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Q&A: Lisa “Longball” Vlooswyk

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Lisa Vlooswyk, aka Lisa Longball, is one of the longest-hitting women on the planet. She’s the seven-time Canadian women’s long drive champion, and she finished third at last year’s Re/Max World Long Drive Championship.

I saw her on an episode of Steve Elkington’s “The Rural Golfer” (where she actually beat Elkington in a three-hole match from the tips) and figured she’d be a great interview.

She didn’t disappoint.

Ms. Longball was kind enough to answer a few questions about her unique background, her accomplishments, and of course, how she hits the ball so darn far.

The topics are in bold with Vlooswyk’s replies below.

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How she got started in golf

First time I swung a club was in grade 8. There were 60 boys and me. The coach told me to go hit my 6-iron at the end of the range. I hit my 6-iron at the end of the range while he worked with the boys all night.

I ended up quitting.

There weren’t a lot of strong junior girls programs at that point. I maybe played once a year with my dad if he forced me to. It was really only after I finished university that my boyfriend at the time (now husband) was asked to go to corporate golf charity tournaments, because golf truly is a key networking skill.

He was embarrassed because he didn’t play, so he just dragged me out to the local muni or wherever we could get on, and that’s kind of how I got into it.

When she knew she could compete in long drive

In 1999, the DeMaurier Classic—one of the four LPGA majors at the time—came to Calgary. I had the summers off as a school teacher, so I decided to volunteer that week. And watching the best female golfers in the world—even though I couldn’t break 100 to save my life—I was completely inspired. And I’d always been competing since a young age, I was thinking “What can I compete in now?”

In 2000, I entered my first golf tournament. It was the mid-handicap, which is like your state mid-amateur. I came sort of halfway through the pack, but I was hitting it 80-to-100 yards past my playing partners. But I still didn’t think it was long because it was just the mid-handicap.

In 2001, I entered the Brita Amateur. I just squeaked in. I placed near the end of the pack, but I was outdriving the NCAA girls by 70 or 80 yards. And that’s when I knew I was long.

I happened to see an advertisement for a long drive competition, and I entered with a set of clubs I won at Costco. I won with a 313-yard drive.

Her experience playing a LPGA Monday qualifier

I probably play to about a five-[handicap] right now. My problem is keeping it in play. I’ve done a Monday qualifier for the LPGA.

I’m at 160 yards. Some of the girls are using a hybrid, and I’m using a 7-iron. I’m not just long with my driver, I’m long with all my clubs. The problem is consistency and keeping it in play.

These girls aren’t long, but they’re deadly accurate and they get up-and-down from everywhere. So that’s where I struggle competing in full golf.

On match play in long drive competitions

In our sport, if we have headwind or tailwind, it never really shows that. Wind conditions impact our sport—both men and women—tremendously. That’s why Art Selinger, owner of the Long Drivers of America, switched to a match play format.

I’m not in love with match play: You can have one pair where someone hits it 370 and someone hits it 375 and the 375 advances. And the next pair hit it 360 and 365 and the 365 advances. Really, it should have been the first two that advanced; that’s my issue with match play.

Amateurs’ biggest distance-killer

The biggest mistake amateurs make when trying to swing hard is that tight grip pressure. One of the things you have to do to maximize distance is relax grip pressure. You want that hands relaxed, the forearms relaxed.

Her equipment

When I was doing a Monday qualifier for the LPGA, I tried to switch down to a 45-inch driver. I hit a 47.25-inch driver. I have swung tens of thousands of times with the 47-inch driver. I have found I have more success using that in full golf as well.

A lot of guys, they want to tell their buddies they hit an extra stiff shaft. But really, you want to hit the most flexible shaft you can control, and that’s a huge part of long driving. If you can control a more flexible shaft, use it. You’ll hit it farther.

I use two different shafts: a Matrix and an Accra. So at the world championships this year I used both Matrix and Accra shafts.

I’ve been sponsored by Nike for the last 9 years. I used the Covert 2.0 last year…with it I came in third at the World Long Drive Championships. I have one set at 7 degrees and one set at 8 degrees. And that’s my playing loft as well. I’m hitting the Vapor irons right now and love them.

Steve Elkington

At a Champions Tour event, Steve Elkington watched my clinic and really loved it. He said, “Do you mind if I give you a couple of pointers?” He took me to the range; he gave me some great tips. And then he called me a few months later and said he started this new show called the Rural Golfer.

I was his first female guest, and I was his first guest to ever beat him. I played from the tips with him, and it was unbelievable. I do a backflip on the show and it really freaked Elk out…all the stars lined up for me. I can’t say enough nice things about Steve Elkington.

On her swing

I’m self-taught, so my swing is quite unique. I used to be very Furyk-y, where I took it outside. I’m trying to make a better turn with my upper body now.

