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FAIA, HOOPER GO THE DISTANCE IN LONG DRIVE QUALIFYING TOURNEY

SHARE FAIA, HOOPER GO THE DISTANCE IN LONG DRIVE QUALIFYING TOURNEY

Golfers from as far away as England brought their long-hitting skills and wares to Utah Saturday for the sectional of the RE-MAX North American Long Drive Championship.

Using a variety of extra-long drivers with graphite shafts and large heads they blasted balls at Golf In The Round until just two golfers were left smiling.Joe Faia of Denver and Michael Hooper of Culver City, Calif., qualified for next month's finals where approximately 40 long drivers will compete for a $30,000 first prize in Las Vegas.

Faia, a native of Boston, who works as a carpenter in Colorado, finished first with a drive of 352 yards, while Hooper, one of the oldest "professional" long drivers in the country at 46, was just a yard behind at 351 yards.

Rodney Morrill of Denver finished third at 341, followed by Ted Fostey at 335, Mark Glynn at 328 and Kevin Elder at 322. Glynn was one of two golfers from England who were sent to this district to try to qualify for the lucrative finals.

At 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, Faia is smaller than most of the big hitters. When asked how he hits it so long, he said it just comes naturally.

"I don't know - I guess it's in my blood. Even when I was a little kid I hit it far."

Faia is a member of the Harrison Long Driving team and uses a 51-inch driver with a Harrison graphite shaft and a Black Diamond head with 9-degree loft.

A veteran of the national long-driving circuit, Hooper has been to Utah several times for competitions and was the Utah State champion three years ago. If he hadn't secured one of the two spots here, he was going to try in two other districts where he had qualified.

Hooper's club is 54 inches (normal drivers are 44) with a normal-size Taylor-Made head with 7-degree loft. His shaft, made by Easton has aluminum as well as graphite.

Utah's long-drive champion, Rich Cunningham, was eliminated in Saturday's first round after his drive of 315 yards was four yards short of qualifying.

The national competition will be Sept. 11-12 and is scheduled to be televised by ESPN.