Bryson DeChambeau playing the long game

Bobby Peterson, owner of One Stop Power Shop, believes major champ has chops to be factor on Professional Long Drive Association, confirms DeChambeau to compete in April event

Bobby Peterson has more than 100 wins as a long drive coach, club builder and competitor, including his work with two-time current world champion Kyle Berkshire. So, it’s safe to say the 53-year-old part-time golf pro, part-time chicken farmer in rural North Carolina has a keen eye for “big bopper” talent. 

He approaches each potential long drive client with a bit of healthy skepticism, and that included PGA Tour star Bryson DeChambeau during a chance meeting on the driving range at the 2021 Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte. 

The two hit some balls together before DeChambeau headed off to play in a pro-am. In Peterson’s mind, it was a nice moment in the sun, a rare chance to spend some time with a golf personality of note. But Peterson was sitting on the range later in the day when he was surprised.

Farmers Insurance Open — Bryson DeChambeau R2
Bryson DeChambeau tees off during the second round of the 2022 Farmers Insurance Open.

“Out of the left side of my ear I hear, ‘Hey Bobby, it’s Bryson, you want to come out on the range and hit some more balls?’ I said ‘Hell, yeah,’ so I grabbed my backpack and ran out on the range. A lot of people started getting closer and closer and were listening because we were having a conversation about his swing and some of the mechanics of it and physics of it, and how I felt long drive could help him in his search for distance and accuracy,” Peterson said.

At the end of the day, there was a startling revelation.

“I was watching his numbers and I was like, ‘I think he can be competitive in long drive,”’ Peterson said. “I told him the only way you know if you can do this is to come compete in a long drive tournament. He said, ‘Well, if I ever get an invitation I’ll come.’ I said, ‘Well, I’m one of the owners so consider yourself invited.’ I’ll be damned if he didn’t take me up on it.”

DeChambeau made his first trip to “the middle of nowhere” in mid-August 2021, crafting a YouTube video of his first experience at Peterson’s long-drive training facility called the One Stop Power Shop in rural Newton Grove, N.C.  

“When Bryson came here it wasn’t like, ‘How can I teach Bryson to hit a golf ball?’” Peterson said. “I can’t teach Bryson how to hit a golf ball but I could look at how he was training and possibly look at things to make him faster, make his endurance better and help him understand a few mechanical things here and there.

“He absorbed those like a sponge. His first time here, his fastest ball speed was like 212 mph, which is a good speed, and at world championships (in late September) he hit 219 and recently he was over 220. So Bryson has put on about 8 mph ball speed in a couple of months. He has the desire to do it. When your body is aching and your hands are blistered up and if somebody has to tell you to practice you’re probably not going to be that great. Nobody has to tell him to practice.”

DeChambeau is playing in this week's World Golf Championship – Dell Technologies Match Play after an extended layoff due to a torn labrum in his left hip and a fractured bone in his left hand. DeChambeau, who last played in the Saudi International in February, does not attribute either to the long drive competition. The left-hand injury he claims as being caused by playing pingpong.

"People are going to say it’s off of speed training and all that and, sure, some of the things have been a part of that, just abuse and working really, really hard," he told the Golf Channel. “But at the same time, I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. I’ve learned so much about my body as time has gone on and learned how to manage things and how important rest is."

Peterson spoke to DeChambeau on Wednesday morning and confirmed that the 28-year-old winner of the 2020 U.S. Open will compete in the PLDA event scheduled for April 14-16 in Jupiter, Florida. He's also scheduled to compete in the PLDA World Championships, Oct. 2-8 in Mesquite, Nevada, and may be able to fit in more events, depending on his PGA Tour schedule.  

DeChambeau isn’t the first PGA Tour player to attempt his hand at long drive competitions. Jim Dent won the first two World Long Drive Championships in 1974-75, while Lon Hinkle took the title in 1981. The most recent big name to compete has been Rory Sabbatini in the late 1990s, while others such as John Daly and Davis Love III have also competed over the years, but mostly in charity events.

