By Matt Jenkins
---- — The addition of six years plus the subtraction of weight didn't seem like the ideal scenario for Mike Gauthier to return to the competitive field of long drive golf competitions.
Gauthier, who qualified for and competed in the RE/MAX World Long Drive Championship in both 2005 and 2006, was starting to get the itch again, however. What the Salem native discovered was that age and a smaller waistline don't necessarily translate into less distance off the tee.
After six years away from the competition, Gauthier will be returning to Mesquite, Nevada for the RE/MAX World Long Drive Championship in a couple weeks.
Gauthier tested out his distance, then advanced through local and district qualifying.
"I got my numbers tested prior (to the competition) at the simulator and if it was good, then I'd give it a run. It was surprising they tested higher than when I was training two hours a night in my younger days," Gauthier said. "I thought, 'This is crazy. I'd definitely doing it.' I went out and ripped it and took it down."
Testing out his distance was confirmation for Gauthier to give it another shot, but it takes more than just distance. Long drive competitions require distance and the ball also must land within a grid. If the ball rolls outside the grid, it's out of bounds and doesn't qualify.
The 30-year-old Gauthier, who starred in both baseball and golf at Salem High before going on to play baseball at Boston College, feels age has brought maturity. Just like in a typical round of golf, the battle in long drive competitions is equal parts mental and physical.
Gauthier's maturity, he feels, has helped him take the right frame of mind into his qualifying events.
His first swing in the local qualifier in Portland, Maine produced a 367-yard drive.
"You can be in great shape, but if you can't handle the stresses and the pressure you're in trouble," Gauthier said. "That's what separates everybody. Whoever can have the best day can move forward."
Gauthier almost didn't move forward in the Region 1 event, which featured golfers from Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
The top six finishers qualified, but Gauthier placed seventh. Gauthier said he hit the longest ball of the competition, but it didn't stay on the grid.
"I got beat out by a yard," said Gauthier, whose best drive on a course was estimated at 432 yards and 399 yards in competition. "But then I got a call from LDA (Long Driver's Association) saying they wanted to bring me in as an alternate. In this case, as long as you're in you're in."
So, a leaner, more mature Gauthier will be heading to Nevada on Saturday, October 20, with competition beginning two days later.
Gauthier is excited about the support he has from his sponsors — Lumina Education and Training Systems of Salem, and Beverly Athletic Center. He also feels like he can make a run at a title.
"I feel like my numbers are very, very competitive. There are a lot of guys out there that can smoke it, but it's all about hitting it square and getting on the grid," Gauthier said. "I'm confident that I can be competitive with the rest of the field. I'm in a good mental state."