Fresh off his Ryder Cup appearance, PGA TOUR star Bryson DeChambeau quickly made more headlines with his impressive performance last week in the World Long Drive Championship. And there’s a lot more to it than what you might think, as three-time World Long Drive champ Sean “The Beast” Fister explains to Charlie in this episode of “Balls in the Air.” Check it out!
Charlie Rymer (00:00):
Hi, and welcome into the Charlie Rymer Balls in the Air Podcast. I’m your friendly neighborhood host, Charlie Rymer. Listen, everyone is still buzzing a little bit about the Ryder Cup, but more than anything, everybody’s talking about what Bryson DeChambeau did right after the Ryder Cup, went and competed in the Professional Long Drivers Association World Championship. And all he did with that was go out and make it to the quarterfinals, which means that he finished in the top eight.
Charlie Rymer (00:43):
I thought I would go right to the top, to the man that is a very good friend of mine, who happens to be a three-time World Long Drive Champion, Sean “The Beast” Fister. I know he’s been paying attention to what’s going on with Bryson throughout the course of that championship. Sean, appreciate you joining me here on the podcast today.
Sean Fister (01:05):
Absolutely, Charlie. Thanks for having me.
Charlie Rymer (01:07):
Hey, real quick, before we jump into that, tell me what’s going on with you. I know you’re attached to the Dustin Johnson Golf School there in Murrells Inlet at TPC Myrtle Beach. I know you’ve been working with a lot of folks. I’ve got some and friends that are really having some great experience getting some lessons from you, including our boy, Jimmy McNally, who just made his first hole in one. So tell me what you’re up to there at the DJ Golf School.
Sean Fister (01:37):
I enjoy it very much. This is what I feel like I was born to do is to teach golf and helping people get better is a passion of mine. I just love sharing what I know about how to hit the ball accurately and far. And helping people get that is very rewarding to me.
Sean Fister (01:59):
And the facility over here at Dustin Johnson Golf School, it’s located at TPC Myrtle Beach and the facility is just unbelievable. It’s just immaculate, it’s got all the tools you would ever want as a golf instructor.
Sean Fister (02:17):
I have been working with a lot of people in the area and I’m also doing a lot of clinics. I do about 14 clinics a week. I’m working with juniors, I’m working with seniors, some college kids, and it’s just a full gamut, range of people that I work with. I really enjoy it. It’s going good.
Charlie Rymer (02:41):
I know from my friendship over the years, helping other folks and coaching them up is something that’s always been really important to you. And for our folks listening, you can reach Sean Fister there at that Dustin Johnson Golf School, you can get on the interwebs and reach him. And of course, Allen Terrell runs his show over there, longtime coach for Dustin Johnson. I always enjoy getting over there and hanging out with you guys. It’s always a lot of fun, especially when we go eat lunch after we’ve been hitting balls because that’s always a big lunch.
Sean Fister (03:13):
Well, you know as much about eating as I do about long drives. That’s a good one-two punch.
Charlie Rymer (03:19):
Fair enough. That’s why I like doing the podcast, because I look really thin on a podcast. So that’s my favorite thing about doing a podcast.
Charlie Rymer (03:28):
So anyway, let’s just dive right into what’s going on with DeChambeau. I remember, I was trying to think about it earlier today, my years with ESPN, I’d come out and cover the World Long Drive Championship out in Mesquite and actually got the chance to call a couple of your championships.
Charlie Rymer (03:52):
I remember one year Titleist had this thing. It was like maybe y’all were using the Pinnacle balls. And John Daly was doing his John Daly thing. Everybody was talking about how long John Daly was. And there was some sort of challenge where there was some of the long drivers, and then some folks that had actually qualified throughout the country, got a chance to come out and challenge John Daly.
Charlie Rymer (04:15):
And the deal was, if you hit it longer than John Daly, you won $100,000. And everybody was looking at that and they were thinking, well, John’s going to smoke them. And it turned out to go the other way. You remember that?
Sean Fister (04:31):
Yeah, I was there.
