In episode 3 Charlie sits down with his good friend, three-time World Long Drive Champion Sean “The Beast” Fister. They talk about a wide range of topics including Sean’s long drive career, equipment, baseball, and his new job at the Dustin Johnson Golf School right here in Myrtle Beach. Enjoy this conversation!
Charlie Rymer (00:26):
I know what you’re thinking, ladies and gentlemen. Man, do they play some funky music on Balls in the Air with Charlie Rymer? Yes. That’s exactly what we do. We’re all about the funky music here and talking about golf and what’s going on in the world of golf, and having some really cool, special guests. I’m Charlie Rymer, your host. We’re here on Balls in the Air. We tee off on time every time. If you got a nine o’clock tee time with me and you get there at 9:02, I’m gone throw balls in the air at nine o’clock. That’s what we named the show.
Charlie Rymer (00:57):
We are on time every time. I’m thrilled this time to have my very special buddy and guest, Sean “The Beast” Fister, three-time World Long Drive Champion. He won 1995, 2001, 2005. Sean, welcome to the show and welcome to the Myrtle Beach area. You and your wife, Karen, are the newest residents here in Myrtle Beach. He lives in Murrells Inlet with your staff here at the Dustin Johnson Golf School where we’re recording this show today. Welcome to the area, Sean, and welcome to the show.
Sean Fister (01:30):
Thank you. I’m excited to be here. I really feel lucky to be, number one, in the Golf Capital of the World, where there’s so much golf action, to begin with, and then to be associated with the Dustin Johnson Golf School. This facility is really world-class. I’m not exaggerating. This facility has got everything. It’s tour-level.
Charlie Rymer (01:56):
It is and we’re going to get into that a little bit later in the show. The school’s located at TPC Myrtle Beach, which just a couple of years ago was voted as number one course in the state of South Carolina, great facility. Alan Terrell is a lead instructor here. Allen is a great friend of the show. We’re going to have Allen on some shows down the road. Of course, he mentors and has coached for a long time the number one player in the world, Dustin Johnson.
Charlie Rymer (02:20):
They’ve got a really special relationship, but right now, let’s talk about The Beast. Sean, I mentioned right there at the top of the show you’re a three-time World Long Drive Champion. I had a chance to be on the show back in my days at ESPN, for the 2001 and 2005 wins and what was in the RE/MAX World Long Drive Championship out in Mesquite, Nevada. One of the coolest things … You tell me. I get confused about it. I never get confused.
Sean Fister (02:49):
No. I know you’re better than that.
Charlie Rymer (02:51):
Sean Fister (02:53):
Charlie Rymer (02:54):
That was the coolest thing that I ever got a chance to broadcast in my life because you were the last guy up. We were doing that show at night, in Mesquite. The grid looks beautiful. It’s under lights and you were the last person to hit. At the time you had six balls and you really sucked it up with the first five. I don’t even think you got one on the grid.
Sean Fister (03:18):
I did. I wasn’t that bad.
Charlie Rymer (03:21):
Tell me about that. Six balls. You’re the last guy to hit. It’s your last ball. I’m standing there. I’m supposed to interview the winner and I’m thinking at that time, no way it’s going to be The Beast, but tell us what happened.
Sean Fister (03:32):
What’s funny is you say that and I was standing. I had my pre-shot routine down, where I was executing seven little items in my checklist for my routine. I actually hit one ball. I think it was my third ball. I hit a little bit thin and it was 360 something and that put me in fifth so that everyone … The leading spot was Brian Pavlet, the guy I roomed with on the road, my best friend and driver.
Charlie Rymer (04:04):
A great guy.
Sean Fister (04:05):
A great guy.
Charlie Rymer (04:05):
He’s a lot nicer than you, by the way.
Sean Fister (04:07):
Oh, I don’t know. I’m going to have to beg to differ, but he was in first place and he was going to win his first world title. He had won a national title, but this was his time. It was really looking like that. I came down to my last ball. Now, what a lot of people don’t know is that prior to me coming over there, I was on the range warming up and I was the only one left, so there was no one on the range. It was dead quiet out there. I had this telephone pole about 450 yards down that I was aiming at. I was hitting the lasers right at it. I thought, man, I’m going to do it. Then all of a sudden, behind me, Pavlet walks by. He was looking up to see where I’m hitting it. He knows I’m killing it. Then all of a sudden, I hear this tee snap. He starts picking up tees and snapping them.
Charlie Rymer (05:02):
On the warmup range?
Sean Fister (05:03):
Yeah, behind me. I’m like, “Oh boy, he’s gaming me. I can’t believe he’s gaming me.” Finally, I pushed one. I was like, “All right, killed it.” I use stronger language than that. I turned around and I said, “Brian.” He goes, “Yeah.” I said, “Get over here.” He walks up to me. He’s big as me and you. He’s looking right at me. I said, “Man, whatever happens, happens, buddy. I know you’re nervous. You’re pacing, but stop snapping those tees.”
Charlie Rymer (05:39):
I understand the words you left.
Sean Fister (05:41):
He was like, “Oh, I’m just nervous.” I’m like, “Well, you’re making me nervous.”
Charlie Rymer (05:44):
Go be nervous somewhere else.
Sean Fister (05:46):
Get away from me. I went over there. I come down to the last ball and we had five minutes to hit on the tee at the time. I had a minute 15 left with my last ball. I was usually a pretty quick hitter. I’m standing there and ESPN is running and I’m like, “I’ve got these logos and these people. I got bonuses and I’m getting airtime. The meter is running. I’m doing good.” I take my time. I go to tee my ball up and I just glance over and I see Brian is already … They’re prepping him to come up and get the celebration and stuff. I see one guy and I read his lips. He’s like, “There’s no way.” I was like, “Really? Are you really going to say that? There’s no way?” I was like, “Well, I’m getting ready to show you there’s a way.” That gave me motivation. I knew that the grid was going to give up maybe a soft bounce or a hard bounce because the ground was in different spots.
Charlie Rymer (06:47):
It was cold that night too.
Sean Fister (06:48):
The temperature had dropped, so I had to hit a really good ball and I decided that I was going to have to hit a trap, a low bullet because if I hit it the way I want to hit it, it’s going to release. It’s not going to come in high. It’s going to release. I did it. I hooded the club a little bit. I closed my stance and I came through and stayed behind it and I hit it pure. I didn’t know what was going to happen. If it checked up, I lose. If it releases, I win. It flew to about 367 in the air and boom, it took a bounce, about a 10-yard bounce.
