Sequim golfer takes aim at world drive title

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Matt Eveland, 30, is going long. So long that it’s taking him to the RE/MAX World Long Drive Championship in Mesquite, Nev., from Sept. 23-27.


Eveland said his wife and family and members of The Cedars at Dungeness Men’s Club have been supportive and especially excited with the event televised on ESPN and the Golf Channel.


As a 2001 Sequim High grad and golf team player, Eveland said he’s always been known for hitting long drives. But when he competed for the first time at the June 6 state qualifier at High Cedars Golf Club in Orting, Eveland said his hand was shaking putting the tee into the ground before his first shot.


He shook off his nerves by slamming a 331-yard drive to win and move into regionals in late July at the same course.


In long drive the setup is simple — each competitor gets six balls and two minutes and 45 seconds to hit them all. Whoever hits it the farthest and toward the grid either wins or moves to the next qualifying round.


For Eveland, he went into the regional districts against 40 of the best long-drive hitters from multiple states and parts of Canada to take second with a 340-yard shot best.


If his club aligns just right, he could fly to the finale on Oct. 30 with a top eight world finish for a chance at $250,000. Finalists will shoot from the Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the prize.


Eveland said he’s always known about the competition and is excited to finally participate.


If he won the grand prize, he said it’d be enough to ask his wife not to work anymore.


What it takes

Becoming a serious competitor led Eveland to change from his Taylor Made driver with a 9-degree angle to a Krank Formula-5 drivers with 4-, 5- and 6- degree angles.


Jerry Allen, CEO of 7 Cedars Casino, sponsored him and paid for the clubs. Eveland said he’s been researching the drivers and these are what the best use.


His swing speed with his regular drivers has gone from 115 mph to upwards of 143 mph with the long range drivers. These drivers are three to five inches longer and about 15 to 20 grams heavier, he said.


To get used to them he’s been doing a lot of upper body workouts.


“It hasn’t been a hard transition, but when you switch back to using an iron when playing it’s like swinging a broom handle,” he said. “You have to really turn through it because you can slice it.”


At competition, he said his approach remains the same to focus on a point and swing through to a target.

“Every competition I’ve been to I’ve hit the grid 50 percent of the time,” he said.


“I find a point and stick it. I don’t correct anything if I’m in the middle of hitting. I close my stance and keep things the same.”


Eveland’s approach seems to work because at The Cedars’ Merchants League he hit one drive 400 yards that barely rolled out of bounds.


World competitor and a family man

Eveland isn’t practicing daily because of work and family obligations — he has three children ages 2, 8 and 10 and another child due in December.


For work, he’s served as the food and beverage manager for The Cedars at Dungeness since July 2010.

He’s also playing through degenerative disc disease with two protrusions in his back.


“It’s a struggle sometimes,” he said.


“But I plan to keep doing it as long as I keep my back healthy and stay competitive for years to come.”


He last competed at the Snohomish Long-Drive competition on Aug. 4. with a third-place finish and a 350-yard strike behind winning shots of 355 and 359.


At the world competition, he’ll see 192 competitors mostly from the U.S.


“My goal is to be competitive,” Eveland said.


“Winning is a dream. I feel I continue to make good contact. If I make it into the finals, that’d be great.”


To win, he thinks he must hit it 390-400 yards in Mesquite, which he said is doable with its high elevation and thin air.


“My hope is that by hitting at 360 here I can hit it that far there,” he said.


As a precursor to the event, Eveland is partnering with The Cedars to host a long-drive challenge on Saturday, Sept. 14, with registration at 1 p.m. and the competition at 2 p.m.


Players will hit the ball from hole 18 to the driving range. “It’s a chance to come out and play against a world long-drive competitor,” Eveland said.


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