Trying to set a new long drive world record will be ‘plane sailing’ for Tour pros next year with the launch of a four-round European Runway Long Drive Tour.
The catalyst for the new initiative was last month’s successful event at Palma Airport, in which three Tour pros – Argentinian Ricardo Gonzalez, Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez-Castańo and Italian Emanuele Canonica – took on the current world record holder Paul ‘St George’ Slater.
Slater, from Warrington, launched a drive 720 yards (652 metres) down the runway at London City Airport, in February, in an event hosted by the London Golf Show, to set a new unofficial world’s best. Now Slater has been sponsored by the London Golf Show to take on Tour pros at four runway long-drive events across Europe during the 2006 season.
Event director Jay Tyson explained, “The Palma event attracted huge interest in Spain so we have decided to set up a four-stop tour. It will tie in with the venues on the European Tour so some of the pros will be available to take part. And the feedback from them is very positive. It’s something different for them. Normally they’re going from hotel to practice ground and back again. This breaks up the monotony and would be a welcome diversion for them. It will also make good television, with the spectacular efforts bouncing high off the rock-hard surface.”
The longest drive during a PGA event took place during the 1974 US National Senior Open – now the US Senior Open – at the Winterwood Golf Course in Las Vegas. Guernsey-born Michael Hoke Austin thumped the ball a massive 515 yards. It flew more than 400 yards, bounced in front of the green and came to rest 65 yards beyond the flag.
The greatest recorded carry of a golf ball is 458 yards, by America’s Jack Hamm, at Highlands Ranch, Colorado, USA, on July 20, 1993.
Dates for the four events have yet to be set, but three of the venues have been identified: London City Airport, Mallorca and Madrid.
The London Golf Show returns to ExCeL-London, from April 27-30, and will cover an area the size of five football pitches, with a four-day retail exhibition aimed at all standards of golfer. www.londongolfshow.com.