Charlie Rymer (07:29):
Sean Fister (07:30):
Left center and it rolled past 375, 76 and that was it. I won the last ball. They called it the greatest single shot in the history of the sport because there was so much pressure on it. I had come out of the losers’ bracket and fought my way back. I had to hit 13 rounds to get there. It all culminated. The stars were lined up and it all happened for me.
Charlie Rymer (07:57):
It was so cool for me to run and do the interview because of the adrenaline. In your eyes, it’s emotion. It’s adrenaline. It’s all of that and we captured all of that. It was so cool.
Sean Fister (08:10):
We train 364 days a year for one night. You have one shot to be the world champion and that’s the only time. Reaching that and fulfilling that, being able to accomplish your dream to become a world champion or whatever, there’s nothing like that feeling when you … Wow. I did it. It’s not a team. It is a team preparing, but when you’re actually on the tee box, it’s you.
Charlie Rymer (08:41):
You’re the only one there.
Sean Fister (08:42):
You’re the only one there.
Charlie Rymer (08:44):
That was such a cool night. Just hearing you retell that story … I’ve heard you tell it a lot. We’ve known each other since about 1995. I love watching you do your clinics and exhibitions at the club [inaudible 00:08:57]. It isn’t what it used to be, but it’s still impressive to watch, but that’s what I want to get into, 2005, you won your third. You’re the oldest before or since to win. I believe you were 43 when you won your third. People don’t realize in World Long Drive, there’s a purse. There’s some money you get for that, but when you’re the World Long Drive Champion, you go on the road, giving exhibitions everywhere.
Charlie Rymer (09:23):
That’s how you take advantage of it. You get in the sport because you like it and you’re good at it, but you want to monetize it too. Over the years, I don’t think people realize the toll that being a three-time World Long Drive Champ and all the exhibitions, all the travel, take on your body. Walk me through a little bit of some of the things that you’ve had to deal with, with your body from swinging the club that hard for so long, that people might not realize.
Sean Fister (09:53):
Well, I was a marathon hitter. I hit a lot of balls. I would hit balls for eight hours a day, probably 300 and something days a year. This was my job. I wanted to win, so I tried to work my way through swing flaws. Every time I practiced, I hit six balls at a time and I rehearsed. It was eight hours of rehearsal every single day for that final round. I would play a game with myself. I’d play move the towel. I’d set a towel out in the fairway at my longest ball of each group and I kept continually trying to move that towel. That was my goal with every set. Then at the end of the day, on my last set, I wanted to have the longest ball because there’s a grueling schedule during that week, where you’re hitting in different rounds and you have to warm up, cool down, warm up.
Sean Fister (10:52):
You may go again here. You have to be prepared. That’s the way I approached it. A doctor friend of mine … I had a lot of aches and pains from all this rotation. I was getting cortisone shots here and there. One day he asked me, he goes, “Well, how many times do you think you’ve actually swung a driver at full force on your body?” We start figuring it out. Well, he trimmed the numbers back, conservative numbers, and bottom line, it ended up that I’ve swung a golf club, at least 140 miles an hour clubhead speed over three million times. His point was, “Your body is going to wear out.”
Sean Fister (11:41):
The parts of my spine discs and stuff were out, where the hinge points in your thoracic in your upper body meet your lower thoracic joint. I had to have that disc repaired. Then the other thing is stopping the swing. When you’re swinging over 150 miles an hour and you’re accelerating through impact, the club has to stop at some point. What I was doing was at the top, my left shoulder was stopping and jamming into my neck and I wore out that disc. Then I had a fusion on my lower back, so I’ve got a titanium plate in my neck and screws, fusion in my lower back, discectomies and stuff. It takes a toll. I can’t swing near what I used to.
Charlie Rymer (12:26):
That’s the thing. Let me put this in perspective, folks. An average swing speed on a PGA TOUR, for a long time, people said it’s 112 miles an hour. I think it’s probably 115 now. The players with the highest clubhead speed on tour, 125, 128. Nobody really cracks 130, to speak of-
Sean Fister (12:50):
If they get out of control, they might.
Charlie Rymer (12:53):
We’re going to talk a little bit about that later on the show, in particular, what’s going on with Bryson DeChambeau, but for our purposes here, you’re talking about swinging the club north of 145 miles an hour. How many times did you say? Over a million times, easily?
Sean Fister (13:08):
Three million times.
Charlie Rymer (13:09):
Three million times, so three million over. I was right.
Sean Fister (13:13):
Charlie Rymer (13:15):
Three million times. That’s unbelievable, the toll that it takes on your body. You and I, over the years, have played some golf together. We have a lot of fun. Normally, we play with our buddy, Mark Bryan from Hootie and the Blowfish. You love to compete. Last time we played was down at Bulls Bay in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. My son, Hayden, played with us. He got a little clubhead speed too. You love to compete, but I just get the sense, on days that we’re playing, a couple of times, if I look closely, I see some winces. It’s almost like every now and then, he’s going to have some tears coming out of his eye because every time you go to play golf now, you’re dealing with some pain. Even if you don’t want to admit it, I can see it in the way you carry yourself.
Sean Fister (13:58):
Well, that’s true. The frustrating part for me in my golf game is that every day something else hurts, so I’m always compensating for something that’s hurting. My swing is accommodating that pain. I cannot get a consistent move to where I can … I can’t consistently score well because if I take it to the top, my neck pitches. Then I flinch. If I throw the shoulder out, that’s a problem for me, so I just have to tell people, “Look, if we got a little game-
Charlie Rymer (14:35):
I might ride a couple of holes, but I’ll be back here in a little bit.
Sean Fister (14:39):
I might have a blow-up hole, but I might throw an eagle at you too.
Charlie Rymer (14:43):
I’ve had some of those eagles thrown at me too. Sean, along with it and the ball a long way, is a very good player. You got a lot better short game and you’re a better putter than I would think you might be. Our games are always competitive. We always have a lot of fun and generally, it comes down to the last couple of holes. I want to go back to something that you said when you were talking about winning in 2001, even though you were under the clock. You said you went through your checklist and you mentioned there were seven items on your checklist. Can you walk me through what those items were?
