Long Drive competition attracts new breed of golfer

- A local athlete is making a name for himself in a relatively new sport called Long Drive, which airs on the Golf Channel.

"Long Drive is one of the Super Bowls of golf," explained Steve Monroe, who most probably would not peg as a golfer, with his tall athletic build, dreadlocks, and gold teeth.

Monroe is part of the small, dedicated talent base of professional golfers in Long Drive. It's a sport where athletes hit a golf ball at full force, with a goal of landing the ball at least 300 yards.

Success in Long Drive doesn't come from accuracy, but rather from pure strength.

"Long drive guys are very muscular, very big. Sometimes [they] don't care where [the ball] is going, but if they can hit it in the grid, that's what they do," said golfer Derek Simpson, who has watched Monroe grow as a golfer since he started playing in high school.

"I've played for about 32 years. I started with the Chi Chi Rodriguez Youth Foundation in Clearwater," said Monroe, whose high school golf coach encouraged him to try out for the Long Drive tour.

Last year, Monroe, nicknamed 'The Predator' on the green, broke a record in a Long Drive competition.

"I hit a 480-yard drive," said Monroe.

His first year competing, he made it to the Long Drive Championship, finishing 24th in the world.

Competing has become Monroe's career. He has earned about $90,000 in winnings from Long Drive competitions. He has also gained sponsorship with companies like VYB-X.

Since Long Drive was picked up the Golf Channel, the sport has gone worldwide, giving athletes like Monroe more exposure and reviving interest in golf as a whole.

"It's impressive for a lot of amateurs that obviously can't hit it that long, and it's fun to see guys hit it that long," said Simpson.

Monroe said his goal this year is to win a world championship.

The next qualifying competition is March 15-16 and the East Coast Classic Tour Event is March 17, both in Columbia, South Carolina. For more information on Long Drive, visit http://www.worldlongdrive.com/.

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