I get right up on my toes…very Laura Davies-esque. I’m one of the smaller girls out there. I’m five-foot-six and I’m competing against a lot of girls who are six feet.

I definitely do a bit of a squat as well, which is a bit unorthodox. But you won’t see that in my irons, I don’t squat with my irons.

It’s leg strength, core strength, but my leg strength has always been my secret.

It’s kind of like right before you do a back-handspring or a backflip, you’ve got that bit of a squat and you push up off the ground. That’s kind of how I hit the longball.

A lot of coaches I’ve asked—including Steve Elkington—“Is it bad that I’m up on my toes at impact?” They’ve all said no.

When I’m trying to kill it, in terms of swing—you have six chances. You only need to get one of those in play—you’re trying to swing as hard as humanly possible.

In full golf, I average between 280 and 290 on my drives. When I’m in long drive competition, I average between 295 and 310.

If you’re not hitting it three bills in long drive, you’re definitely not competitive at the world-class level. For any girls looking to get into it, you need to be hitting it three bills.

When she’s not competing…

I get to do corporate charity golf outings. Companies hire me to come out and hit balls for guests. And I love it, because a lot of guys won’t listen to a girl. But because I’m a girl who hits it over three bills…a guy…who I’m outdriving by 30 yards, he’ll listen to me. And most women don’t hit it 200 yards, so they’ll listen to me too.

I do a lot of speaking at conferences, too. And basically, I share my story. If you’d ask me 10 or 12 years ago if this is what I’d be doing, I’d have laughed at you.

I started my own golf school this year: Lisa Longball Golf School. I had so many women asking, “Do you teach? Do you teach? Do you teach?” I hired PGA instructors to coach at my school, and I also do clinics and so forth.

Changes for 2015

I actually started working with the strength and conditioning coach for Graeme McDowell and Ian Poulter, Mitch Sadowsky, the golf fitness instructor at Lake Nona. He came up for one of the men’s golf schools that I did. I’m going to be training with him this winter to get ready for this season.

I’m going to be making a coaching change this year to Paul Horton out of Calgary.

You can follow Lisa on Twitter or check out her website.  

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Trae

    Jan 10, 2015 at 8:00 pm

    Do any of you guys find that it is odd that she’s from Calgary? I mean considering that other long ball hitters like Zuback and Sadlowski are also from Alberta. What are the odds that Canada with maybe 10% of the population of the U.S., and the U.S. where golf seems to be far more popular and there’s millions of people who play golf there, yet the province of Alberta has produced these long ball hitters who are quite accomplished. Is it something in the water or what? I’m no statistician but it seems to me the odds of that go beyond chance. Why don’t I ever hear of long ball hitters from Ontario or Nova Scotia or something. There’s gotta be something about Alberta. Maybe all that ‘AAA’ Alberta beef I don’t know.

  2. JR

    Jan 10, 2015 at 4:37 pm

    | The problem is consistency and keeping it in play

    Seeing the down the line view of this swing would probably give me night terrors

    • Rich

      Jan 10, 2015 at 4:53 pm

      It’s not about how it looks overall, but how you deliver the club to impact. Watch the swing again from the top of the backswing down to the ball. I’d put that path and position up against anyone.

  3. Wendell

    Jan 10, 2015 at 4:17 pm

    I remember Lisa competing at local Remax long drive regional finals in St Albert. As a qualifier in the men’s open division I can tell you that she wasn’t very far off from the open division qualifiers. This played on your mind when you were competing for sure… Being longer than the ladies was not a given when she was competing. Glad to see she is still ripping them out there.

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Equipment

Spotted: Dustin Johnson with new Fujikura Ventus prototype at the Masters, RBC Heritage

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Beyond the obvious big news of some guy named Mr. Woods winning his fifth green jacket this past weekend, there were some pretty interesting developments with another player that runs on a first name basis or at least initials: DJ switched drivers MID tournament and had a new Fujikura Ventus prototype shaft to go along with his new TaylorMade M6 as he took on Augusta National Saturday and Sunday.

We don’t have all the details yet, but from what we have heard so far this new Prototype Black Ventus is an even lower launching version of the blue Ventus currently available. If history is correct, and we are looking at a line extension, then the colors tell a lot of the story. The Atmos line features both a blue and black version with a final higher-launching red version to round out the series in what Fuji calls their color-coded launch system to make fitting and product recognition just that much easier.

Photos of the “black” prototype via Fujikura.