Sean Fister (15:16):
Well, my routine, my pre-shot routine, every year might be tweaked a little bit, but I would do that way back early in the year. I don’t know if I’m going to name all seven of them exactly, but I remember that I would tee the ball up and I would take four steps back. I would stand directly behind the ball and I would close my eyes. I’d put the butt of the grip against my first belt loop on the left of my belt buckle. I dropped my hands.
Charlie Rymer (15:52):
Back when we could see our belt loops.
Sean Fister (15:56):
I’d shake my hands out. I’d close my eyes. I’d open them back up and I would picture the shot that I was going to hit. I’d do that three times. Then when I saw the shot I was planning to hit, then I would take four steps back up and I set the club down behind the ball. I’d look. I’d take three, looks at the fairway, where I was going to go. I’d tap the club once and then I’d pull the trigger.
Charlie Rymer (16:23):
Sean Fister (16:24):
Then I’d go. The thing is that when you’re under a lot of pressure … I do mental coaching. I’ve worked with a kid that’s a golfer from a college up in Memphis. I taught him this stuff. The thing is … I was telling him why he needed to focus really hard on the details of his routine. You’re going to do the routine so many times that it will become automatic, where you won’t have to think about it, but let me tell you something. When you get under pressure and you have to hit a shot, that’s when you have got to really focus on those steps and go through them while you’re hitting your shot. That takes your mind off of, oh, what’s water over there? Line up to your shot. Pick your shot when you’re behind it. Go up there and execute the swing. You try to do a flawless routine and you focus on those things. That takes your mind off the pressure and it allows you to hit a good shot when you really have to.
Charlie Rymer (17:26):
I love watching that. It’s like watching field goal kicking. It fascinates me because I see the kickers at 52 yards to win the Super Bowl or beat your rivalry team or win your conference championship. They’re very methodical in the way they line up. A player standing on the 18th tee at Augusta with the one-shot lead, looking at the 18th tee. If you haven’t been to that tee at Augusta National, it’s narrow up there, but going through that routine and hitting the last ball, the last man to win a World Long Drive title, it’s all about routine.
Sean Fister (18:01):
It’s all I was focused on.
Charlie Rymer (18:03):
Not only Long Drive. It’s in the rest of golf and it’s in all other sports and that’s why I think it’s fascinating to talk to you about the mental coaching that you do. It’s one thing to coach people up, which is great, but if you’ve been there done it, that’s a little extra weight that comes in that lesson.
Sean Fister (18:21):
Well, the difference is knowledge and experience versus opinion and education. People can read about that stuff, some people that are doing mental coaching that have never been an athlete, but they’ve been trained and they’ve certified and they’ve read it, but they haven’t really experienced it.
Charlie Rymer (18:40):
Exactly. Now, I want to talk to you a little bit about equipment. I took a picture of the three drivers that you won ‘95, ‘2001, and 2005, the three drivers that you used to win those World Long Drive titles. We’ll post a picture on the website so people can look at that, but talk to me a little bit about how much that equipment changed from 1995 to 2005.
Sean Fister (19:14):
You don’t realize it. That’s a 10, 11-year span that I was competing. The TaylorMade Pittsburgh Persimmon driver that I hit in ‘95, that size was what most people were hitting and so I didn’t think it was small.
Charlie Rymer (19:31):
It looks like a 7-wood now.
Sean Fister (19:32):
It’s really small when you compare it to the wood that we’ve gone to now. That’s 185 CCS and comparatively, the new drivers are 340 CCS. That’s almost three times the size. That’s like a dime going to a quarter to a dollar. It’s a big difference. I remember when the drivers first started getting bigger and I was resistant to go to that because I thought the air drag from the bigger heads was going to negate any gains you could get, but they’ve changed the materials, the perimeter, weighting, the designs, and the mass properties and stuff. It’s so much easier to hit these clubs. Your sweet spot is way bigger. I’d like to see some of these guys that are competing now grab that Pittsburgh Persimmon.
Charlie Rymer (20:31):
Now you’re sounding like a grumpy old man.
Sean Fister (20:33):
Oh yeah. I’m grateful.
Charlie Rymer (20:37):
Even then from 2005 to 2021, you look at a 2005 clubhead and a 2021 clubhead, there’s not a massive difference in size, but if you start looking at cross-sections at what goes into the shafts, they got smart people in these equipment companies developing these golf clubs. It makes you wonder where we’re going to get to eventually with all the equipment, as far as it’s coming in a short period of time.
Sean Fister (21:05):
Well, knowledge is doubling and tripling all the time. With technology, there’s no telling what’s going to happen, but I hear the argument that the ball should be scaled back. I don’t know. I think that people are going to compensate and get better.
Charlie Rymer (21:24):
They’ll figure it out.
Sean Fister (21:25):
They’ll figure it out. Whoever gets the ball in the hole the quickest wins or the least amount of strokes. I think technology is just going to continue getting better and better. The athletes are getting way more efficient.
Charlie Rymer (21:41):
Well, let’s talk about that because you come from an athletic background. You got a lot of professional athletes in your family. Your dad was a good baseball player. Talk to me a little bit about that.
Sean Fister (21:53):
It started with my grandfather. He played in the 20s with the Detroit Tigers system. They had a lot of systems and teams back then, but he played professional baseball. His brother was with the St. Louis Browns. My dad played 10 years in the Cardinals organization, going up and down the minor-league ladder. He went all the way up to Triple-A and went to spring training camp a couple of times, but then his brother was with the Cincinnati Reds. Then my younger brother signed with the Braves and played for a year or two and Cardinals for a little bit. Then I got two nephews, Tyler Hansbrough and Ben Hansbrough. Both were college standouts. Tyler particularly was-
Charlie Rymer (22:37):
Like Troy Williams at University of North Carolina?
Sean Fister (22:39):
Yeah. He’s the only player that’s ever had his jersey number retired while he was still playing at University of North Carolina. That’s saying something. His name’s in the rafters there. Ben was Big East Player of the Year at Notre Dame. We do have a lot of athletes, but I consider myself the runt of the litter.
Charlie Rymer (23:01):
You were for a while. You had that late growth spurt, right?
Sean Fister (23:03):
Charlie Rymer (23:04):
Just like me. I really started growing a lot at 50.
