it. In the Open competition next week there’s going to be some stupid numbers, which’ll seem almost unbelievable for regular golfers, but there’s people out there who can do it.

How do you feel about your result in the competition?
Absolutely devastated. Knowing that I could have done so much better or gone all the way. I feel absolutely gutted, but like I said it’s an experience thing.

Will it make you come back stronger next time?
Definitely, I think it will. I’ll lose the nerves, I’ll just make sure they’re never there again.