Charlie Rymer (04:33):
Titleist had to write some big checks. John Daly’s PGA TOUR golf swing and him being the longest player on the tour for a long time, didn’t translate well into long drive at all. And that was a dud for Titleist and the Pinnacle brand.
Sean Fister (04:50):
It was amateur long drivers that went against John. It wasn’t the professionals. And if it would’ve been the professionals, it would’ve been even worse. But John is long, and I’ve played a lot of golf with John, and he’s as long as he wants to be.
Sean Fister (05:07):
He got out there, and these guys had been doing nothing but hitting drivers at full bore and going at that grid. And John stepped in there and he didn’t take it as serious as I think he could have. And the guys got by him, but the thing about when these tour players get out there, everybody thinks that a guy on the PGA TOUR hits a 310, 320, or then you hear about guys hitting it 400. You don’t realize that the conditions are very favorable for hitting the ball far, when the PGA TOUR regulates how hard the fairways are and how short the grass is compared to long driving, where most of the time it’s all carry.
Sean Fister (06:00):
And when you get a tailwind, guys are carrying the ball 350 in the air with no wind in the air. And then you add the tailwind to it, you give them a hard fairway and 400 is very routine and everybody’s hitting it 400.
Sean Fister (06:17):
But for a guy like John or Bryson, this is a completely different sport. These guys are training for this and you do get several balls in each round, but you’re swinging absolutely as hard as you possibly can. And the adrenaline you’re fighting, and then you’re on stage, there’s pressure that is focused entirely on you, and being able to call up those shots time and time again is not easy.
Sean Fister (06:50):
And people find out when they get in there, I remember one year, Rory Sabbatini came out there, and this was back when Rory was younger and he was one of the longest players on tour. I was sitting at a table with him and he leaned over to one of his handlers and he said, “I should win this easily, right?” And I looked over at him and I said, “Rory,” I said, “Buddy, you better strap it on.” I said, “You’re going to get smoked out there.” And he’s like, “No way.”
Sean Fister (07:22):
And he went out there and he hit the first two rounds and he hit it 340, 350. Guys were hitting it 390, 400 and he was out super quick.
Charlie Rymer (07:32):
He wasn’t even in the ballpark. So looking at what Bryson did last week making it to the quarterfinals, which is the top eight, his longest drive of the week was 412 yards. He hit four, excuse me, nine drives of 400 yards or longer. And considering if that was his first time in long drive as it was, and he wasn’t a world-class player and a major champion, a top 10 ranked player in the world, that’d be a pretty impressive first go at long drive and making your debut.
Sean Fister (08:05):
There’s no question about it. I was very impressed by how he did. His ball speeds are climbing and he’s up in the, I think 210, maybe even higher. But those ball speed … He could have won the thing, but the only way he was going to win that was if the long drive guys that were hitting, had an off round or something.
Sean Fister (08:33):
Because you’ve got guys out there, that’s Kyle Berkshire, who’s a great kid. His ball speed is approaching 230 miles an hour. His club head speed is 155 plus. Nobody’s going to hit with that guy if he catches it.
Sean Fister (08:51):
And that’s the problem, I always told people, I’ve had several interviews about Bryson doing this. The only way that he could win is if it gets given to him, because he’s not there yet. For this sport, he’s ridiculously long for a PGA TOUR player and even insanely long for an average golfer. He is long, but he’s not long enough to take that world title from the best of the best in the business of long driving, unless they hiccup.
Sean Fister (09:23):
Because he’s so steady. I was never the longest guy, maybe one little stretch I was the longest, but I won titles when I was not the longest guy. I hit the fairway and I hit the shot I had to hit. That’s where Bryson has an advantage over a lot of the long drive guys, and in other areas in being able to handle pressure and expectations, because he’s been dealing with that for a long time.
Charlie Rymer (09:51):
Certainly, we talked about John Daly, we talked about Rory Sabbatini, the training that I see Bryson doing a lot of times, they’ll leak out these cool things, these cool clips on YouTube and different places. And the training that he’s doing for PGA TOUR in a lot of instances to me looks more similar to the training that I see you guys doing. And to me, that just makes him different.