Sean Fister (23:09):
You’re growing out.
Charlie Rymer (23:11):
Sean Fister (23:12):
Charlie Rymer (23:14):
You were in the track and field?
Sean Fister (23:16):
Charlie Rymer (23:16):
You went to University of Florida on a track scholarship.
Sean Fister (23:18):
Charlie Rymer (23:19):
You were actually a javelin catcher at the University of Florida. Is that right?
Sean Fister (23:21):
I caught a few javelins, but the coaches, they put a stop to that. I was a little bit of a daredevil.
Charlie Rymer (23:28):
You were a pole vaulter.
Sean Fister (23:30):
To be a pole vaulter, you’ve got to be a lot of a daredevil and a little bit crazy.
Charlie Rymer (23:34):
I know. That looks crazy to me. I tried it a few times. I kept snapping those things. I couldn’t find one. I needed a double XD up in-
Sean Fister (23:42):
When you snap a pole, you don’t walk away from it without marks.
Charlie Rymer (23:46):
Well, I got marks.
Sean Fister (23:47):
I cracked my skull. I broke my back. I broke my right foot eight times, my left foot four times, and severed my trapezius muscle.
Charlie Rymer (23:56):
How do you do that? You have problems going up or you go down and miss the mattress? What do you call that, where you land in pole vaulting?
Sean Fister (24:04):
It’s a pit.
Charlie Rymer (24:04):
A pit. It looks like a big mattress to me.
Sean Fister (24:07):
It’s a pit. You’ve got to learn to land on it.
Charlie Rymer (24:08):
Did you miss it? Well, I’m not a pole vaulter.
Sean Fister (24:11):
The thing about pole vaulting is you’re running full speed towards the pit and then you raise the pole up and you smack it in this box. It’s down, six inches down. You slide it in and it stops. You take that energy and you hit that stopping point and you hope the pole bends. You’re putting all that energy from you running into the pole. That’s a lot of it.
Charlie Rymer (24:38):
I know. I’ve seen it. It looks-
Sean Fister (24:41):
You bend it out and then it catapults you. If you don’t have enough energy going in there for this certain size of pole you’re on, you’ll get rejected, which happened to me quite a bit.
Charlie Rymer (24:52):
Sean Fister (24:52):
You get rejected. You’re hanging on to the pole at 16, 17 feet. You’re up there and there’s no pit under you.
Charlie Rymer (24:58):
You missed a pit, is what happened.
Sean Fister (25:00):
I missed the pit many times because I was a little bit crazy, trying to get on big poles, but I broke my back and cracked my skull and I had a lot of problems with that.
Charlie Rymer (25:12):
You set some track records if-
Sean Fister (25:15):
Charlie Rymer (25:15):
What I’ve been reading on-
Sean Fister (25:15):
Charlie Rymer (25:16):
Wikipedia is accurate. You still hold some records today.
Sean Fister (25:19):
Charlie Rymer (25:20):
Some stadium records and some school records and stuff like that.
Sean Fister (25:24):
I jumped over 17 feet, close to 18 feet, but I set several stadium records and some of them still stand. I still have one college pole vault record. Not that I’m really staying on top of it-
Charlie Rymer (25:39):
Listen. If I had a record, I’m going to talk about it a little bit.
Sean Fister (25:43):
I set that record back in 1981.
Charlie Rymer (25:49):
You were 17. I don’t know anything about pole vaulting, obviously, but what would a world record in pole vaulting be?
Sean Fister (25:53):
Charlie Rymer (25:59):
You were 17 feet on a pole vault. For the longest time I know, running the four-minute mile was a big deal. Maybe just outside doing 17 feet of pole, when you were doing that, it would have been the equivalent of breaking the four-minute mile.
Sean Fister (26:18):
No. It’s not at that level, to be honest with you. At 17 feet-
Charlie Rymer (26:23):
It sounds impressive.
Sean Fister (26:24):
17 will win the SEC Championship, but it won’t win the National Championship.
Charlie Rymer (26:30):
Did you ever think about being in the Olympics?
Sean Fister (26:32):
Yes, I did. I found out later … When I was at University of Florida, I was strictly pole vaulting. One day I was walking by the baseball on my way back. They had normal guys out there and there was a line of guys on the pitcher’s mound. I told this guy, I said, “What are they doing out there?” He said, “That’s walk-on tryouts.” I didn’t even have a glove or anything. I walked out and got in line on the pitcher’s mound. I got up there and he said, “Throw three pitches.” They had a gun behind there. I was already warmed up. I had just left track practice. I throw three in there. Normally, if you throw three, you’d go get another line.
Sean Fister (27:10):
I threw the three and I started to walk off. The coach said, “Hey. Let me see three more from that guy.” I threw three more. He leaned up and he goes, “Can you throw any harder than that?” I said, “Yeah, but I don’t know where it could go.” He goes, “I don’t care where it goes. If it goes over the backstop, give me all you got.” I threw three more and he pulled me aside. He says, “What’s your history with baseball?” I said, “I played one year with American Legion.” He said, “Do you have any idea how fast you throw a baseball?” I said, “No, sir.” He said, “You’re throwing over 90 miles an hour.”
Charlie Rymer (27:43):
Sean Fister (27:45):
He goes, he said, “Son, we’re number one in the nation and we don’t have a pitcher on our staff that throws over 90.” He said, “What’s your name?” I said, “Sean Fister.” I said, “I run track here.” He said, “Fister.” Do you know Rogers Fister?” I said, “That’s my dad.” He said, “Well, hell, I caught for your dad in the minor league, son.”
Charlie Rymer (28:05):
How about that?
Sean Fister (28:06):
“That explains everything.” The next day, my track coach got wind of me dabbling with that. He called me in and he said, “You’re not playing baseball.”
Charlie Rymer (28:16):
That’s pretty cool, to get on a gun over 90 miles an hour. Well, folks, he’s Sean Fister. He’s a three-time World Long Drive Champion. He’s in the Arkansas State Golf Hall of Fame. He is in the World Long Drive Hall of Fame. In fact, he served as president of the World Long Drive Hall of Fame. You’re not still president. Are you?
Sean Fister (28:34):
Charlie Rymer (28:34):
Still president of World Long Drive Hall of Fame. We’ve got plenty of more stories coming from Sean Fister. You stick with us. We’re going to get into where he got that nickname, the best nickname in sports, The Beast. That’s coming up next right here on Balls in the Air.
