|Long-drive specialist Dan Boever has made the switch from pro baseball to golf entertainer. (Courtesy Dan Boever)|
Long-driving specialist Dan Boever still seems amazed that he makes his living putting on long-drive, golf entertainment shows. "Is this unbelievable, or what?" is a common expression from the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Boever, who imagined he'd be involved in sports, but never by hitting golf balls.
For a young Boever, it was baseball or bust.
"You have some sort of sickness when you're 11 years old and staying up late to listen to West Coast baseball games on the radio," said Boever. "I would break into the high school so I could practice. How sick is that?"
The dream was nearly realized. Boever played baseball through high school, eventually landing a scholarship to the University of Nebraska and eventually being picked in the Major League Baseball draft by the Cincinnati Reds.
Despite a career that saw him hit a towering home run off a young Roger Clemens and play with such future stars as Barry Larkin and Rob Dibble, Boever's baseball career eventually stalled, sending him back to his home in Missouri and to the 9-to-5 world.
"I had to go and work," Boever said. "I took a job selling farm chemicals on straight commission, in 9 months I made $900, so you see how good I was."
Shuffling around, Boever made his way to Florida to work at a baseball camp with baseball hall-of-famer Wade Boggs. In Florida, Boever, who had always golfed, got to spend more time on the links and made an important discovery.
"When I got out there, I realized I was hitting the ball further than I ever had before," said Boever, who's hit a putter 336 yards. "Oh, the power of gaining 40 pounds, that will take you a long way in the long-driving world."
After testing the waters of long-driving competitions, Boever had a fateful lunch with Art Sellinger, a two-time world long-drive champion and an owner of Long Drivers of America.
"It was just a two-hour lunch, but he really kind of changed my life in that time," Boever said. "It's not often someone can really change the way your life goes. I got one show, and that show became 15, then 30 and now I've done more than 600."
Now as a member of the Pinnacle and Cobra distance team along with long-drive champs Jason Zuback, Sellinger and Brian Pavlet, Boever spends his days putting on shows that are part stand-up comedy and part long-driving exhibitions. Boever has no problems with being more an entertainer than an athlete, and a previous job helped give him an edge when it comes to speaking in front of people.
"There was a stretch where I really worked the Amway business hard," said Boever, laughing. "I really had to get in front of people for that, and, if you can imagine, it wasn't always that favorable."
"Are you kidding me," said Boever. "To go from selling farm chemicals to putting on a show for Microsoft? And none of it would be possible if it weren't for the ability to hit the ball a stupid distance."
As for players looking to add distance to their own tee shots, Boever said the trick is to keep things simple and that some basic advice can often go a lot further than new clubs or extra lessons.
"It's very, very simple. But you know the great stuff is simple, said Boever, who flirts with being a scratch golfer. "About 95 percent of the cats I see, they take that tee and jam it down so far, right off the bat they are losing distance.
"When we go to the test facilities they talk about wanting high-launch and not so much spin," Boever said. "It's just something that can change anyone in an instant, by teeing it up higher."
Boever added that a couple other simple tips - bending your knees and holding the club loosely, will also give many golfers instant results.
"Golfers will go up to the tee and stand flat-footed, their knees are straight and immediately they'll loose power," Boever said. "Everybody says it, but I guess people aren't hearing it. You have to widen your stance and get more on the balls of your feet.
"And I tell people to hold the club as loosely as possible," Boever said. "I would stay to a man, people who have won long-drive titles will tell you to loosen your grip pressure. This is another thing you don't need weeks to make work. Holding the club too tightly reduces club-head speed, period."
The amicable Boever is still an athlete at heart and gladly talks about his past on the baseball diamond, like when he faced Randy Johnson ("every one of our lefties came up with stomach flu or had a death in the family that day"), or his golf game ("I might go months without putting, unless I'm trying to hit a putter 280. It's hard to get better if you don't practice your short game - ever.")
These days, however, Boever is much more likely to discuss Johnny Carson's otherworldly ability to save a bombed joke, or a new routine he's figured out for his long-driving shows.
"I do have some athletic ability," Boever said. "I work on new shots a lot, but as much as anything I'm working on new bits for the show."
Phone: (417) 582-1590
Web site: http://www.danboever.com
November 30, -0001
William K. Wolfrum keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation. You can follow him on Twitter @Wolfrum.