High Hopes For East Texas Long Driver - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

10/17/06

High Hopes For East Texas Long Driver

MattVvilade is not your typical golfer. When he pulls out the driver, he puts the golf ball in places that would make John Daly green with envy. It's a talent he is beginning to take advantage of.

"One day I was just reading the newspaper and they had a long drive contest," Vilade recalls.  "A couple of my buddies were like, you should go, and I ended up just winning it the first time out, and developed into, all right, where can I go next?"

Where he went next was all the way to the top. In his first professional year, Vilade has cruised through local and district qualifiers to earn a spot in the World Long Drive Championship in Mesquite, Nevada.

"Where the 130 longest hitters on the planet get together and hit for a purse," Vilade said.

A purse of $500,000, with $125,000 of that going to the winner. So how far do you have to hit the golf ball to get into that class? Pretty far. Let's put it into perspective. I consider myself a big hitter. So when I stepped up to the number 18 tee box at Emerald Bay and unloaded a monstor drive, I felt pretty good about myself. But my 280 yard drive, was about 100 yards short of where Vilade was hitting, and those weren't even his best shots. He hit one that bounded past me, resting 408 yards away, right at the feet of his coach, Golf Connection's Randy Stewart, a former long drive competitor himself.

"You're looking at a guy, that, as I sit here, probably a top 10, top 5 in the long drive circuit ability," Stewart said.  "It's lights out. If everything comes together with one swing, there's nobody in the country that's going to catch him."

And that includes his older brother, UT-Tyler baseball coach James Vilade. Matt says he has always taken a back seat to James when it comes to sports. That is, until now.

"Maybe this one I got him," Vilade said with a grin.

Matt tees it up in the Re/Max World Long Drive Championship beginning next Thursday, October 26. The competition will be shown on ESPN in December.

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