Back on Balls in the Air. I’m your friendly neighborhood host, Charlie Rymer. We’re coming to you today from the Dustin Johnson Golf School in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina. We’re at the far end of the driving range at TPC Myrtle Beach, which a couple of years ago was rated the number one golf course in the state of South Carolina.
Charlie Rymer (29:33):
It’s a really cool golf course. If you are in the area, stop by and give it a shot. If you’re interested in getting a little help with your golf game, reach out to the folks at the Dustin Johnson Golf School. You can reach them at dustinjohnsongolfschool.com. I’m thrilled to be joined today by my good buddy, Sean “The Beast” Fister. He’s a three-time World Long Drive Champion. That’s right. Three-time World Long Drive Champion. If you win it once, it could have been a fluke. If you win it twice, a little more serious fluke, but if you win the World Long Drive Championship three times, you hit it a long ways, folks.
Charlie Rymer (30:06):
In fact, there’s only one person on the planet, Jason Zuback, who has won it more than three times. I believe Jason has five titles if I’m correct on that. Nobody knows where he is anymore. He disappeared, but Sean is living here in Myrtle Beach, attached to the staff here at the Dustin Johnson Golf School. The lead instructor is Allen Terrell who has been a longtime coach and mentor of the world’s number one, Dustin Johnson. Sean, going into our little break there, I teased you. I’m going to ask you about getting that nickname, the coolest nickname on the planet, The Beast. Tell me how you got nicknamed The Beast.
Sean Fister (30:50):
Before I ever did any long driving, I was in the corporate world. I worked for Dillard’s department stores in Little Rock.
Charlie Rymer (30:58):
Didn’t you sell women’s underwear there or something?
Sean Fister (31:01):
No. I never got promoted that high.
Charlie Rymer (31:03):
You’d been quite a women’s underwear salesman, I’m sure.
Sean Fister (31:09):
I’m not even touching that. I worked at Dillard’s and worked my way up into the corporate office in the buying program. I started playing on the corporate softball team and it was a beer-drinking type of deal, but very competitive. Our third baseballer was worth about 900 million, Mike Dillard, one of the sons of the founder. He and I ended up … We’re still very good friends. He calls me all the time. Anyway, he nicknamed me Sean The Beast because I was hitting these home runs that were not just over the fence, but they were still climbing when they got over the lights. I was taking car windows out. I hit the ball a long way, softball, so he started calling me Sean The Beast and that’s where it started. Everybody at Dillard’s just referred to me as Beast, even in meetings, like, “Beast, what do you think?”
Charlie Rymer (32:10):
When they named you The Beast, were you going to say, “No. Please don’t call me The Beast?” What a cool nickname.
Sean Fister (32:16):
Well, it was pretty much limited to that circle of friends and coworkers. I started long driving and I went to the championship in 1995. I had been competing for a few years
Charlie Rymer (32:35):
Back up a little bit. When you say you started long driving, you were working in a department store. You got an athletic background. You hit a lot of home runs in softball. How did you start in long driving? What got you going there?
Sean Fister (32:49):
Well, after I got done pole vaulting. I had a pole-vaulting accident. I broke my back. I mentioned earlier. That was the end because I’d had several back injuries and they were telling me, “If you fall again, you could be paralyzed, so you’re going to have to give that up,” so I did. Well, my younger brother had just gotten released by the Braves, so he was playing golf. I think I was 24 at the time. He said, “You need to try golf.” I’m like, “Man, I don’t do golf.
Sean Fister (33:20):
“That’s just not what I do.” He said, “Come on out and try it.” I come out and try it and my high school track coach happened to be there. He says, “Let’s go play nine holes.” I didn’t know how to hit it or anything and I was hitting it everywhere. We got to this one par-four that was 80 percent fairway and there was a pond right up by the green. It was a 350-yard par four. I connected on one and I was using a nine-degree Spalding … It was a plastic head. It wasn’t wood.
Charlie Rymer (33:55):
A driving range-looking club.
Sean Fister (33:58):
Regular shaft, 42 inches, whatever, but I flew it on the green, in the air at 345 yards.
Charlie Rymer (34:05):
It was really your first time on a golf course?
Sean Fister (34:08):
Yes. I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. I could hit home runs and stuff, so I knew I could hit it, but my coach was like, “Son, you don’t understand. I’ve been playing golf all my life.” He says, “I’ve never seen a ball hit even remotely that far.” He said, “That’s ridiculous.” He said, “You may have been in the wrong sport.” Then I started swinging hard every time and I ended up driving every par-four on that course. One Saturday, the head pro was sitting there, reading the paper. He says, “Fister, I’m getting tired of hearing about how far you hit the ball. Look here. There’s a qualifier in two weeks, in St. Louis, for the National Long Drive Championship Qualifier. Now you go up there and hit.” He goes, “These guys were on TV. They can really hit it. You’re going to come back here with your tail tuck. You’re going to find out what long is.” I went ahead and did it.
Charlie Rymer (35:07):
Did you come back with a trophy?
Sean Fister (35:08):
Charlie Rymer (35:08):
Did you say, “Is this what a tail tuck looks like, this right here?”
Sean Fister (35:14):
Yeah. I won that. Then I won the regional and went to the National Championship the first year. It’s World Championship now, but it’s all the same stuff, same guys. Every time I go back home to my small town, Poplar Bluff, Missouri, it’s a small town and it’s hard to get to, but when I am there and I see that pro, I say, “Man, I sure I’m glad you challenged me to do that because it changed my life.”
Charlie Rymer (35:44):
Well, I mentioned he’s a member of the Arkansas Golf Hall of Fame, the Long Drive World Golf Hall of Fame. He’s also in the Poplar Bluff Sports Hall of Fame as well. That’s some really cool stuff. Let’s spin forward. Long drive through … The pandemic didn’t help the business relationship with Golf Channel. We were starting to get some regular events. They were on Golf Channel, along with the World Long Drive Championship. Long drive as a sport, right now, is it fair to say that it’s dead or waiting for somebody to pick it up? We don’t know what to do with it? It’s dormant right now?
Sean Fister (36:23):
It’s not dead and it’s not dormant, but it doesn’t have the media exposure that it had, obviously, with the Golf Channel owning it and they still own the rights to it, but they’re just parking it.
Charlie Rymer (36:38):
Sean Fister (36:40):
They were looking for partners. I’m not sure how hard they were looking, but they’ve shelved it and that’s the way it is now. There’s some other things that are going on. There’s an amateur Long Drive World Championship that is actually run out of Myrtle Beach. Jeff Gilder does that. There’s professional long drive. There’s some people that are doing it and trying to keep it going with the hitters.
Charlie Rymer (37:14):
That to me is really unfortunate-
Sean Fister (37:17):
It is. I agree.
Charlie Rymer (37:18):
Because it had picked up some traction. Along with being able to hit the ball tremendous distances, there’s little things in there that always made it juicy. You guys don’t always get along and there’s a little Twitter fights and all of that and I think occasionally some hurt feelings. I think it adds some spice to world driving, but occasionally, some folks do get a little upset. I don’t have any problems with that, but what is fascinating is there’s more interest right now in hitting a golf ball as long as you can possibly hit it on the PGA TOUR and professional golf than in my entire lifetime. A lot of that was driven this past year by Bryson DeChambeau. He won the U.S. Open. He bulked up. He spent some time with Kyle Berkshire, who is a World Long Drive Champion. He picked his brain a little bit. The interest in long drive, in conventional golf, is as strong as it’s ever been, and yet, there’s not an organized tour that’s on TV, like we thought would happen.
Sean Fister (38:21):
Well long driving has always been a stepchild of golf, but Bryson DeChambeau is the first person that’s actually given it some credibility from the PGA TOUR. It’s always been thought of as the stepchild and stuff, but he’s doing it. I have to tell you that the stuff that he is applying to his preparation, we’ve been doing for 15 years. We’ve been doing that, hit the ball.
Charlie Rymer (38:52):
You’re going to have to give me some specifics on that. You know that, right?
Sean Fister (38:55):
Charlie Rymer (38:55):
You just opened up a can of worms. I got to hear about some of that.
Sean Fister (39:00):
I know that. I understand that. The thing is we have been doing it a lot longer. It’s not new. It’s new to the PGA TOUR, but there’s a lot of tradition involved with the PGA TOUR. We have a lot of hurdles and long driving, that we have to get over to relate to the average golfer. The average golfer relates to the PGA TOUR because they use USGA certified equipment. Now, there’s a misnomer out there that the average golfer out there still thinks that long drivers use these ridiculously long drivers and that we’re all 6’9” and 400-pounds giants and it’s not the case. Everything is USGA certified.
Charlie Rymer (39:47):
Sean Fister (39:48):
Conforming, just like the tour. The shafts are a little bit longer, but the average tour player is not 6’4”, just probably the average long drive size. There’s not guys below and above that … To get back to what Bryson is doing, he is getting serious about protein intake and resistance training, and bulking up, and increasing his swing speed, but he did the reversal. It’s very hard to take a long driver and make a tour player out of him. It’s much easier to take a tour player and make a long driver out of him. It all boils down to fundamentals. Bryson was a damn good golfer, to start with, pro golfer.
Charlie Rymer (40:39):
That’s why a lot of us that are in the business of breaking down professional golf thought it was crazy because he was a heck of a golfer. It’s a big risk that he took, adding all of that bulk, changing the way he approaches the game. We’re like-
Sean Fister (40:55):
I don’t agree with that.
Charlie Rymer (40:57):
I’m just saying from my standpoint, this guy is going to be a heck of a player. He already is and he’s transforming his body and he’s pushing envelopes. We were thinking of injury and just everything he’s doing. Why mess with a formula that’s already got you a great, big house, more money you could possibly spend? You ride around in a Rolls-Royce and you’ll never in your whole life step on a commercial aircraft again. Why mess with the formula that got you there? He pushed it.
Sean Fister (41:27):
He wants to get better. That’s his mantra. A lot of those guys are like that. They just want to keep improving.
Charlie Rymer (41:36):
I’ve seen a lot of those guys that want to keep improving get really bad. Luke Donald is a great example. Not that he got really bad. He got to be number one in the world and decided, “Okay. Now I can try and pick up some distance.” Last time I looked, he was outside of the top 100 in the world. Sometimes players get to number one and they push it too hard and they lose their identity. They lose who they are. Occasionally, you see a Bryson DeChambeau take it to the next level like he’s done and I applaud him for doing that, but I got to point out that he did take on some risk in doing that.
Sean Fister (42:11):
Well, yeah, but I’ve seen what he’s been doing and I think he’s doing it the right way. I don’t know what Luke Donald did. I don’t know what was going on in his life.
Charlie Rymer (42:24):
He didn’t bulk up.
Sean Fister (42:29):
There’s all kinds, a whole myriad of things that could have contributed to him going down the world leaderboard, but as far as … I tell my students that are trying to hit it further, “Look, if you stay centered and rotate, you can swing as hard as you want as long as you stay centered and your balance isn’t moving around because once you start lunging, it’s over.”
Charlie Rymer (42:56):
Is that what you see with DeChambeau because he’s going at it clearly as hard as he can.
Sean Fister (43:02):
Like I said, he’s doing it the right way. He’s just … When you add that much distance, all of a sudden, you’re playing different irons into the greens and you got to work on your game because everything from 100 yards, that kind of clubhead speed is all feel. You can’t gauge, oh, I’m going to hit this club this distance and that club this distance. You’ve got all those yardages that come up, that you have to you’d have to work a shot or work a club. There’s a lot of field involved, a different game.
Charlie Rymer (43:38):
We’re sitting here at the Dustin Johnson Golf School. Dustin, obviously, he hits the ball longest on the PGA TOUR and that’s why the ball flight is a little heavier on the driver. He could hit a little further if he wants to.
Sean Fister (43:50):
Here’s a perfect example of somebody that is fine. He’s like, “I don’t need to do all that.”
Charlie Rymer (43:56):
“I got it already.”
Sean Fister (43:57):
“My job is scoring.” That’s what he does and he’s great.
Charlie Rymer (44:01):
My point is from your perspective on staff at this golf school, you obviously see some tour players out there. They can pick up some distance, but a lot of students … Hitting the golf ball further is fun. There isn’t anything more fun than making some changes, whether it’s working out or changing equipment or technique. All of a sudden, you’re hitting it by your buddies that had been hitting it by you. There isn’t anything more fun, maybe in all the sports, than doing that and then laughing at them about it. You talk about, “I lowered my handicap from 11 to nine.”
