Editor’s note: The Re/Max World Long Drive Championship started Sept. 18 in Mesquite, Nev., and finished with the Open Division finals Oct. 30 in Las Vegas. To celebrate the event, which attracts hundreds of golfers from dozens of countries, Golfweek compiled a series of profiles of prominent long-drive participants who helped shape the sport.
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Of all the men and women who chase world titles in long driving, Pat Dempsey is a prominent example of someone who discovered golf later in life. Dempsey, 56, of Sunland, Calif., came into the game at age 39 and quickly became involved as a spokesman, advocate and businessman.
Along the way, he also has captured four age-group titles in the Re/Max World Long Drive Championship, including the 2013 Super Senior (50 and older) crown in late September in Mesquite, Nev., where he won with a 359-yard drive.
World champion – he wears the title well.
Athleticism and sporting success reside in the bones of the Dempsey family. Pat and his older brother, Rick, were baseball players. Both were catchers. Rick logged an astounding 24 years in the major leagues and was named Most Valuable Player in the 1983 World Series, leading the Baltimore Orioles over the Philadelphia Phillies. Pat played 12 years in the minor leagues and two months in the big leagues, with the Oakland A’s.
“I don’t tell people I played two months in the majors,” he said. “I tell them I sat on the bench for two months in the majors.”
Because of a fortuitous decision, he played golf a handful of times during his professional baseball career. He was pictured on a bubble-gum card from Topps, which in payment offered him either $300 or a set of Louisville Slugger golf clubs. He took the clubs.
“That cost me dearly,” he said. “Every day I’d lose all my meal money to the other players. I didn’t know what I was doing.”
Dempsey faced a formidable obstacle as a baseball player – alcoholism. With that behind him, he talks candidly about his addiction, often addressing recovery groups. By the time he was 39, he was sober. He was ready to give golf a serious try.
Today Dempsey, who often can be found at Angeles National Golf Club outside Los Angeles, is a golf whirlwind.
He competes in long-drive events. He is a tour representative for UST Mamiya golf shafts and will work more than 40 tournaments on the Web.com Tour and PGA Tour in 2013. He is a golf instructor. He also owns Horsepower Golf, fitting golfers with drivers and other clubs.
What’s more, he speaks and sings in public on a regular basis.
In 2002, he sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “God Bless the USA” to open the Re/Max World Long Drive Championship. He followed that performance with an encore: a world title in the Senior Division. In 2006, he sang the national anthem and “O Canada” at a major-league game between Baltimore and Toronto.
How does he do all this?
“With great difficulty,” he said with a laugh. “This year has been especially difficult, because we moved into a fixer-upper house. The air travel just wears you down. Whatever project you’re working on, it comes to a screeching halt.”
Dempsey offers a golf tip for everyone, a tip that focuses on the individuality of every player: “When you get fit, try everything. Try all the different combinations of clubheads and shafts. Don’t let a fitter put you in a category based simply on your swing speed or your age. I’ve fit golfers in their 60s and 70s who drive the ball better with an X shaft in their driver. So I tell everyone to explore all the possibilities.”