John Daly's long-distance drives give him his main appeal to the public. He hits them in the 300-yard range, uncharted territory for the average golfer.
In another setting, though, Daly's drives would be merely average.
Some players specialize in driving golf balls about three times the length of a football field--end zones included.
One of the longest of the long hitters is Cary Schuman, who has a record pending for a sanctioned event.
The 40-year-old Schuman launched a drive 463 yards 10 inches on July 31, 1991, in long-drive competition at the Illinois Open in St. Charles.
In 1989, Schuman hit a drive 411 yards 32 inches, setting a record that was subsequently broken by Jack Hamm at 437 yards.
Of his monster drive in Illinois, Schuman said:
"If I swing as hard as I can, I have about a 10% chance of making contact. I was leading with a 371-yard drive. So what did I have to lose? I swung hard and I estimate it traveled 360 yards in the air."
Schuman will be in competition with other long-drive specialists such as Frank Miller, Scott DeCandia, Jerry James, Randy Souza and Michael Staskus Saturday at the Whispering Lakes Golf Course (formerly Ontario National) in Ontario.
A former stuntman in motion pictures and disaster films such as "The Towering Inferno," "Earthquake" and "The Poseidon Adventure," Schuman now specializes in long-drive competitions while playing in Asia and Europe, events that that are the equivalent of the U.S. Nike tour.
He began playing golf when he was 12, using his father's right-handed clubs, even though he is left-handed. He attended Grant High in the San Fernando Valley, but the school didn't have a golf team.
Schuman later played briefly for Valley College before attending Cal State Northridge.
His stunt work kept him busy only six months of the year, so he began playing golf again in his free time.
Schuman estimates that he has hit a ball 400 yards or farther nine times in competition.
Schuman, at 6 feet 1 and 205 pounds, is smaller than some of his competitors. So what is the secret to hitting a ball distances that are only a dream for the average hacker?
"You have to use all parts of your body," Schuman said. "A lot of people swing mostly with their arms, or just use their legs more. It's a mixture of it all with perfect timing and rhythm."
Practice, of course, is essential, he added.
As for the players on the long-driving "tour," Schuman said:
"Most of the players in competition are scratch, or low handicappers. It's not like it used to be. I would say that most of these guys could out-drive John Daly, but they can't out-play John Daly.
"His all-out drive would be about 20 yards less than the long drivers. I know I was hitting with him on a range in Las Vegas and he wasn't as long as I was."
Imagine the scene at a driving range in Van Nuys in 1991 when Schuman showed up.
"Two guys were mending a fence 250 yards from the tees," Schuman said. "I was launching them over their heads about 300 yards."
Schuman makes the point that long hitters have an advantage--if they're accurate--because they are setting up shorter iron shots to the green with their approach shots.
"It's important to get off the tee long. If you look through history, long hitters have dominated the tour, with the exception of Tom Kite. And he's a freak of nature. While others are declining at his age, 43, he's getting better."
Schuman, who lives in Calabasas, is opening driving ranges with his Number 1 Golf Company. The ranges will be mainly in California.
"We want to be known as the McDonald's of driving ranges with fun centers," he said.
Schuman could provide some of the fun by hitting balls out of sight. Or scaring workmen repairing nets.
Johnny Miller, now a golf television commentator, believes that players of his era are better than the players today.
"I honestly believe that the top guys that I played against in my peak years in the 1970s were, as a group, better than today's best," Miller told the New York Times. "I'm talking about players like Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Tom Watson, myself, Tom Weiskopf, Hale Irwin, Raymond Floyd, Ben Crenshaw and Hubert Green.
"Secondly, while there is no question the top players have more demands on their time than ever before, the fact the public is starving for a hero makes the environment for a rising star a very receptive one."
The purse for the long-drive competition in Ontario is $11,000, with $3,000 going to the winner. . . . The USGA has granted special exemptions to Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson for the U.S. Open, which will be held June 17-20 at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J. . . . The Mazda golf clinic for executive women will be held March 29 at the Los Coyotes Country Club. LPGA pros Patty Sheehan and Shelley Hamlin will provide instruction.
The YMCA's annual tournament to benefit youngsters will be held March 22 at Los Verdes Golf Course. Senior pros Chi Chi Rodriguez and Don Massengale will conduct a clinic. . . . Tiger Woods and Calvin Peete will be hosts for the Young Golfers of America Assn.'s second annual pro-am March 29 at Braemar CC.