Long drive champ gets his first taste of TOUR life
May 25, 2017
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
- It was roughly a year ago that Jamie Sadlowski decided to retire from his career as a long drive champion to pursue his dream as a pro golfer. (Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)
FORT WORTH, Texas – Jamie Sadlowski’s first tee shot in his first round of his first PGA TOUR start travelled 365 yards.
Nobody was surprised.
The two-time winner of the RE/MAX World Long Drive Championship is expected to hit it far. But the Canadian native is determined to prove he’s more than just a bomber. That he can use all 14 clubs in his bag and can manage his way around the golf course – and not just impress fans at the range.
“I look at this as I’m trying to start a new career and I’m working hard at it,” Sadlowski said after his 3-over 73 left him tied for 75th after Thursday’s first round of the DEAN & DELUCA Invitational. “At the end of the day, I want to prove myself I can play out here.”
It was roughly a year ago that Sadlowski decided to retire from his career as a long drive champion – he had performed in approximately 600 exhibitions and show – to pursue his dream as a pro golfer.
He’s played a handful of Web.com Tour and Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada events, as well as some overseas events in Australia. But Thursday was the first time he had teed it up in a PGA TOUR event. It was just his 51st competitive round as a pro.
Sadlowski is in the field as one of Colonial’s Champions Choices, in which all the tournaments’ living champions choose two promising newcomers. That’s how Jason Day in 2008 and Jordan Spieth in 2013 made the field.
The phone call came about two weeks ago and Sadlowski obviously was thrilled to receive the opportunity. Yet it’s ironic that his TOUR debut comes on a course that sometimes gets accused (perhaps unfairly) of taking driver out of a player’s hands. The old-school, tight course is a shot-maker’s dream, hardly a bomber’s paradise.
It’s nothing new, though, for Sadlowski. He has played at the Web.com Tour event in Boise, Idaho, and said that Hillcrest Country Club is even tighter than Colonial. He said another Web.com Tour event in Bogota, Colombia, also is not long, even though it’s at altitude.
“I haven’t ever found a bomber’s paradise track,” he said after a round in which he hit six drivers on holes 1, 2, 6, 11, 14 and 15. “But this doesn’t take driver out of my hand. And I have a 2-iron that I’m comfortable with. Maybe that helps me, I don’t know. One of these days, I’ll get a longer golf course. But I think I can play this one.”
He held his own with playing partners Kevin Tway (who finished at 2 under 68 after a late double bogey) and Brandon Hagy (who shot a 75). And they held their own off the tee – again, no surprise, considering both Tway and Hagy are ranked inside the top 10 in driving distance on TOUR.
Sadlowski knows both players, so it was a comfortable pairing. And no, there was no discussion about trying to one-up each other off the tee, no mini-long drive contest suggestions.
“I think everybody knows [about the power],” he said. “I don’t think we needed to talk about it.”
Sadlowski had the longest drives in the field on hole Nos. 1 (the 365-yarder) and 2 (a 350-yard drive on his hardest swing of the day). He also had a 368-yard drive on the par-5 11th. Only one player hit it farther – Tway, whose drive went 371 yards. For the day, Sadlowski averaged 297.5 yards off the tee on all drives – third highest average behind Jon Rahm (304.3 yards) and Jhonattan Vegas (298.8).
But it’s not just power off the tee but also on any shot – Sadlowski will likely face shorter approaches than most of his playing partners, and can reach par-5s with short and mid-irons, like he did on the second hole.
He realizes he needs to work on his short game – he successfully scrambled on just two of eight chances and made just one putt over 10 feet. But hey, it’s his first time out. The power will obviously be there. Now it’s just refining the other parts.
Getting a taste of TOUR life this week certainly offers plenty of motivation.
“It wasn’t that long ago that I was a kid sitting on the couch watching PGA TOUR events – which I still do,” he said, still soaking in the surroundings. “This just doesn’t feel real.”
3 tied at the top after Round 1 at DEAN & DELUCA