For Episode 2 of A Casual 9 I am ecstatic and humbled to have 7-time Canadian Women’s Long Drive Champion Lisa “Longball” Vlooswyk join me.
In addition to being a Long Drive Champion, Lisa is also a keynote speaker, golf journalist, instructor and golf celebrity for corporate events. Lisa talks about her inspiring journey getting into golf, competition, growing the game, hitting it longer, and more. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I am sure you will too.
1. I understand you used to be a school teacher. Tell us a bit about how you got into golf and at what point you realized your potential to make a career out of it.
LV: I was introduced to golf by my father. I was his last hope for a golfer in the family. He took me to one Junior Night when I 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. He worked with the boys all night so I quit, playing the odd round with my dad until University. It was then, that my boyfriend Anton, now husband, was being invited out to corporate and charity golf tournaments. He was missing out on corporate networking opportunities so he realized he needed to take up golf. He dragged me out to local municipal courses and we started to play and I really enjoyed it. I soon graduated and became an elementary school teacher. Having the summers off I loved going out to play during the week.
My turning point came in 1999 when the LPGA hosted one of its 4 majors at the time, the Du Maurier Classic. I volunteered as a Marshal. It was a game changer. Watching the best female players in the world inspired me to want to compete. I couldn’t break 100 to save my life but I wanted to play. At most of my events I was hitting it 80-100 yards past my female playing partners. That is when I knew I was long. I saw an advertisement for a long drive competition and entered. I won with a 313 yard drive with a set of clubs from Costco. I went on to win my first National title and finish Top 7 at my first World Long Drive Championships.
I started to get invited out to corporate and charity golf tournaments as a golf entertainer. I could not do that and be the teacher I wanted to be. I had to make a very difficult decision which endeavor I would not pursue. My husband said, “Lisa, you have a limited chance to be the best in the world at something, go for it.” I resigned the next day. Luckily with what I am doing now with Keynote Speaking, running my own Women’s Golf School and doing clinics at corporate outings, I still get to teach but in a different way now.
2. You obviously have some incredible talent, but we all know talent alone doesn’t always cut it in golf. What does your weekly practice and exercise regimen look like during the season?
LV: I work out 6 times per week, usually at 6:00 am before my son wakes up. I focus a lot on legs and core. Most people make the mistake of thinking the arms is what leads to distance and power. I usually hit balls 3-4 times per week. Typically I will hit 2 large baskets (240 golf balls). I find anything more than that I get too fatigued and poor swing habits start creeping in.
3. In a long drive competition you don’t have the luxury of being able to recover from a loose shot with your short game. How do you mentally prepare for competition and cope with pressure focused solely on one aspect of your game?
LV: Long drive is a completely different beast than golf. We get 3 minutes to hit 8 balls as far as humanly possibly into a 50 yard wide grid over 400 yards long. The great thing about long drive is if you hit a poor shot you get 7 mulligans! The problem is there is no time for practice swings and pre-shot routines if you want to hit all 8 balls. The tough part is if you get into a poor swing set or rhythm, you only have 3 minutes to find your way out of it. It is definitely smarter to not hit all your balls and focus on hitting each one as purely as possibly. Another great strategy is to get a good solid number in the grid before ripping it as hard as you can. There is nothing worse than hitting 7 balls out of bounds and staring at one ball left to get in the grid.
4. You have won 7 National Long Drive Championships. Do you set long term goals to help motivate you or do you just take it season by season?
LV: I absolutely take it season by season. I have come 2nd and 3rd in the World Long Drive but have never won the World Long Drive Title. That is my ultimate goal. Each year the competition gets stronger and stronger and younger and younger. I have been competing for 16 years and have managed to stay competitive in this sport! I had a Top 5 finish this year. I was one of the only moms in the field. I ended up losing by 6 yards in my Match Play round to the defending champion and 4 –time World Long Drive Champion, Sandra Carlborg. That motivates me. It makes we want to work and train harder.
5. You’re also giving back to the golf community through the offering of clinics, motivational speaking, and ladies golf schools. How do the challenges of teaching and helping fellow golfers compare to the grind of training and competing?
LV: I believe teaching is a vocation, a calling. I am passionate about teaching and thrilled I have the opportunity to help others hit it longer, straighter and better. I just had a lady today that attended one of my golf schools say she has added 50 yards to her drives. That is a rush! I also love Golf Entertaining at Corporate and Charity Golf Tournaments. It gives me a chance to meet and mingle with so many different golfers. The Corporate/Charity days are sometimes long days but so rewarding. It is a tough balance between finding time for that passion and training and competing, but when I hit that drive on the sweet spot after a lesson with my coach, Paul Horton, or add distance to my drives, or feel stronger from training, I get a huge thrill from that too!
6. I noticed on your website that your ladies golf schools end with wine and cheese. I don’t really have a question about that, I just thought it was an awesome idea. Feel free to elaborate.
LV: Ladies love to be social. Golf can be a little intimidating and a lot of work. After a day on the links the women LOVE to come in and have a glass of wine…or two…and chat about the day, the successes and the big learns. I think the more fun we can make golf and the more social, we will increase participation of women. Women need to feel comfortable coming out and playing 9 holes of golf and experience that having wine after (9 and wine) is just as much fun as going for a girls’ dinner, and you get to be active and be outdoors!
7. What sort of advice would you give to kids, beginners, or even casual golfers to help make golf more enjoyable for them?
LV: Tee it up in the fairway! I have had people to say to me “Is that in the rules of golf?” My answer to them is, “Are you playing in the US Open?” We need to make this game more fun and it is always more enjoyable when you hit the ball and it flies through the air. That is a lot easier to do off a tee. Once you become more experienced or want to play in competitions, yes, get rid of the tee, but until then tee it up everywhere…except the putting green 🙂
8. What are a few of your favorite golf courses both around Calgary and those you’ve travelled to?
LV: Heritage Pointe is my home course and where I run the Lisa Longball Golf School out of. I love it there! Their 27 holes are unique and challenging and the 3 hole practice loop has one of the best holes of the 30 on the property!
My favorite courses outside Calgary have to be Cabot Links in Nova Scotia and Bandon Dunes in Oregon, owned by the same people. I also love the reverence of playing at St. Andrews, and the beauty of playing Pebble Beach. I was so lucky to play behind Arnold Palmer that day. A day I will never forget.
9. I won’t name any names but I have some golf friends who can’t hit it out of their shadow. If you could give only one piece of advice to help them get it out there a little further, what would it be?
LV: Oh boy! That is tough! There are so many aspects to hitting a long ball with the driver or any club in your bag. If I could only give one tip it would be to accelerate through the ball. Your club head should be moving fastest 3 feet past the ball and keep swinging until your finish. That will help add club head speed and force you to finish on your front side, which will help you hit longer and straighter shots!
For more tips and instruction on how to hit it longer and straighter, check out Lisa’s recently released instructional video, Top 10 Tips to a Longer and Straighter Game. You can also watch Lisa dish out a few of her long game tips during this recent segment of Breakfast Television on City.
A huge thanks to Lisa for taking time out of her busy schedule to do this with me, she is a class act and an asset to our great game. For more on Lisa, feel free to check out her website or connect with her on social media:
Previous episodes of A Casual 9:
Episode 1: Roger Kingkade – the Calgary legend dishes on his recent exit from radio, his golf game, and how his new golf app business is helping both golf courses and golfers.