Matt Leslie going for a long drive

When trying to bash a golf ball further than almost anyone on the planet, you know that you are going to go through a lot of balls and clubs.

Matt Leslie has broken his share of clubs and lost hundreds of balls in his attempt to qualify for the RE/MAX World Long Drive Championship.

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After being away from the long drive competition for five years, the 22-year-old Leslie decided it was time to try it again. It was the right decision because he recently qualified for this year’s World Long Drive Championship.

“When I came to Victoria from Prince George about a year ago, I had the opportunity to play golf year-round,” said Leslie. “I decided to give it a whirl again because I had some funding and the support of some great people, including Olympic View.”

When he was 18, Leslie qualified for the world junior long drive championship and he made it to the finals with a drive of 409 yards.

Leslie qualified for this year’s World Long Drive Championship in Mesquite, Nevada, starting on Oct. 22 after winning an event in Oklahoma with a blast of 376 yards. For balls to be scored, they must land and stay in bounds. Leslie’s longest bomb has been 435 yards.

“Because I’m swinging so hard at the ball, I have broke many clubs,’’ said the 6-foot-7, 240 pound Leslie. “When I go to the range at Olympic View with my swing coach, Jeff Palmer, I’ll hit 200 to 300 balls. I have made a deal with Olympic View for old balls and I beat them into the bush at the end of the range.

“With Jeff, I have been mainly working on fundamentals. I’ve always had the clubhead speed and distance but sometimes my accuracy isn’t there. Jeff has helped me with that as I’m staying within myself and not swinging out of my shoes. I’m also much calmer.

“I’m extremely pumped and excited about going to Nevada to hit some golf balls.”

There are 128 long ball hitters in the open division during the first two days in Mesquite, just northeast of Las Vegas. Then the field will be reduced to about the top 30.

“I would like to win it but, honestly, I’d be happy to just get through the first day and finish in the top 30. The key for me will be to catch the centre of the clubface with the ball. I know that I will be a bit nervous to start the competition but I won’t be in awe. I will have seen most of the players at other long ball events. Depending on the weather, the winner will probably have to hit it around 400 yards.”

The winner will receive $150,000.

“My good friend Jamie Sadlowski from St. Paul, Alta., won this event in 2008 and 2009. He has also had other top-five finishes. He is just a small guy but he knows how to hit a golf ball.”

rrauch@timescolonist.comc

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