DeChambeau, competing the week after helping the United States win the Ryder Cup, finished a remarkable seventh in the Professional Long Drivers Association World Championships in his first attempt. The competition began with 80 long drivers, and DeChambeau advanced to the event’s fourth and final day with a long drive of 406 yards.

For DeChambeau, this wasn’t a one-and-done type of experiment. In fact, the 2021 U.S. Open winner was so enthralled with the fierce nature of the ball bombing experience that he joined Peterson’s ownership team at the Professional Long Drivers Association in late December.

“It's like I'm doing two jobs. Does it take away from the game of golf? For me, no,” DeChambeau said of his long-drive desires. “It only enhances me to help me focus, when I'm on the practice range, when I'm on the golf course, to completely focus on the task at hand. So, it kind of sectionalizes my life and prioritizes my life in that manner as well.”

Much like baseball players competing in the Home Run Derby, it has been a long-standing theory that so-called “swinging for the fences” hurt competitors’ normal swings, whether it be baseball or golf. Peterson believes Dechambeau is a different animal as it pertains to studying golf mechanics, and translating power and speed to an advantage on the PGA Tour.

Bryson DeChambeau and Bobby Peterson
Bryson DeChambeau and Bobby Peterson, owner of One Stop Power Shop in Newton Grove, N.C.

A former gunner in the U.S. Army, Peterson uses ballistics calculations and/or trajectory software in order to register club impact and launch parameters. A huge grease board at One Stop Power Shop displays various figures that spell it all out for golfers like DeChambeau who are interested in the raw stats.  

“When I do those things, I can predict how far the ball will carry and how far it will roll out,” Peterson said. “Once you know that then you’re got something to work with.”

Peterson’s practice range is in a wide open field that measures close to 500 yards. At the far end of some of his 162-acre tract of land are his chicken houses, in which he grows 1.5 million pounds of chicken every 10 weeks.

Of course, DeChambeau’s arrival in August at what Peterson affectionately calls World Headquarters was met with enthusiasm by the golfers who mostly train there in anonymity. But there was also work to do. DeChambeau was stepping into an entirely different golf world and Peterson wanted a simulated long drive competition experience.

“He’s a great golfer but I didn’t know what kind of long driver he was so he had to pay his dues here just like everybody else,” Peterson said. “I set up a bigger speaker and had other guys show up to get the atmosphere right and as intense as we possibly could. We simulated a (long drive) tournament by bringing in a few of my guys just to put bodies on the tee box so it could feel like that tight sensation of a tee box and three other people swinging, and loud music going on and clubs breaking. We wanted mayhem -- the more chaos the better.”

So, after about six months of examination of DeChambeau’s long-drive skills, Peterson believes he has true potential if the PGA Tour star desires to compete moving forward.

“His weakness is only due to his lack of experience in the long drive game, not any kind of mechanical or physical problems, it’s just being able to amp your body up and get the adrenaline flowing,” Peterson said. “His main strength is he hits the ball in the center of the clubface. He is able to repeat the motion, and once he figures it out he can do it almost like a machine, over and over and over.

“And the other thing you can’t fake is he truly has a passion for what he’s doing. I don’t know that always comes out in PGA Tour players because the way the game has gone they tell you not to show emotion, be even keel, but you need that adrenaline factor to push your body beyond where you think you’re capable of going in long drive. He has that passion, and you can’t fake that.”

For DeChambeau, long drive is just another way to set himself apart from the field.

“My life, my passion is to play the best golf I can, number one. Number two, I want to grow the game to a level that's never been seen before,” DeChambeau said of how he looks at his business investments.

“I want to continue to grow it like Tiger [Woods] did. I probably won't have anywhere near the same influence as Tiger, but I want to continue to keep providing golfers and us entertainers out there with a better platform, a better stage to provide everyone in the world.”