Charlie Rymer (44:34):
That’s great, but if you all of a sudden start hitting it by a guy that’s hit it by you your whole life, that’s a lot more fun than lowering your handicap from 11 to nine. You’re in this school working for Allen Terrell and obviously, you’re here to help people. You’re focusing a lot right now on juniors, but down the road, you’re going to be doing more clinics and exposing what you’ve done to more people. Do you see, when the average student comes in, the average golfer, some pretty simple ways that they can pick up some distance?
Sean Fister (45:07):
Charlie Rymer (45:09):
Where does that normally start?
Sean Fister (45:11):
Well, it’s different for different age groups, obviously, but I work with a lot of seniors, people that have lost 20 yards over the last year.
Charlie Rymer (45:21):
You’re looking at me funny when you say that because that’s about, exactly, loss.
Sean Fister (45:26):
Once you put them on video, it’s pretty easy to show them that they’ve stopped their full backswing or that their shoulders stopped turning. The most interesting thing that I’ve found is that they always want to get their left shoulder turn more, but their right shoulder stops and it’s so much easier. It’s a Eureka moment. I work with these people and tell them, “I want you to turn your right shoulder back.” All of a sudden, they’ve increased their turn 15 percent. That equates to distance, more power. I enjoy that. I get tremendous satisfaction out of helping people get their irons. I love it. This is why I do this. Turning the shoulders is a big one, but you have to be careful not to start shifting your weight around.
Sean Fister (46:21):
A very simple way to put it is take your left shoulder and turn it over to your right knee. That’s the power position, without letting your right knee go outside your foot. You stay inside. The whole golf swing is between your feet. You turn into that backside. You turn the left shoulder over the right knee and you’re in a power position to go as long as you have it loaded up and then you’re drifting forward. You got to stay there. You turn back there and you stay there and you unload. Keep your head behind the ball till it’s gone because that’ll allow you to drop the club in the slot and hit it versus flaring that shoulder out and having an over top move. An over the top early release move casting comes from lateral movement.
Charlie Rymer (47:10):
Short term and lateral movement, right?
Sean Fister (47:12):
Yes. That’s the lateral movement in the downswing. I don’t care what you do in the backswing. If you’re sliding forward at all in the downswing, your brain knows the ball is sitting still and you got to hurry up and hit it. The club comes out every little bit of your slot. I teach rotational golf because that’s where the speed is.
Charlie Rymer (47:35):
Well, that same little conversation you just let me in on, I remember about two or three years ago, we were out playing golf and I was struggling with my driver and you told me that, I forgot, “Put the right shoulder behind you and stay behind the ball.” The rest of that day, I drove the ball beautifully. The thing that’s so cool is some basic fundamentals like that, you can, I think hook people pretty quick because if they’re not doing those things and they start doing it, they’re going to pick up some yardage right off the bat.
Charlie Rymer (48:06):
Then this facility we’re sitting here in, the Dustin Johnson Golf School, it’s got all the bells and whistles when you want to maximize everything else. Part of it is a gym. We got all the technology here, the capability to fit people, and all the latest and greatest. All of that works together and I’m sure that’s one of the reasons you’re excited about being here at Dustin Johnson Golf School because it’s got everything you need to really maximize students’ ability to hit the ball as long as they can.
Sean Fister (48:37):
Well, there’s nothing we can’t address, nothing, short game, putting, long game irons, everything. Allen and Dustin built this place and they left no stone unturned, so there’s a lot of pieces here, but if anybody walks through that door and they have a different problem, we can work with anything. I’m very lucky to be here.
Charlie Rymer (49:07):
Well, I’m going to get you guys to help me a little bit with my driving because I can do everything else all right. I got to figure out how to drive it a little bit better. I was talking to Allen about that earlier. For information for our listeners, you just go to dustinjohnsongolfschool.com. All of that is there. Sean, I want to finish up with just a couple of stories. We’re talking about when you’re the World Long Drive Champion, you go on the road and you spend a lot of years on the road.
Charlie Rymer (49:31):
I’ve heard you estimate that you’ve given well over 1,000 clinics over the years in different parts of the world. A lot of times when you’ve done those clinics, you might be paired up with a Hall of Fame type of golfer like a Sam Snead, an Arnold Palmer, a Gary Player. Let’s talk about a couple of little stories. I never met Sam Snead. I always heard he was quite the character. I know you actually spent a day or so with him. Talk to me about Sam Snead.
Sean Fister (49:57):
It was actually the first exhibition I did in front of a crowd. It was 1991. I hadn’t won anything. I was just doing it, but I got there a little bit early. There was a senior legends event going on. My wife was with me. We had just been married. We were walking down the hill and I had an exhibition say at 11:00. I’m down there at nine o’clock. I want to hit balls and not embarrass myself. We’re walking downhill and I’m walking fast and I’m nervous. This cart pulls up behind.
Sean Fister (50:30):
He says, “Are you guys from Japan?” I turned around. Immediately, I saw the straw hat and this older guy. That’s Sam Snead. I’m like, “Oh my God. No, sir. We’re not from Japan.” He goes, “Oh, well, in Japan, the wives have to walk 10 feet behind her husband. You didn’t know that. Did you?” I’m like, “No, I didn’t.” He said, “Are you going down the driving range?” I said, “Yes, sir” and he goes, “Well, hop in. I’ll give you a ride.” I jumped in next to him and he goes, “Oh no. The little lady sits by the old man.” He kicked me out so she’d sit next to him.
Charlie Rymer (51:15):
He’s only a driver. He didn’t care about what you did about it.
Sean Fister (51:18):
We go down there and as we’re driving down, he says, “Are you a tour player? What are you doing here?” I said, “No, sir. I’m a long driver. I hit the ball. I compete in competitions.” He goes, “Oh, really?” He goes, “Well, I need to see this move. I might learn something.” We get down there and I get set up. I take a few swings and I’m so dadgum nervous. I’m spraying them here and there. At one point, he leans down and he gets down on one knee and he gets in front of my grip. He puts his hands on my grip and he starts moving my hands around. He’s strengthening my left hand and I’m standing there and I’m looking down at these old leather, big old palms, the age spot stuff. I’m like, “That is Sam Snead holding my hands like that.” I’m so in awe. He’s like, “Move over.” I tried that. I hit it, boom, dead straight. I was like, “Wow.” He goes, “You see that?” He spent 45 minutes with me that morning.
