As we near my debut in late July at the grandest of all celebrity golf tournaments — the American Century Championship at Lake Tahoe — I have to say I’m not at all concerned about competing with world class male athletes like Aaron Rodgers, Carson Palmer, Roger Clemens, and Brian Urlacher.
There are two reasons for this. First, when I took up the sport as a teenager, there just weren’t too many girls playing golf and I teed it up with the boys all the time.
Second, I just might be able to outdrive ‘em all!
You see, that’s kind of my specialty. I’m a good player with plenty of competitive titles in high school, college (Cal State Sacramento) and beyond but when it comes to distance driving of the golf ball, I’m a champion.
In 2013, I won the Women’s World Long Drive Championship at Mesquite, Nevada, with an effort of 306 yards. I’ve got validated distances of 332 and 298 under other circumstances and just have a knack for combining those many variables that come together to generate unusual clubhead speed and send that dimpled sphere into the sky in a direction that is often just straight enough.
Heather’s Tips for Big DrivesFor the average golfer, I recommend improving ball striking by practicing and getting lessons to improve distance off the tee. After confidence is achieved, a person can work on getting longer by increasing club head speed and not being afraid to ‘hit’ the ball.I work at Fitgolf Sacramento on increasing my swing speed with trainer Greg Johnson, who focuses on strengthening my glutes, core, hamstrings and back.
So, when I got the coveted invitation to come in July to the Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course, located high in the Sierra Mountains near my hometown of Sacramento, CA, I was thrilled to be part of this oh-so-cool event with $600,000 in prize money that has raised some $4 million for charity over the years. There are five women in the field this year, the largest ever contingent of the fairer sex and we’re all looking forward to competing in 54 holes of tournament play with these 85 men.
And, I had an idea for just us girls:
Since Lake Tahoe boasts an elevation of over 6,000 feet, let’s try to establish a verified record for the category of Women’s Long Drive at Elevation.
I called the tournament, floated the thought and a few days later PR Director Phil Weidinger was in touch with detail from the Guinness Book of World Records to determine next steps. Turns out the category does exist but there is no cut and dry record to shoot for. So the American Century Championship is going to stage a competition tournament week for me and fellow first-time female competitor Blair O’Neal, the TV host who won two NCAA Women’s Long Drive Championships at Arizona St. Hopefully, the other women in the field this year – U.S. National Soccer Team legend Abby Wambach, Golf Channel TV host Lisa Cornwell and NBC Sports Network host Kathryn Tappen — will join us.
And wouldn’t it be cool if Annika Sorenstam, who finished second in the American Century Championship in 2014 and lives part-time in Lake Tahoe, graced us with a few of those oh-so-sweet swings?
I’m sure Aaron, Carson, Roger, and Brian (plus Charles Barkley, Jerry Rice, Brandon Marshall and, hopefully, Justin Timberlake) will be on hand. But only as spectators.
Later in the week, when the big galleries and the live, NBC TV cameras are in play, everyone will get a chance to see these girls in competition. Watch out, guys! That’s when we really plan to shine.
Heather LeMaster’s passion for golf began in grade school when she started swinging a custom club that her uncle built for her. She started playing junior tournaments during high school and accepted a full-ride athletic scholarship to play golf at California State Sacramento in her hometown.
Heather graduated in 2008 and continued playing competitive amateur golf, qualifying for the US Women’s Amateur Championships in 2008-9. After fighting injuries for a couple of years, Heather began to compete in long drive competitions and in 2013 won the World Long Drive Championship with a blast of 306 yards in Mesquite, NV. She will be competing in the American Century Championship on NBC for the first time this year.