SBJ/Aug. 4-10, 2014/People and Pop Culture

Plugged In: Art Sellinger, Long Drivers of America

Nothing captures the imagination of golfers more than hitting the ball farther. Art Sellinger knows that; he’s built his business on it. Long Drivers of America, where Sellinger is CEO, was founded 20 years ago, back when Sellinger was one of the longest-hitting golfers in the world. Sellinger now is the guy who runs the clinics and events, most notably the company’s annual Re/Max World Long Drive Championship.

You see Rory McIlroy generate 180 mph of ball speed, and that’s impressive. Our guys in Long Drive are making the ball go 220 mph or faster, 25 percent faster than what you see on TV each week. We have incredible athletes who can fly a ball 400 yards. So every week, every day, we’re talking internally about what we can do to promote them.

On switching from ESPN to Golf Channel for the championship this year:
We spent 18 years with ESPN and they’ve been a great partner. The tournament player is different than our guys, but we want to keep that strong connection to golf and we felt we could best do that with Golf Channel.

Turning point during 20 years of the long-drive business: It would have to be when we went to the long drive at night around 1995. In the original days, the competition lacked excitement. One of the problems was that you couldn’t see the ball. At night, the lights reflect off the ball and it’s kind of like the ball lights up. It just made for a cool atmosphere.

On whether long-drive specialists can make it in tournament golf:
We’ve had three guys on “Big Break.” We’ve had a couple qualify for the U.S. Senior Open. Some have played mini-tours, and a few have played on the Tour. I personally think you have to pick one or the other.

On the last year of Re/Max’s 20-year run as title sponsor: They’ve been incredible. They’ve really helped with a grassroots push for the event, through their local agents. From a branding standpoint, their balloon has been the icon, but we’re also a property with weekly events around the calendar. We’ve got local and regional qualifying, and international players now. We need a partner who will see the value in that type of branding.

On drug testing long-drive competitors: We do drug test through random testing. We push a clean message with our events. When people think of long drivers, they tend to think of bulk, but our guys are all different sizes. Jamie Sadlowski is 5-11, 168 pounds. Tim Burke is a former pitcher who’s 6-6, 225. Bulk and size in the chest and biceps doesn’t guarantee that you’ll hit the ball far. Guys thick in the chest generally can’t generate the same speed as long and lanky guys.
— Michael Smith

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