The soft touch

Heather LeMaster, long-drive golfer


Heather LeMaster will compete in the Re/Max World Long Drive Championship, September 20-27 in Mesquite, Nev. For more information, visit

International long-drive champion Heather LeMaster graduated from Sacramento State University in 2008 (organizational communications with “a major in golf”), works as an assistant golf professional at Granite Bay Golf Club, and can hit a golf ball 300 yards like it’s no big deal. The long-drive golfer, who boasts the nickname “Longknocker,” has traveled all over the world, winning long-drive competitions and raising money for charity. Oh, and she also likes horses. SN&R managed to catch up with her between lessons to chat about handicaps, training and how not to be so hypercompetitive all the time.

How does a long-drive competition work?

It’s like home-run derby for golf. We hit simultaneously against 24 other girls. We have two minutes and 45 seconds to hit six balls within a grid approximately 60-yards wide. With all the loud music, and men and women cheering for you, the overwhelming rush of adrenaline and energy transforms my golf swing into “girl-power golf.”

How far can you hit a golf ball?

My career ball is 347 yards, which I hit on the Golf Channel live last year. I qualified to hit in the world championships by hitting 330 yards. My winning drive was 306 yards.

Best part about being a long-drive competitor?

That I can use my talent of hitting a golf ball, and help charities all over the world raise funds for their causes. I’ve found an avenue that I love and am compassionate about, because I can help raise funds and awareness for many causes. There are a few local long-drive professionals in the Sacramento area and we have teamed up to help charities such as the Shriner’s Hospital for Children [Northern California], and Make-A-Wish [Foundation]. My other favorite part about long drive is that I get to travel the world competing.

Coolest thing about the long drive?

My best memories of a match are the preparation. Mental and physical hours of working on my game with swing coaches Tommy Morton and Pat Carroll at Haggin Oaks and Matt Kilgariff from the Butch Harmon School of Golf in Las Vegas. Practicing until my hands callous over and my grips wear down has helped me to become the compassionate, professional instructor and competitive athlete I am today. The coolest thing that has ever happened is that I was given the nickname “Longknocker” before I even started competing in long drive. I also qualified for the [United State Golf Association’s] Women’s Amateur Championship back-to-back. I had my first win in golf overseas. I have yet another avenue in golf that keeps the game fun.

What’s your handicap?

My game is great. It may be a misconception that long drivers can’t play golf well, but we do. We just have the advantage of hitting a ball exceptionally far—not always straight, but it’s in some fairway—all while maintaining a soft enough touch to stroke the ball into the hole. I graduated as a plus-two handicap from Sacramento State. I am probably a four handicap now. However, I believe that in no time I could again become a scratch golfer. I’m more mentally tough, more physically prepared and I play and teach golf now because I am compassionate and truly feel that whether I make it or not, I can go out there and give it my absolute heart and soul one more time and enjoy it, because at the end of the day, it must remain a game.

Sounds like you have a hypercompetitive streak.

I do.

Is it hard not take things too personally on the course?

No. It’s important to remember that it’s called the “game” of golf. It’s not life or death.

Did you always have that attitude?

It took me about five years to grow up. For awhile, I thought that golf was what made me who I was. Now I know it’s just a part of me.

Secrets to hitting a long straight drive?

Getting lessons, spending time in the gym doing speed training and lifting, and the desire to be the best in the world.

Is body strength the most important factor?

It’s second to being the best ball striker, er, most pure ball striker. Once someone can hit a golf ball, he or she can learn how to swing fast, but you can’t swing fast and expect to hit it pure before knowing how.

Is flexibility important? How about youth?

Yes, flexibility is a big part. I like to wind myself up and then uncoil like a spring. Age has less effect that a person would think. You can be young or old and hit a ball far.

Still looking to join the Ladies Professional Golf Association tour?

My immediate goals are to defend my Re/Max World Long Drive title this September in Mesquite, Nevada; continue training in fitness, health and life; and then when next year comes, I plan to be ready to go to LPGA [Tour] Qualifying School and qualify for the 2016 ladies’ tour.

Are long-drive competitions a viable career?

I think it’s difficult to call it viable, but it’s certainly possible for a man. Women don’t have enough competitions to make a living competing in long drive.