Charlie Rymer (10:23):
He’s a pioneer and I believe it’s the case that he spent some time with some of you guys and has been implementing a lot of what you do to get ready for a World Long Drive Championship and what he does to get ready to play the PGA TOUR on any given week.
Sean Fister (10:41):
Well, that’s something that I’ve tried to tell people is the stuff that Bryson’s doing in training for this, these are things that we’ve been doing in this sport for 15, 20 years. Jason Zuback was the guy that stepped it up and started adding some serious speed training and fitness training. And it was either we had to change things to catch him, because he won four in a row, and then we were like, if we’re going to win this thing, we’re going to have to take a page out of his training. That’s what I did, and changed my training, got way more scientific about it. And then I came back and won again at an advanced age for that sport.
Sean Fister (11:30):
But the stuff he’s doing is speed training, but you can do all the speed training in the world. If you’re accurate, nobody’s ever going to hear about you winning anything in long drive. And that’s why he’s got such an advantage. If he continues to add speed, which he can, shoot, how old is he? 28 maybe? 20… he’s in his 20s I think.
Charlie Rymer (11:55):
Yup, he hasn’t hit 30 yet.
Sean Fister (11:57):
Oh my goodness. He could definitely win that thing if he continues to train, but I don’t understand why he would even mess with it, because there’s literally very small amount of money in long drive compared to the PGA TOUR.
Sean Fister (12:14):
And the thing that worries me about his training is injuries. And these injuries that he’s going to get from training very hard for long driving is, when it starts costing him big money, he’s probably going to rethink things.
Charlie Rymer (12:31):
Let’s dig into that a little bit, because along with your three World Long Drive titles, when you and I go play golf, this day and age, it takes you a while to get warmed up. I can just see it. I’m 53, I think you’re, what are you, 57? You’re about-
Sean Fister (12:57):
Charlie Rymer (12:58):
I’ll give you 57 because you don’t look 59.
Sean Fister (13:01):
Thanks a lot.
Charlie Rymer (13:02):
But I can just tell from, and you’re not one to whine about it and I’ll give you a ton of credit for that, but I get the feeling that the price that you’re paying for those three World Long Drive titles is heavier than just not being able to swing at it really hard. Now, I get the sense that some of the injuries that you’ve had to deal with impact your quality of life at age 59. Am I a little off on that? Or am I hitting that pretty hard?
Sean Fister (13:37):
Not at all.
Charlie Rymer (13:38):
Because you just don’t talk about it, but you’ve paid a big price for all that training and having those three titles stretched out over a long period of time. And so talk to me a little bit about some of the injuries that you’ve dealt with and maybe a little bit of the impact that they still have on not only your golf, but your lifestyle today.
Sean Fister (13:57):
Well, it’s just like anything that you train for, you’re running the risk of overtraining injuries. I had just unbelievable amounts of those. Because I was a marathon hitter. I was a full-time professional long driver. That was my job. I worked every day on it. I would hit drivers for eight hours a day, as hard as I could.
Sean Fister (14:23):
Towards my latter part of my career, the discs on the right side of my mid-back from torquing the hip turn against the shoulders, lagging back, wore out the right side of the thoracic joint in my back. I had to have that disc removed. And the lower back, my lumbar, I had a fusion because of the torque I put on that.
Sean Fister (14:50):
And then one thing that I found out later, I started having some neck issues on the left side of my neck and my left arm started going numb. I went in and had a surgeon look at it. They said that I had worn out the disc on the left side of my C7, the base of my neck. We figured it out that I was swinging over 150 miles an hour and the whole thing is trying to increase your momentum through impact and that type of speed has to stop somewhere.
Sean Fister (15:21):
And when I would come to the end of my swing, it would jam my left shoulder up against my neck. And that caused that disc to go out. I had to have a neck fusion, and they put a titanium plate in with screws and those are the major injuries that I had. They affect me today a lot, because I’ve lost a lot of mobility and lost a lot of speed. I do deal with pain a lot.
