15 Nov 2022 | Feature stories |
Long drive champ’s journey to the top
by Dane Heverin
Asian long drive champion Steffan Scutti was once unaware long drive was even a sport.
The Melburnian grew up an avid basketballer before a heart condition at age 15 put an end to his hoops dreams. He was left searching for a new challenge and golf came calling.
Scutti began swinging a club at nine-hole public course Cheltenham Golf Club - where 2006 US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy famously began his journey next door to host of the ISPS HANDA Australian Open, Victoria Golf Club - and quickly discovered both his love and superb talent for golf.
He played and practised religiously and a year later he moved to Yarra Yarra Golf Club. Not long after he became a scratch marker.
Scutti’s relationship with golf was not all smooth sailing however, as he decided to take a break from the sport for two years after hours upon hours fine tuning the golf swing took its toll.
After the time away, he made the call to return to the golf course but he didn’t expect his comeback to take him down a different path.
“I got into long drive about six years ago,” Scutti said. “We had pennant practice at Yarra Yarra one night on the Trackman and we thought we’d have a little long drive comp.
“I’ve always hit the ball long but our head pro Andrew Bertram said my numbers were through the roof for club speed and ball speed. He said ‘you need to get into this long drive stuff’ and I didn’t even know it was a sport.”
From that night onwards, the now 30-year-old was all-in on long drive.
“I got on YouTube and saw it was huge in America,” he said. “I ordered some long drive drivers from the States, got training and planned to head over to some of their events, and a mate of mine here came across the tryout for the Australian team on the Gold Coast.
“This was within a month or so. I jumped on a plane to the Gold Coast and there were about 20 guys fighting off for four spots in the Australian team. The other four spots were already taken by experienced guys.
“It was a really cool event and I made the team. That was sort of the beginning. From there I made connections with a bunch of different people and found out about events all over the world.”
For the following few years, Scutti was on and off planes to compete in events all while pursuing new opportunities in his day job.
The owner of a personal training business began integrating his own long drive training into his clients' workouts, who did not necessarily want to become long drive athletes but wanted to improve their golf and rotate their body better.
“In the gym I lift normal weights to build strength but I also work on a heap of mobility and flexibility,” he said.
“A lot of rotation work and working on muscle groups that are more predominant in creating power in the golf swing with the legs being the main source of power. A lot of power also comes from the lats by getting your hands up nice and high and creating power by pulling down.
“Three or four times a week I’m training in the gym. I do a lot of normal golf practice as well because I’m playing off a handicap of one at the moment. That’s two or three times a week, and then long drive practice once or twice a week.”
The years of hard work paid off for Scutti when he won the 2019 Australian Long Drive Championship with a 385 yard (352 metre) bomb.
Becoming the national champion suddenly opened a lot of doors.
Scutti earned a start in the World Long Drive Championships in Las Vegas and he also began picking up extra work at charity and corporate golf days.
On those days, he hits drives with each group as they come through - just like how touring professionals often play a par-3 with each group - but suddenly the Covid-19 pandemic hit and those opportunities dried up.
Lockdowns also prevented him from travelling to the United States to take on the rest of the world and he stayed patient until he once again burst into the spotlight at the 2022 Asia Long Drive Championship in September.
Held at Laguna Phuket Golf Course in Thailand, Scutti set a new championship record with a monster 403 yard drive on his way to victory in the three day event.
He was nearly bundled out earlier in the tournament however.
After advancing to the final 16 on the first day, Scutti just hung on to make the final eight following one of the hitters in his group eclipsing him by a single yard.
Long drive competitions work on a system of four hitters at a time with 200 points awarded to the group’s winner, 100 points for second, 50 for third and 25 for fourth.
Scutti’s coming in second in that group dropped him down to seventh in the standings, but it was still enough to scrape through and there was no stopping him on the final day of the tournament.
A 389 yard drive was enough to win his quarter-final match up, before smashing the record-breaking 403 yard drive in his semi-final victory.
In the final, another 389 yard drive secured the title but he still had to endure more setbacks.
The World Long Drive Championships in Las Vegas - where Bryson DeChambeau made the final - took place only a week later and the tight turnaround forced Scutti to make the decision not to travel to the Nevada Desert.
It was not enough time to properly prepare and in Thailand, Scutti had injured both his hand and shoulder as the ferocity of the competition took its toll.
The disappointment of missing out is now fuelling his desire to take it up to the world’s best next year.
“Vegas is an awesome place. That stadium is the best place to hit balls because you’re in the desert and you’re knocking balls to incredible distances in the altitude. I think I went 420 yards last time I was there,” Scutti said.
“Me being able to hit the grid more often in match play is really handy because it puts a lot of pressure on the other player. You’ll get some better bounces too when that’s the case.
“Seeing the numbers at the world champs, I know I can compete with those top guys.”
Watch the 2022 Asia Long Drive Championship Final here and see Steffan's Instagram @steffanlongdrivegolf.
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