It’s not unusual for shaft companies like Fujikura to bring out prototype profiles utilizing technologies from their newest lines to try and get them into the bags of more players. Fuji’s newest technology is VeloCore, and we have already seen it adopted at a high rate. Here is some more info from Fujikura to explain the technology

“VeloCore is a multi-material core comprised of ultra-high modulus Pitch 70 Ton Carbon Fiber (about 150% stronger and more stable than T1100g) and 40 Ton bias layers that are the full length of the shaft for incredible stability. VeloCore Technology promotes consistent center-face impact and provides ultimate stability, tightening dispersion and increasing control. The result is a shaft that maximizes the MOI (moment of inertia) and ball speed of your clubhead through the reduction of twist during the swing and at impact, especially on off-center hits.”

This makes sense, considering any contact made beyond an absolutely perfect (almost impossible from a physics standpoint) strike in line with the COG of a driver head traveling at 120 mph will result in twisting at impact — MOI is maximized in driver heads to increase stability along with spin with Ventus and VelocCore, Fujikura thanks to their Enzo system, is better understanding how that relationship works with the shaft to produce new and better products.

Anyway, since we know DJ deviated from his traditional Fujikura Speeder Evolution II Tour Spec driver shaft for his weekend rounds this past weekend, we can expect to see it again this week at the RBC Heritage this week at Hilton Head, and we’ll have our eyes peeled to see where else this shaft pops up on tour.

Johnson teeing off during Wednesday’s RBC Heritage Pro-Am.

 

 

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Courses

No. 12 at Augusta National: The Golden Bell tolls for Koepka, Molinari

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On Sunday, Tiger Woods accomplished what many thought he could never do by winning another major championship, the 2019 Masters. In collecting his fifth green jacket, Tiger added a new luster to what was already a brilliant legacy. Woods overcame unusual start times, difficult conditions and a generation of young golf warriors that he helped to create. And like every champion before him, Woods had to contend with holes 11 through 13 on Sunday, the beautiful beast nicknamed Amen Corner by the great golf writer Herbert Warren Wind.

Of the three holes, it seems that 12 is the one that has drowned more hopes and dreams in the creek that winds through the terrible trio than either of the other two. Arnold Palmer made six on Sunday in 1959 on the way to losing to Art Wall by two. Tom Weiskopf made a mind-boggling 13 in 1980. Greg Norman had a double bogey during his Sunday collapse in 1986. And there’s Jordan Speith’s quadruple bogey in 2016, which some think he has still not recovered from. Through the generations, the hole named Golden Bell has sounded a death knell for many a would-be champion.

This week, I had the opportunity to walk the back nine at Augusta National with Robert Trent Jones, Jr. Jones is an acclaimed golf course designer in his own right but he is also the son of the legendary Robert Trent Jones, the man who designed the second nine at Augusta National as we know it today and therefore shaped history and the outcome of so many Sundays for so many players.

As we walked along the holes Jones described the changes both dramatic and subtle that his father had made in 1948 to shape the second nine, and I came to a greater understanding of why the stretch is so special. The second nine was deliberately crafted as the ultimate offer of risk/reward. It was designed to create heroes and tragic figures of epic proportions. As we got to the tee box at number 12, Mr. Jones’ well-known face (as well as the microphone I was holding in front of it) caused a crowd together around us as he described what his father had done with the most famous par three in golf.

Jones pointed out how the wide, narrow green on the 12th follows the path of Rae’s Creek which runs in front of it.

“It appears that the creek and the green are running almost perpendicular to the tee box at 12, but the right side of the green is actually significantly further away from the golfer than the left side. This is critical when it comes to playing the Sunday hole location on the right side of the green. Because of the way the hole is framed by water and bunkers, the golfer is deceived into either selecting the wrong club or taking a half swing, which often leads to a shot into the water.”

Jones’s words proved prophetic, as Brooks Koepka and Francisco Molinari made watery double bogeys that doomed their championship hopes. Woods, on the other hand, made par on 12, providing the spark that eventually led to his victory. How did Woods negotiate the 12th?

Again, RTJII shared his crystal ball. “Jack Nicklaus played the 12th better than anyone because he always played to the middle of the green,” noted Jones. “Jack felt that whether the pin was on the right or the left, a shot over the front bunker to the center of the green would take a big number out of play and maybe leave an opportunity for a birdie.”

Sure enough, on Sunday while pretenders to the throne went pin seeking with either the wrong club or ill-advised half swings, Woods channeled his inner Nicklaus, hitting a full-swing 9-iron with conviction to the middle of the green and safely two-putting. It was at once humble and heroic. It was the thing that heroes and champions do: survive demons in order to slay dragons. The moment his tee shot on 12 landed safely was the moment that I, and many others, knew in our hearts that Tiger Woods was, in fact, going to win again at Augusta. It is a singular accomplishment, made possible by his combination of wisdom and nerve at number 12 on Sunday. Amen, indeed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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All our photos from the 2019 Masters

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We have 15 threads packed full of photos from Augusta National for your viewing pleasure during this Masters weekend.

We’re rounding them up here for your convenience. Enjoy!

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