Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Long Drive King At Home In Jacksonville

“It’s a combination of things,” Jeremy Easterly said when asked about hitting the golf ball a long way. But the simplest answer: Swing fast. Easterly was clear about the distinction between “swing hard” and “swing fast” and he’s all about the speed of the swing.

At 6’3″ and 255 pounds, Easterly looks the part of a Long Drive champion and a JSO officer, of which he is both. Having been a golfer for most of his athletic life, Easterly decided to get serious about long drive competitions about the same time he joined JSO.

A low, single-digit handicapper through college, it took the challenge and encouragement of one of his fellow JSO officers to enter his first long drive contest.

“I was humbled pretty quickly,” Easterly said of his 30-some yard loss.

But he found he enjoyed it and could hit it a long way, so he’s worked on it for nearly 15 years, getting the right equipment, some sponsors, good coaching and keeping his fitness level high.

This year, a lot of that paid off when Easterly finished second in the world championships in October in Oklahoma. He found the grid with a 386-yard drive falling to Tim Burke by eight yards. With a wind over the left shoulder for right-handed drivers, hitting the grid with power was one of the keys to success on the night of the Finals. Easterly regularly hits it past 400 yards and explains, now as about a 10-handicapper, the difference between what he does and what they’re doing on the PGA Tour.

“They’re trying to drive it into a 25 yard area and set up their second shot. I’m driving it into about a 60-yard wide area and I’m not worried about the second shot,” he said with a laugh.

In the past decade, Easterly admits his length has grown because of hard work but also because of the information available. GolfTec is one of his sponsors and the “numbers” he gets through their technology of measuring swing speed, launch angle, ball speed and the like, allow him to concentrate on specific things to hit it longer.

“I’m looking at club head speed, but also ‘smash factor’ which is a measure of how efficiently you’re hitting the golf ball,” he explained. “You can swing as fast as you want but if you’re not hitting it in the center of the clubface, you’re not getting what you want out of that shot.”

Easterly uses a “Krank” driver that measures 50-inches long and a “Tornado Tee” that minimizes the friction on the ball.

“You don’t want anything affecting the ball except the club,” he noted.

At 38-years old, Easterly is married, has two kids and has a full-time job on the JSO in Zone Two. That could keep him from pursuing long driving as a career, but there’s not that much money in it, at least for now. The Golf Channel has purchased the organization that puts on the long drive competitions and there’s talk they’ll create a tour where the competitors can make a living.

“I only went to four competitions last year,” Easterly told us. “I won in Tennessee and made it to the Finals in the Worlds but if there’s a Tour, I’ll keep working on my fitness and my game and I’ll try to be on it.”

So how long can he hit it? On this day the GolfTec equipment measured drive after drive right around 400 yards, with a long of 413. If you’re a golfer, Jeremy explained that his miss “is to the right. I normally draw the ball when I’m playing but with this long driver, my miss is to the right.” But when he squares the clubface and gets it going straight or with a little fade or draw, it hangs in the air for 8 or 9 seconds before falling to the ground somewhere over 385 and rolling out.

You’d think a long drive in competition of 441 yards would win going away, but even with his most prodigious competition swing in Mesquite, NV that day, he lost by 25 yards. “It was downwind and I smashed it, but got beat by one measured at nearly 470. I think it would have gone off the grid if it hadn’t one hopped into the mountain!” he said, marveling at the competition.