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Member Spotlight: Russ Reed

 

Russ Reed is one of the club’s original members who made the move when Green Ridge made the switch to Egypt Valley.

Among his many personal and professional successes is being among the few who qualified to compete at the 2000 World Long Drive Championship in Mesquite, Nevada.

It all started 37 years ago while Reed was in the Grand Rapids Jaycee’s, where he helped start and run the one-day Celebrity Pro-Am at the Grand Rapids Elks, which saw many top touring pros and notable headliners like President Ford, Palmer, and Nicklaus.

“This event eventually turned into the Senior PGA stop that Egypt Valley hosted for 10 years,” Reed said, recalling the time in 1984 when PGA pro Peter Jacobson and “Big Cat” Evans Williams—a perennial world long drive champ—were putting on an exhibition in front of thousands of fans. “We decided that alongside their exhibition, some of the longest local amateur hitters could compete and the winner would go to the Midwest Regional Long Drive Contest.”

Reed was the winner with a 318-yard drive.

“I just fell short my first year of winning the Midwest Regional and going to the World Finals,” he said. “I tried again the following year and qualified through Michigan with a 350-yard drive, but fell short again in the Midwest region in Ohio. My longest drive in competition those days was 365 yards.”

People would often ask Reed what conditioning he would do to compete.

“I would tell them that I really wasn’t an expert on conditioning, but I had a six-foot-long, five-pound oversized Callaway showroom driver in my golf boutique basement,” Reed said. “Most people couldn’t lift and hold it straight out in front of them. I would swing that 20 times a day. I figured if that wasn’t working every important muscle to maximize your swing power, nothing would.”

Of course, life happens and took Reed’s attention, as he was busy running a business and raising a family. 

“Years later when they started a senior division for those 45 and up, I decided it was time for another run,” said Reed, who once again qualified by winning in Michigan. “This time I won the Midwest Region in Ohio, qualifying me for the World Finals in Mesquite, Nevada. I got a little local attention when WOOD-TV was doing a special on me before my World Final appearance at Cascade Country Club. On the first hole—a 350-yard par 4—I blew it over the green.”

The World Finals, which saw eight finalists including Reed, was broadcast on national television. 

“My 348-yard drive was allowing me to hold my own through the first two rounds, but each round stands alone,” Reed recalled. “In the third round, I hit all three drives out of the 40-yard wide grid (only by a foot). Then you’re done!”

Reed ended up ending up having the 10th longest drive in the world that year, with the winner—Viktor Johansson, a 6’8” lumberjack from Sweden—landing ahead of Reed by only 15 yards.

“It was quite the experience hitting in front of a bleacher pack fired up audience,” Reed said, who was on many folks’ list for scrambles, and having gone to the Oldsmobile National Scramble and Cadillac Finals at pebble beach a couple times.

It’s not the only fun story he has to share.

“I had a 3 Drive contest with touring pro Davis Love at the PGA Hartford Open,” Reed said. “He won, but at dinner that night, I doubled down in an arm-wrestling challenge and I won.”

Another story includes playing a shotgun hole on the Egypt Valley Ridge 11 with Al Geiberger, who is known as Mr. 59 for being the first pro to shoot 59 on the tour.

“I drove next to the green, and Al asked my handicap,” Reed said. “I told him 8. He yelled out to the crowd, ‘buckle your seat belt folks!’ I proceeded to only bogey the hole, and he was unimpressed.”

A different story begins during the senior PGA event at EVCC, where WOOD-TV was once again doing a feature story on Reed on the driving range.

“David Stockton and one of the longest hitters on the PGA tour were at the other end of the range and said to Gary Player, ‘Who is that nobody getting all the attention over there?’” Reed explained. “He told Gary, ‘I’m going to bet him $100 a drive.’ Gary told him, ‘I’ve been watching him, you do not want that bet.’”

Because you’d generally use a different swing and driver when competing than you would simply golfing on the course, Reed notes competing wasn’t the best for his golf game—or back.

“In the World Finals, I used a 7.5-degree double stiff shaft drive that was two-inches longer,” he said. “I regularly broke drivers and was sponsored by a couple club manufacturers.”

Reed’s handicap normally hung around 8 to 10, but at one point was a 5.

“In my day, with the right winds, I remember driving either on the green or green high on over nine different par 4’s at Egypt Valley,” Reed said. “Today, it’s hard to believe I ever competed in this. The years have taken its toll on my body and my way-past-parallel swing of yesteryear is now lucky if it gets above shoulder height. Even with the latest technology, I’ve lost near 100 yards over the old technology.”

Reed and his wife of 48 years, Karen, built the blue house on the bluff above Valley green five. Before retirement, Reed helped build and run a family business in the document imaging/copier industry called Commercial Equipment and The WS Reed Company, which was sold years ago and is now known as Michigan Office Solutions (MOS), owned by Xerox.

When Reed isn't playing golf at Egypt Valley, he and Karen spend their winters in Bonita Springs Florida and half their summers in Petoskey’s Bay Harbor.

If you see Russ and Karen around the Club, be sure to say, “Hello!”

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