Golf Channel and NBC to broadcast Long Drive Championship series in 2013
October is going to be a long month in 2013. Literally.
Under a deal between Golf Channel and the Long Drivers of America, four long-drive competitions will be telecast on Golf Channel next year, culminating with a live showing of the World Long Drive Championship.
Next October will be designated Long Drive Month at Golf Channel. The cable network will air long drive competitions on Wednesday evenings, Oct. 9, 16 and 23. Those events, which will be held in September and edited for the October showings, will serve as qualifiers. (Think of them as the FedEx Cup playoffs of long drive.)
The main event, the World Long Drive Championship, will be shown live for two hours under the lights on Wednesday, Oct. 30.
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Golf Channel will re-air each telecast four times through the rest of the quarter, and its broadcast partner, NBC, will show a one-hour highlight show of the whole series, including the final.
"That'll be the first time long drive has ever been on network TV," said Art Sellinger, a two-time long-drive champion who runs the LDA. "This is huge for us."
Mesquite, Nev., hosted last week's ReMax World Long Drive Championship, won by Ryan Winther of Lodi, Calif., but the sites for next year's competitions are still to be determined. Mesquite is one of several potential locations.
The World Long Drive Championship was shown live on ESPN3 last week and will be reshown on ESPN around Christmas. But ESPN hasn't exactly promoted the heck out of the show over the last 17 years, and it has remained a novelty.
Landing on Golf Channel should be the best thing that ever happened to Sellinger and the LDA.
"ESPN, unfortunately, kind of left us in the tank and never did anything with it," Sellinger said. "They chose to make poker what it was, and they could've made long drive into something, but they didn't. No hard feelings. Now we're moving to Golf Channel, the network where we need to be.
"Golf Channel will be able to tell the backstories of the competitors that we've always wanted to tell but didn't have time for in the ESPN show. Who are these guys? Now you'll find out. We get balls in the air and we get backstories with Golf Channel, and that's what the sport really needed."
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Recent notable backstories include 2011 champ Carl Wolter, a high school physical education teacher from eastern Pennsylvania who won the title for his coach, who was battling cancer at the time. This year's winner, Winther, quit semi-pro baseball and gave up his tech job with Apple to try the long drive circuit five years ago. He won last week despite painful bursitis in his shoulder; first prize was $150,000.
In addition to the competitions, Sellinger said, the leading long drive stars will make appearances on other Golf Channel shows such as Golf Academy and Morning Drive.
"Golf Channel is the fastest growing network on cable," Sellinger said. "It's growing by leaps and bounds. We're very pleased to be part of it."
The World Long Drive Championship grew out of the U.S. National Long Drive Championship, which was contested from 1975-1994. The LDA circuit consisted of eight regional events in 2012.