I met the real Happy Gilmore on Monday afternoon.
His name is Jamie Sadlowski. He’s a 25-year-old former junior hockey player from Alberta, Canada, who can hit a golf ball 475 yards. On Wednesday night, he’ll be trying to win his third RE/MAX World Long Drive Championship at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (Free tickets can be downloaded at longdrivers.com; they’ll cost $40 on the day of the show.)
Sadlowski does not have a grandmother who owes $275,000 in back taxes. He does not have a caddie whose arm was bitten off by an alligator. He has never played golf with Bob Barker, though he did make the cut in one of two tournaments he played on the Buy.com tour.
Lots of people admire a guy who can hit a golf ball a long way. This is why John Daly still has one of the biggest galleries on the PGA Tour. When last seen, John Daly weighed 276 pounds and was wearing loud pants.
Jamie Sadlowski weighs only 165 pounds. Like Daly, he stands 5 feet, 11 inches from tee to green. Unlike Daly, he does not wear loud pants.
Because I’m usually watching the World Series instead of the Golf Channel this time of year and have never seen Jamie Sadlowski hit a golf ball 475 yards, I’m guessing he wears a hockey sweater and takes a running start and drives the little dimpled ball slap shot-style, like Al MacInnis, into another county.
Jamie Sadlowski’s official Long Drive biography says his club speed is 150, and his ball speed is 218, and his driver is a Callaway X-Hot Pro LD with a 48-inch shaft from House of Forged, and his loft is 5 degrees, and his tee is Champ Fly.
If any of this means something, it probably means you watch the Golf Channel instead of the World Series this time of year.
All I know is that this young Edmonton Oilers fan can hit a golf ball 475 yards in competition, which he did this year in Round 2 of qualifying for the World Championships.
I’m told there were lots of oohs and aahs.
And last year, during an appearance on the Golf Channel, one of Sadlowski’s drives ripped a hole right through their simulator.
That video went viral. And just to show it wasn’t a fluke, Sadlowski was invited back on the Golf Channel, and the second time he broke another simulator — with a 7-iron. He can hit a 7-iron 240 yards. The 7-iron he hit on TV didn’t fly that far, on account it ripped through the simulator first.
Art Sellinger, the CEO of Long Drivers of America, says Jamie Sadlowski “has been given a gift of hinges and levers (shoulders and wrists),” and that’s why he can hit a golf ball 475 yards.
There have been scientific studies that suggest it has something to do with coefficients and flexibility and other high-techness, studies that show Sadlowski rotates his shoulders 166 degrees whereas his hips rotate 49 degrees — sort of like Charo in her prime, but better than Tiger Woods in his, because Tiger averages only 85 degrees of shoulder-hip gap.
But Sadlowski thinks he can hit a golf ball from here to Saskatoon mostly because he played the point on the power play for the Bonnyville Pontiacs of the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
He played the off side, so when the Pontiacs reversed the puck, he would crank up these vicious one-timers. Most of the time, they were nowhere close to the net; the most goals he scored in three seasons with the Pontiacs was four in 2006-07.
But sometimes his shots broke the Plexiglas, or the Zamboni, and once in a while they would clang off the post, like missiles. And then the goalies for the Fort McMurray Oil Barons and the Okotoks Oilers wouldn’t be in such a hurry to cut down the angle the next time Bonnyville was on the power play.
“I’m sure it does,” Sadlowski said when asked if his distance off the tee comes from his wicked slap shot, though he said switching to right-handed golf clubs as a teenager also might have something to do with it. He shoots the puck left-handed and the golf ball right-handed, and so he played golf cross-handed until he was 15 or so and his father could afford new clubs.
Only eight of the biggest hitters in the world qualify for these finals, and hitting off a platform from halfway up the Earnhardt Terrace in Turn 4 down onto the grass in the LVMS tri-oval — more of a right-to-left shot than a straight-on one — might mess with some of the big hitters’ heads, in the manner that ocean green on the 17th at Sawgrass messes with the heads of Tiger and Phil and the touring pros.
“But there’s not a hitter out there who doesn’t think this is a great setting,” Jamie Sadlowski said, and so when the real-life Happy Gilmore grips it and rips it on Wednesday night, he hopes his ball will land way past Shooter McGavin’s — way, way down there, beyond the media center — and that it won’t stop rolling until it gets to Victory Lane.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski