- March 22, 2022
While other competitors at the Ultimate Long Drive Championships, held Oct. 27-30 at Premier Sports Campus in Lakewood Ranch, were talkative during their performances, Maurice Allen had been silent.
Then came one special drive during the final round of the championships' Xtreme Long Drive (professional) 40 division.
On that one, Allen let out his emotion.
"Woooo," Allen said, nodding his head. "That one felt good."
That drive landed 344.3 yards away. It was the drive that won Allen the XLD title for the second year in a row.
Allen, 40, is no stranger to long drive events, a niche corner of golf that prioritizes smashing the ball as far as you can, accuracy be darned (within reason). Allen said he has been competing in such events for 12 years.
His ULD Championship performance was not even close to the longest drive of his career; at the 2017 Mile High Showdown event in Denver, Allen hit a drive 483 yards, a drive which was no doubt aided by the Denver altitude and by him being six years younger. It was impressive nonetheless.
Allen has twice been ranked No. 1 in the world by the World Long Drive Association and in 2012 set a then-Guinness World Record for Fastest Golf Drive (211 mph). That record was broken in 2013 by Ryan Winther (217 mph) but the fact remains that Allen knows how to hit a golf ball far.
Allen does it his way. Before each drive he holds his driver in front of him, then goes halfway through his backswing, stops and stares at it. He then resets and in one motion puts all of his strength into his drive, his torso turning like a toy top. He finishes slightly off-balance.
It looks more like a baseball swing than a typical golf swing. But it's how Allen taught himself to swing, and it works. Why change it now?
"That is the beauty of this game, man," Allen said with a smile. "There's no right or wrong way to do it. It's your way."
Winning the ULD Championship is a minor accomplishment for Allen. In fact, Allen said he wasn't sure if he was going to defend his title at all, as he has higher-priority events to prepare for in the coming weeks. Ultimately, Allen said, he decided to come back because he believes events like the ULD Championships are good for growing the sport. After winning the XLD title, which comes in the form of a wrestling-style belt, Allen mingled and took photographs with fans.
As laid back as Allen is about his own accomplishments at the ULD Championships, he's serious about the respect he feels long drive deserves. Allen said the emergence of professional golfers who possess immense driving ability, like LIV Golf's Bryson DeChambeau, has convinced the public that anybody can compete with long drive professionals at elite levels, or that what long drive pros are doing is not impressive.
Allen said that is not the case. It takes a lot of training and time in the gym to generate the muscle and power necessary to drive the ball that far, plus developing a technique that works.
"People see Bryson competing and they think, 'Oh, any golfer can do either side of it,'" Allen said. "That's not true. There have been a lot of great athletes who have tried to do this and failed miserably, and it's the same in reverse."
Having said that, Allen is trying to be one of the few to conquer both sides. Allen said the 2023 year will be his final year in long drive. After that, his focus will switch to traditional golf. Allen said he's anxious to attempt a new challenge after competing in long drive for more than a decade.
Even though he is on the way out of long drive, he lauded it for being for all-ages and all-abilities. After Allen won his title, the event brought in its Amateur Long Drive-Adaptive competitors, who received equally loud cheers from the crowd as the professionals. One such competitor was Chris Garner, 42, who lives on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls in Ontario. Garner had his left leg amputated in July 2018, a result of complications stemming from multiple benign bone tumors found in the leg. Through Garner's extensive rehab process, he was introduced to golf in 2020, a sport he ever previously played. Last year, after seeing a Facebook ad for a local long drive event, he decided to put his skills to the test. It has been a success — Garner's longest drive at the ULD Championships measured 237.5 yards, the best mark in the Adaptive division.
"The first year of playing golf was rough," Garner said. "It was all about more exercise and swinging the club. Last year I got decent. This year, I had surgery that allows me to do more with my prosthetic. I can load my leg a lot better, which has helped."
Garner said his leg still hurts during competitions despite the improvements. Pain is is greatest adversary. On days when he can fight through it, like at the ULD Championships, he's able to put together impressive performances. He often will not know how it feels until warm-ups, making preparation a challenge. When he has large cheering sections in the crowd like he did over the weekend, that helps numb the pain, too. Garner, who is part of Paragolf Canada, had dozens of teammates watching his performance and hollering after every drive.
No matter the result of his drives, Garner walks away from each competition a winner. He and the other adaptive competitors show what is possible in long drive and in sports in general with hard work.
"I like the idea of exposing people to adaptive golf," Garner said. "People with a disability can compete on an equal level. Give it a try."
The full results of the Ultimate Long Drive Championships can be found at UltimateLongDrive.com.