By Khalid Hussain
In golf, it is important to hit it straight and long. I know, I know, you will tell me that it’s all about the short game. Some of you would even say that in the end it’s just about putting. It’s true.
But personally, I really fell for golf after hearing the sound and seeing the ball flight of the first good (straight and long) shot that I managed to hit with the driver during my early struggles with the game (they continue unabated).
The reason why I’m discussing the long drive and why I like it is a recent event that took place in Lahore. Earlier this month, the Pakistan Golf Federation (PGF) hosted the inaugural Long Drive Competition at the Lahore Gymkhana. Played a couple of days before the 58th Amateur Golf Championship of Pakistan held at the Lahore Garrison Golf Club, the contest attracted dozens of golfers of all ages and skill levels.
Lahore’s professional Daniyal Jehangir emerged as the longest hitter, driving it to 370 yards in the final rounds. Noyyan Nayyan, a high handicapper from Lahore Gymkhana won in the amateurs’ category with a drive of 368 yards in the final.
The biggest surprise of the finals came in the ladies category in which Dania Ayaz reigned supreme with an incredible drive of 297 yards.
Some of the leading professionals of the country were joined by amateurs, both low and high handicappers, ladies and juniors in the day-long competition that had been on the wish-list of the Lt Gen Mian Hilal Hussain, President PGF, for quite some time.
Gen Hilal, himself an avid golfer with a flair for hitting it long, believes that such competitions can accelerate the growth of golf in Pakistan.
“Contests like the longest drive competition will help attract people to golf even those with high handicaps,” Gen Hilal said in an interview with ‘The News on Sunday’.
“It is easy and simple to cover for media and quite easily understood and comprehended by non-golfing spectators. Hence the base for golf is being broadened by having such events.”
Gen Hilal, who was among the spectators at the 1st PGF Long Drive Competition, was elated with the response it got.
“The response was fantastic. Despite the lack of advertising before the event almost all top players in all the categories showed up. The players were ecstatic. They really appreciated the arrival of yet another power event on the national golf circuit,” he said.
Gen Hilal revealed that PGF is planning to hold similar events in all major golfing centres of the country.
“We do plan to take this event to all the regions by directing all the associations to hold their own competitions for longest drive which will then be held for the entire country by PGF. All the long hitters of the country will be pitched against each other in the national event.
“We hope that the simplicity mass appeal and dazzle of this competition catches the eye of corporate sponsors so that prizes and prestige of this competition is raised even further,” he said.
The PGF President liked what he saw at the event.
“For me the high point of the competition was the abundance of driving talent in the country. It is breathtaking. The drive of 382 yards by Ahmed Baig and the two girls crossing the 300 mark (311 and 307 by Dania Ayaz and Parkha Ijaz) were absolutely amazing. Other golfers like the eventual winner Daniyal Jahangir and Noyyan Nayyar were also highly impressive.”
Dr Ali Haider, Joint Secretary of PGF, was the event’s competition director. He believes that the longest drive competitions could do to Pakistan golf what the introduction of the T20 format did to cricket.
“Featuring in a long drive event or to be there just as a spectator is like being part of T20 cricket. It’s a festival, a carnival and I’m sure that such events will attract newcomers as in a way it levels the field. Even a beginner with the ability to hit it long has a chance of winning and that is what makes it really exciting,” Ali told TNS.
Long drive contests have been happening in the best part of the golfing world for decades. Just for the record, Mike Austin holds the world record for the longest drive in professional play. He smashed one to a distance of 515 yards at the Winterwood Golf Course in Las Vegas, Nevada in 1974, blasting it 65 yards past the flag on the par-4 fifth.