Sean Fister (15:50):
And the other part of it is, I remember one year, I had 24 cortisone shots from my elbows down, both of my arms, the extensor muscles, tendons were worn out. I needed surgery on them, but I kept competing. And then I had shots in my thumbs and my fingers. And those things, I had a lot of cortisone shots and that wears out your tissues and your synovial joints and your tendons and stuff and your hands and wrists.
Sean Fister (16:26):
I also broke both my wrists and broke a metacarpal bone in my left hand from the impact.
Charlie Rymer (16:34):
Hitting golf balls, just straight up from practicing and training and competing.
Sean Fister (16:39):
Charlie Rymer (16:39):
Sean Fister (16:40):
I would go ahead and hit through it, and that’s why I can’t completely close my right hand. But there’s a lot of things that go on and so I’ve just got a lot of inflammation and things like that that make it very difficult for me when I get out of bed to walk in the morning. And it takes me a while to get loosened up to where I can even tie my own shoes.
Sean Fister (17:09):
I deal with that on a daily basis, but people say, “Would you do it again for those three world titles?” I have to say I would, because I’ll always be a three-time world champion. That’s something that I’m very proud of, and I worked extremely hard for. I think anything you do in life, that when you become the best at it, there’s a sense of pride that goes with that. I’m very proud of it and I would do it again. I might not hit as many balls this time, but…
Charlie Rymer (17:44):
So to put that in perspective, if somebody on Bryson’s team called you up or Bryson called you up and said, “What do you think about this?” Having just gone over all of those injuries and looking at it from a pure economic standpoint, he’s going to make a lot more money playing professional golf than he could ever conceivably make in long drive.
Charlie Rymer (18:09):
The risk he’s exposing himself to, and maybe limiting how long he can compete, play in professional golf, if he gets hurt during long drive, it doesn’t really … And also considering the fact that he can’t go with the top guys. He can get to the top eight, which is great, but what he’s doing really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense is what I’m hearing you get to.
Sean Fister (18:34):
Well, I’ll just tell you, I’ll just put it as simply as I can is that the more he messes with this long drive stuff, the shorter his career in golf’s going to be. That’s my professional opinion. He’s going to end up … Your body’s not meant to be torqued like that. And he’s young now and he’s bulletproof, like all people in their 20s are, but every day he spends doing this exceedingly rigorous speed training and power training, he’s going to have problems.
Sean Fister (19:17):
I just don’t want to see him get injured messing with this stuff and it cost him FedEx (Cup) points. There’s just a lot of things with his career that I don’t think it’s a great idea for him. The return is just not there.
Charlie Rymer (19:35):
So in terms of return, are there some things that you feel like a tour player who’s looking to pick up some yardage, without putting themselves in position to get hurt, can learn from somebody like you?
Sean Fister (19:53):
Oh, there’s no question.
Charlie Rymer (19:54):
To pick up some yards, but to a certain point. “Hey, here’s where you need to back off. If you keep doing this, you’re going to get injured. But if you do a little bit of this, you’re going to pick up some yards.”
Sean Fister (20:10):
Well, one of the things that I would tell a tour player is that if he’s wanting to hit the ball farther, number one, he’s got to make sure he’s hitting the right equipment. If he gets on the right launch monitors that can optimize what he’s hitting, maybe changes his loft a little bit, or the flex in his shafts and things like that. Those things, if that’s all buttoned up and he’s maximizing that, then you go to the body, the speed work and the power side of it.
Sean Fister (20:40):
But the speed work is a lot more important than the power side. The speed work, the fast twitch fibers, in order to train fast twitch muscles, it takes a lot less quantity and much more quality. And the duration of these exercises are very small amounts of time that you can wake these up work on the speed side of it.
Sean Fister (21:06):
There’s impulse inertia machines that specifically target those tissues. And then there’s plyometric type exercises you can do that will all help speed. And overtraining with variable weighted swing weights and stuff like that, those can all help far more than going to the gym and pounding weights.
Sean Fister (21:35):
I think Bryson has figured that out. He still wants to be strong, but that the speed work is the easiest way and the fastest way to gain more speed. But you got to be very smart about it, because it doesn’t take much to overtrain those, and you get a diminishing return on it. So you have to be really smart about it and get with somebody that knows what they’re doing to help you.
