I have a new pal I met at The Golf Space. His name is Mathew Vilade and he’s a professional long bomber. You know those guys who compete in long driving contests and bomb it 400+ yards? That’s Mathew. Here’s a nine question interview I did with Mathew below:
What got you into long driving?
I think when my baseball career started to come to an end I was looking to fill a void. I was starting to get into golf a little bit at the time and noticed I had a knack for hitting the ball long. After being thrown out of almost every golf range in northern NJ for hitting the ball too long, I knew that i might have a chance to win something.
Give us some details on contests won, longest drives etc. A quick player bio if you will.
I was born and raised in Gladstone,NJ. I attended Bernardsville High School where I was a standout Baseball player and wrestler. I played baseball at a local college where I also made the golf team. Around 19 yrs old I got in a local long drive qualifier that I saw in the paper. I placed 2nd in that first competition. My college career was ended abruptly when I began battling Crohnâ€™s disease, which was not diagnosed until after I was forced to drop out of school and was unable to get out of bed for over a year. After a long recovery from the Crohnâ€™s disease, I started competing on and off. It took a long time to get my strength and confidence back.
On December 9, 2005 I got married. My wife and I decided to take a leap of faith and change our lives. At the end of the month we moved from Basking Ridge, Nj to Tyler, Tx. After working as a local club pro I decided it was time to pursue my dream and really try to reach my potential. I changed careers and put all my focus on making it to the Re-Max World Long Drive Finals and compete on the 2007 LDA Tour. In 2006 I won the sectional qualifier in two districts and took 2nd in the regional / district qualifier in St.Louis, with drives of 405yds, 412yds, and 422yds. Taking 2nd in St Louis qualified me for the World Finals and secured my place in the top 120 longest hitters around the world.
I set a goal to make it to the world finals. I should have set my goals higher. The experience has motivated me to work harder than ever because now I know that I can make this dream come true.
2 Time ReMax World Long Drive Finalist 2006-2007
LDA Diamond in the Desert Classic 3rd place
LDA Tour Top 10 Desert Launch
ReMax World Long Drive Regional Finalist 3x
ReMax World Long Drive Sectional Champion 4x (in multiple districts)
Longest Drive in competition 473 yards (2007)
Can you putt? Irons? Short game? Is your game just power and distance or can you actually play “golf”?
I can hold my own on the course. I carry a 6.1 which is a little high right now. While I was a club pro I was down to a 4 at one point. But now I am slipping a little. When I go to practice now a days, I will hit about 10 iron shots and about 90 drives. I’m not bad with the putter, I run very hot and cold with it. My game plan on any hole under 400 yards is to get it there in one and try not to 3 putt.
What’s your swing speed, ball speed, launch angle etc?
These measurements are subjective and makes this question very hard to answer. On the Zelocity launch monitor I have hit speeds of 148 mph with 215 mph ball speed. My average is 144mph with 207 ball speed on the Zelocity. On the Vector launch monitor, I have hit 155 mph with 220+ ball speeds. On the Swing Mate I hit 172 mph which is not possible for a human. But I will stick with the Zelocity for the most accurate I think.
How do you practice/train for long drives? Do you lift weights or do anything special for more swing power?
I used to lift a lot of weights in my younger days. Now I concentrate on flexibility and Mental training more than anything else. I also make sure I hit 3 times a week and use a swing training tool called The First Stick.
What’s your gear and specs (driver, loft, shaft, shaft specs etc)?
I currently use the ALPHA c830.2 driver head with the UST V2 LD3 shaft.
The loft I use is dictated by the conditions. I carry a 4.0 deg to 7.0 deg heads.The length I use is a 49 inch (LDA) with a Tocare grip.
What is the LDA length? LDA has adopted this new policy in response to the United States Golf Association’s decision to limit clubs to a maximum of 48 inches. Using LDA’s method of measurement, which is to hold the club upright and measure from its sole plate to the butt end of the grip, LDA’s 50-inch limit on length equates to the USGA’s 48-inch limit.
(note: HOG’s review of the Alpha c830.2 can be found HERE)
What’s the longest drive you ever hit? Longest carry?
My longest in competition is 473 yards at the World Championship Grid in Mesquite NV. The longest carry would be that shot at around 450. I have driven some shorter par 5’s at 515 and 538, but the wind was right and they were both down hill.
Are you sponsored?
Yes, I am a member of the UST High Performance Driving Team. I am also am with Alpha / Kent Sports. Golf Connection in Tyler,Texas. The Brown Group and Autocheckmate.com. I also have a swing trainer out on the market called The First Stick.
What’s in store for your future in golf?
This is my rookie year on the long drive tours. I compete on the LDA tour and the Players tour. With the World Finals at the end of the season in Oct. My ultimate goal is to get a World championship. My goal for 2007 is to win a tour event and win the Remax World Long Drive Championship. Will also do many charity fundraisers and Pro-Ams in 2007. Right now I am working with the LDA and Children’s Miracle Network for an event late this June in St. Louis.
Some links Mathew provided