LINKLETTER – Lisa (Longball) Vlooswyk learned early in her golf career that distance was going to be a big part of her game.
She competes in the sport of long drive, was the first woman to hit a ball over 350 yards in a competition, which is “three-and-a-half NFL football fields,” and is the reigning eight-time Canadian long-drive champion.
“I focus on hitting the long ball,” said Vlooswyk, who is also known as Lisa Longball.
“After I won my first national title, the local media had problems pronouncing Vlooswyk (pronounced Vlew-swick), so they nicknamed me ‘Lisa Longball’ and it’s a moniker that has just stuck.”
Vlooswyk was on P.E.I. earlier this week for the Summerside Boys and Girls Club Novus celebrity golf tournament, and put on an hour-long clinic for junior members at the host course, P.E.I. Ocean View Resort and Golf.
“People are always asking me because I’m a long-drive specialist, ‘How do I hit it longer, and not just my driver but all my clubs longer?,’” said Vlooswyk in a post-clinic interview with the Journal Pioneer. “The No. 1 thing to hitting your clubs longer is you need to make a good turn. Women, in particular, tend to be arm lifters instead of turners.
“I focused a lot on how to make a good turn. I told the juniors something super simple, and that is on your back swing you want to turn your shirt, and turn your pants on your down swing. So, turn your shirt, turn your pants, anything to get you turning to add that torque. . . That will help everyone hit it longer and straighter.”
When asked what advice she would give young golfers, Vlooswyk stressed the No. 1 thing is to have fun.
“Any time you make it super serious, or too hard core for the kids, they will pull back a little bit,” offered Vlooswyk. “If you want to make it fun, get out with the kids and it’s such a great family sport. I was telling some of the juniors at the clinic that last week I was playing with my dad and my (11-year-old) son, it was three generations of golfers – a son, a mom and a dad.”
Vlooswyk also told the gathering that if new golfers are struggling to get the ball up in air, she suggested the juniors to tee it up on the fairway.
“People always says, ‘Lisa, that’s not the rules of golf,’” continued Vlooswyk. “Heck, if you are not competing in the U.S. Open, don’t worry about it.
“Let’s get it so we are enjoying golf, having fun and as you get better take the tee away and follow the rules once we start competing.”
Interacting with juniors
An elementary school teacher before pursuing her golf career full time, Vlooswyk clearly enjoyed interacting with the juniors and adults in attendance. She involved them by asking questions during the clinic, and signed personalized autographs, posed for photos and engaged in conversations with participants afterwards.
“To me this is one of my favourite things to do,” said Vlooswyk. “I get to teach, but in a different way now.
“I will have people after golf clinics who reach out to me, ‘Oh Lisa, I hit my driver over 200 yards, or I broke 100, or I started hitting the ball high and straight.’
“To me that makes it so worth it to know I brought enjoyment to the game for other people.”
Introduction to golf
Vlooswyk, however, had an innocent introduction to the sport of golf.
“My husband (Anton) dragged me into it,” she added with a smile. “I couldn’t break a 100 to save my life.
“The LPGA came to my hometown Calgary, I volunteered and the women inspired me. After watching the best female golfers on the planet, I decided to start competing, and luckily there are competitions for people who can’t break a 100. I entered and came about three-quarters of the way through the pack, but that’s where I realized I had this weird, freaky ability to hit a golf ball a long way.
“I was hitting it 80 to 100 yards past my female playing partners. I saw an advertisement for a long-drive competition, I entered and I won with a 313-yard drive with a set of clubs from Costco.”
Vlooswyk’s career was just getting started, and she pointed out it would not have unfolded the way it has if not for Anton’s encouragement.
“He’s super supportive, and comes with me to every world championship,” said Vlooswyk. “When I was a teacher I was so passionate about teaching, but I realized I couldn’t compete all across North America and keep teaching, and he said, ‘Lisa, you know you have a limited chance to be the best in the world at something, so do it.’
“I resigned my position, and he’s been very supportive ever since.”