Published 8/6/2011 in Pro-Am
By KEVIN THOMPSON
Speak softly, and swing a big stick.
That mantra has suited Deerfield native Jason Eslinger well.
The 25-year-old is the 2010 Long Driving Association champion, so being part of the Southwest Kansas Pro-Am festivities was an easy sell for him.
Eslinger is the holder of the two longest drives ever struck on the LDA tour, 447 yards in Oklahoma City, and 446 yards in Falls City, Neb.
His two monster drives, he said, were just a couple of freak drives that took off under normal conditions.
Big shots from a small-town kid who started playing when he was nine.
"The family liked to get out and play so I just started picking up a club then and been doing it ever since," he said. "I picked up the driver the most."
Even when he was little, Eslinger always liked to hit it far.
"You'd never catch me on the putting green or chipping green. You'd always catch me on the tee just hitting as far as I could," he said. "I was more interested in seeing the ball go far."
He got bored hitting putts and chips, he said.
"But I could stand on the tee all day and watch them fly out there," he laughed.
He said he did some practicing at the Lakin course and at Buffalo Dunes, but oftentimes he would grab a shag bag and head to a field on the outskirts of Deerfield and just hit balls.
"There's a little pasture out back by my house that's right by the elevator, and I finally got big enough where I could hit them off the elevator," he said, referring to the white elevator with the Spartan logo painted on its side.
"Nobody ever had a problem with that," he laughed. "I even had a few people come down and watch me do it."
Now as a professional long driver, Eslinger said that the world has opened up for him.
He's been to Brazil, Sweden and Ireland, as well as all over the United States.
He also works with a number of charities and corporate outings to put on a show or play with clients, but the competition is his real job.
He will probably compete eight times this year, then prepare for the ReMax world finals in Mesquite, Nevada, the first week in November, which will be shown live on ESPN3.
"Hopefully some locals can catch it," he said, "and they can be cheering me on."
Besides his two longest drives, he has another memorable shot. At Shadow Glen County Club in Olathe, he aced the first hole, a par 4, 418-yard uphill hole.
"I dunked it in for a one," he said. "That's also kind of my claim to fame."
When people ask him how he does it, his advice is simple — contact and speed.
"It boils down to just contact. If you can go from making good contact and swinging it faster and stronger, then you can put more speed behind the ball and produce bigger distances," he said.
At 6-foot-1, 240 pounds, Eslinger said he works his body to get the strength to hit it far.
In the off-season, he does a lot of Olympic-style weightlifting, which involves a lot of explosive jumping. During the season, he hits so many balls that he puts down the heavy weights and tries to maintain.
The swing goes well past parallel to generate speed, so he also has to stretch often to remain limber and quick.
Last year he won the title, three events, and $60,000.
This year he's been plagued by a shoulder injury, so he's competed less and done more rehab to get ready for the world event.
After graduating high school in 2004, Eslinger went to Dodge City Community College and then moved on to Oklahoma, where things didn't work out as planned. After taking a year off, he got the itch to pick up a club again, then found the LDA.
"I haven't looked back since," he said.
Besides hitting long, Eslinger's bag of tricks includes hitting golf balls off of high tees like a baseball player, hitting balls through plywood and watermelons, and playing tic-tac-toe landing balls down the fairway. He also has a 20-inch driver he likes to hit 300 yards.
His parents, Dan and Regina, both work for the USD 216 in Deerfield, and they like it there. Eslinger said he's on the road a lot and doesn't get home often so coming back for the Pro-Am was a "no-brainer" for him.
Friday at The Golf Club at Southwind, Eslinger said he talked to people who marvel at his coming out of a small town and enjoying the success and life he has chosen.
"I feel pretty good about coming out of a small town and being able to represent that small town and community and also getting to go see things I never thought I'd see," he said.
For more about Eslinger, log on to www.jason-eslinger.com.
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