Long-hitting Lincicome leads Wegmans LPGA

Brittany Lincicome during the third round of the Wegmans LPGA Championship at Monroe Golf Club in Pittsford, N.Y.

PITTSFORD, N.Y. – Brittany Lincicome and Dewald Gouws are golf’s ultimate power couple. Lincicome, known on tour as "BAM BAM," is one of the biggest hitters on the LPGA, but she’d have to catch the cart path to come close to her boyfriend’s longest drive. Gouws’ best smash in competition: 464 yards.

“Did he tell you every now and again he misses it and I outdrive him?” asked Lincicome, grinning. “I take a picture.”

For that to happen Lincicome, leader of the Wegmans LPGA Championship after three rounds, has to crush a drive and Gouws, a long drive pro by trade, basically has to whiff it.

But still.

Gouws, a beefy South African, kindly protested against her posting such photographic evidence to Twitter.

“Babe, this sport I’m in is pretty rugged and you’re doing this!” said Gouws, runner-up at the 2008 Remax World Long Drive Championship.

Let the record show that Gouws has yet to beat her at any of their friendly match-play competitions.

Monroe Golf Club was made for a player like Lincicome, who can routinely bust drives 280 yards. She’s 11 under for the tournament on the par 5s this week and leading Suzann Pettersen and Inbee Park by one stroke.

“This course definitely favors the bombers,” said Pettersen, who gained a club with her irons and at least 10 yards off the tee despite doing nothing but cardio at the gym since her back injury.

For Lincicome, winning a tournament for the first time since 2011 might come down to how well she calms the nerves.

“I think because I haven't been in this position in a while,” said Lincicome, “it just kind of all caught up with me.”

When asked how many times she felt like nerves got the better of her on the greens Saturday, Lincicome said “all of them on the front nine.”

“They were all not hit in the middle of the club face,” she said. “Distance control was not very good. I left most things short.”

Lincicome relied on bananas, some mid-round medicine and Bible verses to get her through the round. On Sunday, she plans to avoid looking at any leaderboards and stick with the game plan that’s carried her to the top thus far. Nancy Lopez told her two years ago in Phoenix that she needed to know her position down the stretch, but she can’t quite get herself to sneak a peek.

Lincicome might not know what’s going on tomorrow, but rest assured that Gouws will be following closely. The two fittingly met at the 2012 World Long Drive Championship in Mesquite, Nev. Several months later, Lincicome flew to South Africa for a visit.

By April, Gouws had quit his job because his boss wouldn’t give him the two weeks he needed to visit Lincicome in the U.S.

“I had to see her,” he said.

One week into his trip, the boss called begging him to come back.

Lincicome made three more treks to South Africa to visit Gouws last year, meaning they routinely went 60-90 days without seeing each other.

“South Africa is so far from anywhere in the world,” she said. “I would try to back it up to the British or Evian or Australia and it’s still like 10 to 12 hours from all those places.”

2013 was a tiring year for an already globe-trotting Lincicome, but from the look on her face, totally worth it. In late December, Gouws moved to Florida.

“We did what everyone else thinks you can’t do,” said Gouws of the extra-long-distance relationship that relied heavily upon modern conveniences like WhatsApp and Skype.

Now that they’re living on the same continent, Lincicome has been able to introduce her man to the rush of deep-sea fishing. In May, Gouws fought a 6-foot shark for 35 minutes in the Gulf of Mexico.

Prior to meeting Lincicome, he’d only gone fishing twice.

Time on the range is more fun now with Gouws around. He’s constantly working on new trick shots for his routine at charity outings. Lincicome is particularly fond of hitting it through watermelons. They’ve even bashed drives through plywood, though her piece is obviously not as thick.

“Even taking a ball and bouncing it and then hitting it with your driver,” said Lincicome, “those always look so easy until you try it.”

For long drive competitions, Gouws uses a driver that’s 2 inches longer than standard with a triple-x flex shaft and 3-degree loft. That’s the same amount of loft as your average putter.

Gouws’ best advice to Lincicome, who hasn’t had a formal lesson in years, is to focus on her tempo.

“Swing it at 80 percent,” he said. “If you try to go any harder than that you hit it shorter.”

While both dig the long ball, only one is interested in working out. Gouws hits the gym when Lincicome, famous for her naps, hits the hay.

Gouws said it never crossed his mind that they couldn’t make this globe-trotting romance work.

“The heart wants what the heart wants,” he said.

And why not? Long distance has always been their specialty.

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