Planet Golf — 06 August 2012 by Kirby Arnold
Pavlet makes golf balls disappear

NEWCASTLE, Wash.– Being a former world long-drive champion, Brian Pavlet is a popular guy on the pro-am golf circuit.

During the long-drive/trick shot exhibitions he performs around the world, he often tells the story of a tournament he played a few years ago. A group of amateurs had aggressively bid to get him on their team during the pre-tournament dinner/auction, figuring if they landed Pavlet they had the first 350 yards of every hole covered.

That’s when Pavlet (above, on the right next to me) decided to have some fun. The next morning as they were warming up on the range, he introduced himself to the group and then made an announcement.

“I just want you to know that I’m going through some swing changes,” Pavlet told them.

Then he teed up a ball and topped it, maybe about 10 yards.

He teed up another, took a mighty swing and dribbled it no farther. Again and again he barely made contact. His playing partners, those guys who’d bid so much money to benefit from his long drives, were stunned at what they were witnessing.

Then Pavlet flashed the look of a guy who suddenly figured out what he was doing wrong.

“It’s not this,” he said, drawing the club over his head in a backswing.

“It’s this,” he added, making the exact same motion.

Then he bombed one out of sight, turned and smiled.

His playing partners finally realized they’d been messed with by one of golf’s premier showmen. It’s all part of the fun Pavlet brings to the course, whether it’s a pro-am or one of his highly entertaining long-drive/trick shot/comedy shows.

Pavlet can top a ball, pop it up and hit it off the toe – all on purpose as opposed to the mis-hits the rest of us pull off with no clue how that happened.

It’s part of his show, along with monster drives and a whole lot more, by a 44-year-old who won the RE/MAX World Long Drive Championship in 1993. Pavlet has performed and played around the globe, including TV appearances on the Golf Channel and the Today Show, and features in Sports Illustrated, Golf Digest and Golf Illustrated. He has performed his show more than 1,200 times, including a trip to Iraq to entertain U.S. troops.

I’ve seen Pavlet’s exhibition a few times over the years near my home in Arizona, and he’s just as entertaining to a single-digit handicapper as he is to someone who has never picked up a club. He’ll dazzle you with a 400-yard tee shot, pullout a putter that he can hit 290 and keep you laughing all the while.

Here’s his web site, with a cool video of his performances: http://www.pavlet.com/

This week in Seattle, Pavlet was a regular golfer – well, one who blasted the ball 350-plus yards – when he played a few rounds while he and his family visited the city.

I was fortunate to join him and a couple of great guys I’ve gotten to know over the years while covering the Mariners for the Everett Herald – Mariners assistant clubhouse manager Billy Sepich and clubhouse worker Chris DeWitt.

We played the China Creek course at Newcastle, and Pavlet’s humor, graciousness and, of course, power were evident from the first tee.  I nervously pull-hooked my drive on No. 1, and the only reason it didn’t clear the driving-range fence was because it never got more than 20 feet off the ground.

By the time I reached my second shot on the par-5 first, Pavlet was still approaching the spot where his drive landed.  I settled down and drove the ball mostly straight the rest of the day, while Pavlet kept booming his 100 yards farther down range.  Probably farther– I was too busy trying to reach him with my second shots.

For a guy whose Ping sounds more like a cannon off the tee, how good is Pavlet’s short game?

Really good. He displayed a pro’s touch with his wedges at Newcastle and rolled in some birdie putts on greens he’d never seen before.

Meanwhile, he was a personable guy who’s clearly worth every dollar those pro-am guys bid to get him on their team,whether he’s in the midst of a swing change or not. He’s funny, cordial, supportive and, yes, extremely helpful.

DeWitt, an athletic left-hander with some pop, struggled with a sometimes-big slice off the tee. At one point, he said, “I think I just need to swing easy.”

Pavlet had a quick response to that.

“We don’t swing easy,” he said. Figures, coming from a long-drive champion. “When we are finished, I’ll show you something that’ll take care of that. It’s really simple.”

I was half expecting Pavlet to suggest that DeWitt take up tennis, but he’s too nice a guy to say something like that.

On the 18th tee, with nobody pressing us from behind, Pavlet had DeWitt set up to the ball and pointed out the culprit to his slice – his left (back) arm was higher than his right. DeWitt dropped the left arm and popped a nice drive – with a bit of a draw – about 250 yards uphill on the par-4 18th.

While the rest of us were hitting 5- and 6-irons to the green, Pavlet sized up another of those half-wedge shots he’d had all day thanks to one last monster drive.

We shook hands after finishing the18th, thanked Pavlet for a memorable round and went about the rest of our day.

For Pavlet, that meant staying at the course to work on his chipping and putting. He’s leaving next week for the Austria Open near Vienna and wanted to make sure that phase of his game was tight.

Off the tee, he’s dialed in.

As always

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Kirby Arnold

Kirby was 10 years old when he played his first round of golf with his grandmother on the sand greens of the Versailles Country Club in Missouri, and his love of the game has never wavered. Only one thing stood between Kirby and a single-digit handicap: his job. Kirby worked 42 years as a sports writer and editor at newspapers in Missouri and Washington. He started while a high school sophomore at the Rolla Daily News in Missouri and covered a variety of events, including his own high school basketball games (he made sure his name was spelled right). He was a sports writer and editor for 10 years at the Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader, covering Southwest Missouri State University football and basketball, Missouri University football and basketball, and numerous motorsports events including the Indianapolis 500 during the 1970s and 1980s. He moved to the Seattle area in 1984, becoming assistant sports editor at The Herald in Everett, Wa., then executive sports editor from 1987-1998, a time when The Herald's sports coverage was recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as being among the best in the nation for newspapers its size. Kirby returned to the press box in 1999, taking over The Herald's coverage of the Seattle Mariners. He covered the Mariners/baseball beat the next 13 seasons and in 2007 wrote his first book, Tales from the Seattle Mariners Dugout. While Kirby pursued a rewarding newspaper career, one of his lifelong goals remained unfulfilled: breaking 80 on a consistent basis. Kirby left The Herald at the end of 2011, moved to Phoenix and immediately began spending more time at the golf course. His only excuse now is a 12 on the stimpmeter.

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