Charlie Rymer (22:00):
Well, no doubt. He’s a smart cookie. It’s going to be fun to see when we get him back on the golf course, on the PGA TOUR, I don’t know exactly what his schedule is right now, but see if he’s even longer, having gone through this experience with the World Long Drive Championship.
Sean Fister (22:17):
Oh, he will be, he’ll be longer. He got out there and he’s been walking around these tour events as Paul Bunyan. And then he went out to an event where there was a whole bunch of Paul Bunyans and he ended up being a little less Paul Bunyan-ist.
Sean Fister (22:35):
But the thing is though, is he did make it to the quarterfinals and that’s impressive on the sports side. And it’s because he is so accurate, but he’s capped. Even if he it’s every ball straight and pure, he doesn’t have the horsepower to take on the trophy in that arena that other guys have. If I was his mentor or brain person to help him make decisions, I would say, “Look, you made your point. Let’s get back to winning tournaments.” Because that’s where the money is and that’s where his legacy is.
Charlie Rymer (23:19):
I love your take on it. I just hope long-term or even short-term, he doesn’t hurt himself, pushing the envelope too far on all this, but he is a smart guy. There’s no doubt about that. He obviously he has to be aware of the risk as well.
Charlie Rymer (23:32):
But Sean, I want to finish with this, one of the great things about having Bryson DeChambeau compete in that Professional Long Drivers Association World Championship is bringing more eyeballs to the sport. I know it’s a sport that you care deeply about. I saw this quote from Kyle Berkshire, who ended up winning and I think it’s pretty obvious, he’s the longest driver of the golf ball on the planet right now.
Charlie Rymer (24:01):
And the quote was this. “The sport of long driving has been in a difficult spot for almost a year and a half since Golf Channel dropped it. I literally think we just brought it back from the dead.” That was right after winning and seeing the eyeballs that were on last week with DeChambeau bringing a lot of attention to the sport. But just your thoughts of where long drive is right now and what the future looks like.
Sean Fister (24:29):
Well, I definitely agree with Kyle on that, that it’s brought things back to the forefront in a way, but it’s got to be sustained. The only way to sustain that is how they handle it going forward. And taking this gift that was thrown to the sport, and what they do with it from now on, how they can grow.
Sean Fister (24:58):
Because this long driving is a niche, it’s a small offshoot of golf. It’s basically a Home Run Derby and it’s once a year. The sport has a lot of great stories, a lot of great guys in it and their story needs to be told. And in the past, it’s been about money, for people running the events.
Sean Fister (25:24):
I think that the sport is in a great position right now and how they handle it from here, and how they could capitalize on it is going to take some pretty aggressive marketing and some smart moves on their part, to see if this type of attention can sustain itself. Because long driving is totally dependent on exposure.
Sean Fister (25:50):
It also is up to the players to sharpen their swords, because you don’t need to have a televised event where guys can’t hit the grid, and that’s happened in the past when they’ve had a lot of out of bounds hitting. I think that the format and the rules need to maybe be changed a little bit, to make it where there’s a little more skill involved than hitting towards a 70-yard-wide fairway with six or eight golf balls.
Charlie Rymer (26:26):
I certainly hope they figure it out. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity I’ve had to cover long drive over the years and appreciate a lot of the relationships that I’ve been able to establish through that, including a long time friendship with you. Sean, I appreciate you joining us here on the Charlie Rymer Balls in the Air Podcast today. As always, it’s great to hear your thoughts.
Sean Fister (26:52):
Thank you, Charlie. Thank you very much.
Charlie Rymer (26:54):
I appreciate it. That’s Sean “The Beast” Fister, three-time World Long Drive Champion. If you want to spend some time with Sean, go check out the Dustin Johnson Golf School at TPC Myrtle Beach in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina. Well, folks, I appreciate you joining us here today, and remember to like us wherever you subscribe to your podcast. We’ll be back right here with you next week. Appreciate you joining us!