Charlie Rymer (52:26):
Did he send you a bill.
Sean Fister (52:27):
Charlie Rymer (52:28):
I’ve heard he’s famous for sending bills.
Sean Fister (52:30):
Well, I didn’t give him my address.
Charlie Rymer (52:33):
That was probably pretty smart.
Sean Fister (52:35):
That was a neat thing. I’ll never forget that because he took that time out for me. That was actually the first golf lesson I ever had. It was with Sam Snead.
Charlie Rymer (52:45):
Boy, that’s something to talk about. I’ve always heard that he’s just an unbelievable character and that West Virginia accent. He’s one of the folks I wish I’d had a chance to at least chat with him or say hello. The thing is his golf swing to this day is still studied as well. If you start asking people the purest golf swing all the time, he comes up in the top five every time. Some people have him as number one. What a great opportunity for you. The first formal golf lesson from Sam Snead? Are you kidding me?
Sean Fister (53:19):
When I see his fluid swing, I’m like, “Now, there’s a guy that’s never had an injury.”
Charlie Rymer (53:24):
Exactly. All right. How about a Mr. Palmer story? Did you ever do any clinics with Mr. Palmer?
Sean Fister (53:31):
Well, I haven’t done clinics with him, but I did play golf with him. I shot a commercial for Dunlop at Bay Hill one year. We shot the commercial early in the morning before the golfers came through. We were done. I’d been gone for 18 days, traveling and doing exhibitions. My wife, Karen, was pregnant with our second child that was due in a month, so I needed to get home that day. I was flying out that afternoon. My bags are all by the backdrop. I’m standing there waiting on the cab to take me to the airport. I look over and I see Mr. Palmer is practicing punting. I’m like, “Oh my God. That’s Arnold Palmer.”
Sean Fister (54:16):
I had never met him. He was my all-time hero. My heart starts pounding because I know I’m starting to think, how am I going to meet this guy? Because I want to shake his hand. I thought, all right. You never know what somebody famous is going to be like. I walked towards him, but a little bit away from him. If he gave me a go-to-hell look, I’d just be like, “Well, I’m just going over here. I don’t know what’s your problem.” He looked up and he said, “How are you, young man?” I said, “I’m doing great, Mr. Palmer.” I made a beeline to him. He said, “Did you play today?” I said, “No, sir. I just shot a commercial with so-and-so” and he’s like, “Oh, you’re a tour player?” “No. I won the Long Drive World Championship.” He goes, “Really? Wow. How far?” I was like, “362 yards and 12 inches, filled with no wind.”
Charlie Rymer (55:08):
It’s cold up the hill.
Sean Fister (55:13):
He goes, “I’ve hit a few about that far.” I’m like, “I know you have.” We’re talking and he says, “Well …” At one point I said, “Mr. Palmer, the year I was born was a pretty good year for you.” He looks at me, “What year was that?” I said, “1962.” He goes, “Yeah, that one.” He’s making these putts and he’s 25 feet away. He’s draining two out of three and he’s talking to me the whole time. He’s looking down at his ball and his putt and he goes, “How long are you in town?” I was like, “Oh, a few more days.” I’m not stupid. I may look stupid.
Charlie Rymer (55:54):
However long I need to be in town.
Sean Fister (55:57):
He says, “Well, how would you like to play golf with me tomorrow?” I said, “Mr. Palmer, that would make my career if I could play golf with you.” He goes, “Come with me.” He takes me over to the starter shack, leans in. This old guy is in there. He looked like he was 130. Mr. Palmer leans in and he goes, “Have we got room for one more tomorrow?” He snaps at Mr. Palmer like, “Well, who is he?” He’s controlling who’s going to play. Mr. Palmer leans in and he goes, “He’s a World Long Drive Champion and he’s on my team.” The guy goes, “Well, I guess we got room.” He turned to me and he goes, “Can you make 11:17 tee time tomorrow?” And I said, “I’ll be here at 8:30” and I was.
Charlie Rymer (56:41):
Wow. What a story.
Sean Fister (56:42):
Long story short, I played around with him. I was in awe of him so much. It was hard to focus on my game. In fact, we were walking up the fairway and I’d hit my ball to the right. I walked with Mr. Palmer and he hit a shot and I kept walking with him. We walked way past my ball, but I had given his caddy my camera to get a picture of me walking up the fairway. I kept walking and talking. I walked with him. We get up close to the green.
Sean Fister (57:15):
He goes, “Son, did you find your ball yet?” I was like, “No. I just wanted to walk up the fairway with you.” He patted me on the shoulder and he goes, “All right.” It was pretty cool. The key to this whole story is I was so impressed with him as a person because he’s just so authentic and genuine in how he treats people. Whether they’re famous or not, he treated everyone just so graciously that it really affected me. When my son was born, I told my wife, I said, “I think I got a name.”
Charlie Rymer (57:53):
Sean Fister (57:54):
We named him after Arnold Palmer. I said, “Have a great story.” She was like, “Well, I can tell you right now we’re not naming him Arnold.” I said, “Well, how about Palmer?” She said, “Okay.” I ended up seeing Mr. Palmer again a couple of years later and I told him the story about naming my son after him. It was a radio show. There was two radio guys sitting over to the left. I told him I named my son after him. Mr. Palmer looks at those guys and he just shook his head. He smiled. He didn’t say anything, but that’s all I needed. It made him feel good, but that’s my Arnold Palmer story.
Charlie Rymer (58:32):
What a great one. We’re going to end the show with that because I don’t think we can go up from there.
Sean Fister (58:38):
I appreciate you having me, Charlie, always.
Charlie Rymer (58:40):
Sean “The Beast” Fister, a three-time World Long Drive Champion. Thank you for sharing your stories. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. For our listeners out there, if you want to spend a little time with Sean Fister, you can reach him through the Dustin Johnson Golf School here in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. That information is all at dustinjohnsongolfschool.com. I’m Charlie Rymer. Thanks for joining us right here on Balls in the Air. We’ll hear you next time. I appreciate it, folks!