Behold the evolution of the Beast.
A decade back, Sean Fister was the alpha of his pack. With a monster build and a fearsome moniker to match, he was a looming figure on the long-drive circuit. At 6’5” and given to a grizzly’s growling swagger, the Beast marked his ground by obliterating golf balls on his way to three Re/MAX world titles, in 1995, 2001 and ’05.
But if the grid was where he ruled, the open market was where he feasted. Pro-ams, clinics and other paid appearances fattened Fister’s coffers with upward of $500,000 a year.
Until the asteroid hit.
In the aftermath of the 2008 economic crash, the corporate gigs dried up, and the Beast was left to scavenge. Long-drive alone couldn’t possibly sustain him, much less pay the mortgage on the large Little Rock, Ark., home that he shared with his wife and their three kids.
“I had two choices,” Fister says. “I could mope around. Or I could change.” He sold the place in Little Rock and relocated to South Carolina, where, with guidance from a local business mentor, he launched Fister Golf, a Charleston-based extension of his brand.
The Beast, it turned out, had keen survival skills.
In his long–drive prime, Fister had relied on brains as well as brawn, studying ball flights with an egghead’s nerdy focus, his expertise such that Dunlop, his then-sponsor, signed him to consult on club designs. Now, flying solo in South Carolina, he unveiled his own product, the Fister Model 1, a classic-looking driver that he customized for clients. He also started teaching.
Who better than the Beast to unlock the secrets of raw power?
His schedule filled up quickly. It remains logjammed today. “I’ve been crazy busy,” Fister says. “But busy doesn’t always pay the bills.”
At 53, a decade removed from his last long-drive title, the Beast is still adapting. His latest incarnation: public speaker. At country clubs, convention halls and other corporate venues, Fister expounds upon the virtues of persistence and self-belief. His stories reach back to his early years in college, when Fister, a multi-sport recruit at Florida, blew out his back while pole vaulting, derailing a promising track-and-field career. He took up golf on a lark with buddies. Midway through his first round, he drove the green of a 390-yard par-4.
Not that long-drive has always come easy. Fister’s speeches convey those struggles, too. Consider, for instance, the cinematic moment in 1995, when Fister winced and grunted his way to the world title despite a broken finger, a fractured sternum and a torn meniscus in his knee—all injuries he had suffered in a car accident a week earlier.
“I’ve been kicked and I’ve been down but I’ve never lost sight of what I wanted to accomplish,” Fister says. “That’s the thing I try to get across. So many people give up without realizing that they’re within inches of success.”
Long-drive remains a lure, and he still competes. At the 2014 world championships, he finished in the top 8 in two age divisions. But there’s only so much wear and tear one frame can take. Fister has undergone more surgeries than Steve Austin, and he estimates that over the past 20 years, he has coiled and swung full bore on more than 3 million drives, banging them a distance equivalent to three trips to the moon.
Most swings he takes these days are at Bulls Bay Golf Club in Charleston, where he plays off scratch and tees it up a few times a month. Members recognize him, but every now and then, the Beast finds himself paired with an unsuspecting single, only to leave him slack-jawed when he muscles his first shot 370 down the center.
“Hey, man,” the stranger will say, “you ever think of entering a long-drive competition?”
“Actually...,” Fister will start to reply, then won’t.
“I’ve had a good long run being the Beast,” he says. “But I’ve also been pretty happy just being Sean.”
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