Stacey Shinnick’s foray into the world of long drive happened purely by happenstance. No one in Shinnick’s family had ever played golf, and when she decided to pick up a club for the first time, she was in her late 20s.
“I was always a workaholic by nature,” said Shinnick. “Which isn’t always a bad thing, but the stress can build up. I really like sports and was a tennis player growing up. But with tennis, you really need someone out there with you. So, I thought golf might be something that I would like to try.”
Like many others before her, Shinnick realized the benefits of golf and the opportunity it presents for reflection and solitude when you don’t have someone to accompany you out on the course.
“I figured I’d learn how to play golf to [get] away from all the obligations that you have. I know a lot of people that really love to play golf, because you just go out and escape.”
It wasn’t long after picking up a club and starting to play that long drive entered into the picture.
“I saw an ad for World Long Drive in 2000 that [indicated] the first ever women’s division,” Shinnick recalls. “I had moved back to San Diego and was still hitting the range a lot. Feeling pretty good about my swing and hitting 300-yard drives consistently, I thought I should give it a try.”
Like the other competitors in the inaugural women’s division of the competition, Shinnick had no expectations entering that first world championship.
“When I entered it, I didn’t know any of the other competitors and thought it would be a great way to meet some people,” Shinnick said. “I wasn’t expecting to win.”
Like a lot of first-time competitors, Shinnick didn’t realize the differences in the equipment that most of the full-time competitors on the men’s side were benefitting from.
“I learned a lot about long drive equipment,” Shinnick said. “I was using an off-the-shelf Callaway Hawkeye and didn’t even know a couple of extra inches on my shaft might help me hit it longer. Right after I won the first women’s division championship, there was a full-page article about me in the San Diego paper titled, “The First Lady of Long Drive.” That afternoon, Callaway called me to come out and meet the staff and hit some balls on their range. Ely Callaway watched me hit and said he was impressed with my drives, but also really liked how I hit my 4-iron. That was pretty awesome, and they offered me a contract.”
After winning the first women’s division championship, Shinnick was unable to compete in 2001 because her mother was in intensive care with complications from chemotherapy.
“Fortunately, although she was terminally ill at the time, she found enough strength to see me win in 2002,” said Shinnick. “That was great because she hadn’t seen me compete before and she got a big kick out of it.”
In 2003 and 2004, Shinnick placed, but believes she didn’t deserve it.
“I placed those years, but I wasn’t in the best shape and was fighting my swing a lot. I was also spinning way too many plates those years with my business, family obligations, and starting a women’s long drive organization.”
Shinnick organized a women’s long drive event at an LPGA Tour event, the Safeway Classic in Oregon, with a $10,000-dollar first place prize.
“That was a lot of work. It was very draining, and I definitely gained a new appreciation for the people who run events.”
In 2005, though, Shinnick took a step back from everything else and rededicated herself to long drive.
“After 2004, I decided I wanted to win one more World Long Drive Championship. Maybe if I had started competing at a younger age, I would have wanted to set a record for the most wins, but that thought really never crossed my mind. I wanted to reach my full potential in the sport. That year, I cut way back on business and totally devoted myself to training to see how good I could be.”
Realizing that time wasn’t on her side, Shinnick worked hard to get her swing speed up and was extremely focused.
“I got my speed up to the mid 120’s and my ball speed was around 180. I felt great about my swing and physical conditioning going into the 2005 World Long Drive Championship. Some people question my credibility and long drive career because my swing looked deceptively slow. I registered a swing speed of 123 mph and a ball speed of 178 and won.”
“After that, I decided to retire,” said Shinnick. “It was time to pass the torch.”
Shinnick’s three world championship titles are tied for second-most all-time in the Women’s Division with Phillis Meti, ranking only behind Sandra Carlborg’s record five titles in the Women’s Division.