Exclusive Interview : Phillis Meti Two-Time Women’s World Champion

1. It was big news when you decided to participate in the World Long Drive Championship this year after an eight year absence. What made you decide to comeback this year?
“After the passing of my dad, I had very little desire to return to playing competitive golf. As much as I loved playing and practicing and competing with my friends, my dad was a huge part of my career – not just as my father, but my sponsor, my caddy, and my best friend. It was difficult to even think about returning without him. So, while I was home, I decided to complete my Bachelor’s Degree in Sport and Recreation – Management at AUT University in Auckland.

When I’m home, I spend time in the gym with my trainer – in this instance, we kept fit and strong in case I got the bug back to return to competitive golf . I remember years ago, my dad said if I was fit, I had more options (to change – technically, mentally, and emotionally). After graduating in July, I still had little interest in returning to competitive golf. I enjoyed hitting golf balls at the range and that got me thinking seriously about returning to Long Drive – I just wasn’t sure if I had the yardages in me. Being somewhat fit, it was a relatively smooth transition but I knew I had a lot of work to do.”

2. The field of 16 women represented Canada, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden, and the United States and five continents. The event truly brought together the longest hitting women from around the world who have hit the ball over 320 yards in competition. When did you realize that the depth of talent in this year’s championship was so high?
“I knew right from the start this year’s competition was going to be tough. Because Long Drive kick started a wonderful career for me, I always had an interest in how the women’s field was doing. There were multiple champions in amongst this year’s field and many of the top 8 girls from previous years had posted some really good numbers this season. This field is one of the best by far that I have seen and I am so humbled to have been in amongst it, let alone win. “

3. The format and schedule of the event made for a grueling day physically and mentally. Fitness and mental toughness were critical for the event with so many rounds of hitting in a short period of time. The wind in your face all day also made for extremely challenging conditions. Please describe how tired you were after the championship and also if you would recommend any changes to the format in future years.
“I enjoyed the format of the event, it kept me on my toes the whole day. The rounds we went through followed by the match rounds; the mental games we play on ourselves to stay in the game whilst on the range; the weather – just coming out of winter in NZ, was pretty hot for me! Also hitting into the wind was tough – it required a lot of attention to ensuring we hit a decent ball in challenging conditions. By the end of the day, I was absolutely spent!

The last time I teed it up in competition was the 2008 World finals in Mesquite (against Lana) – I was definitely not match fit at Winstar (the results of my first round with Sandra, Lisa and Rebecca made that completely obvious). The adrenaline was definitely running on overdrive.”

4. Please describe your physical and mental preparation for golf and long drive.
“Regardless of what sport you partake in, physical training is really important. Not only for the longevity of your career, but to continuously test your mental strength and improve your performance. It’s also good for your health.

My physical training is really dependent on where we are in the calendar year and which training phase we are in. I like to stay strong and functional all the time. In my off-season, the gym to range ratio is more gym than range. Leading up to the playing season, the gym work lessens and I practice more often.”

5. Chloe Garner had been about 10 yards longer than you for most of the afternoon. And in the final, the pressure began to mount as you were not able to match her mark of 304 yards. What did you do prior to the last drive to try and summon up all her strength, experience, and determination to hit make your best swing of the day when it mattered the most? How much did you draw on from when the tables were turned on you in 2008?

“Losing in 2007 and 2008 stung me bad. I got 6 balled twice in 2 years by both Sheila and Lana. As sour as it tasted and as time went by, that unfortunately, was the nature of the sport.
Chloe is a great competitor. She played a very favourable ball flight for the conditions we were playing into, and she posted some great numbers throughout the day. This year for me was different. In the past, I posted big numbers from the get go. At Winstar, I was looking for my rhythm and chased numbers all day. A few things clicked later on in the afternoon to where I felt very comfortable behind the ball. That allowed me to loosen up and let go in finals, and thankfully, on the final ball. “

6. Please describe what was going through your head immediately after the following swing and when the distance was announced. It was fun to watch from about twenty yards away.
“I made really good contact on my final ball. As I followed the ball from the tee, I saw the ball flight I had been looking for– it flew strong into the wind with a slight draw. Slowly taking steps back as I stared down the back of the ball, I looked at the left hand screen to watch its landing. As soon as I saw my ball landed and bounced beyond 304 yards, I couldn’t contain myself! Haha. I was so lost in the hype of winning, I forgot I even fell on my backside until I watched the live feed later that night. “

7. Your Mom was with you at Winstar. It was wonderful to watch her join you when you were awarded the trophy. Please help our readers celebrate the life of your father and the influence that your parents have had on you.
“This trip was very emotional for the two of us. I was so happy to have my mum at Winstar with me this year. Team Meti is tight. The three of us worked as one in every aspect of our lives and we were enabled by one another to be the best we can be, in whatever it was we were doing. Losing my dad to cancer in 2015 was devastating. He was a very humble and honest man with a very soft heart for those that he crossed paths with. My parents view sport as a vehicle for youth to learn life skills and potentially future career pathways. They have been great role models for me. Sport in itself has provided me with skills – etiquette, communication skills, respect for oneself and others, the list goes on…My heart now lies in giving back to sport. “

8. After being called the longest hitter in women’s golf about a decade ago, you began playing golf professionally on various tours. Please share some of your goals in the game. I understand you will be off to qualifying soon.
“I was really young (in age and in mind) when I won in 2006. I also played a lot of other sports nationally which was a lot of fun and gave me a lot of experiences. When playing golf, we saw hitting the ball long from the tee was a huge advantage however, my golf literacy needed a lot of work. The advantage of being young was that I had little fear so my game back then had more ‘guts’ than now.

My parents and I saw the opportunities golf provided on and off the golf course. It was not hard to see where my future was headed, it was just a matter of whether it was with a club in my hand or not.”

9. Is there anyone you would like to thank?
“There was no way I could do this by myself. I didn’t have any sponsors this year however, the time spent on the range with Davyn Nola and Warren Smith was invaluable to this year’s success. The experience and knowledge these two gurus have is just phenomenal, I am glad to have had them in my corner. The hours spent with my trainer Dallas Tipau in the gym was a huge contributor to being physically and mentally ready for the World Long Drive Champs. Finally, a big thank you to James Colligan and the team at JK’s World of Golf Driving Range in Auckland for their continued support over the past 10 years.

As a competitor, a special thanks to the Golf Channel, the World Long Drive team and all those involved, who did a fantastic job running the World finals this year. I would also like to thank Winstar for providing a great facility for us to compete.”

10. Fellow New Zealander Lydia Ko is ranked #1 in women’s golf have you had the opportunity play very often with or against her?
“Lydia and I both represented the same province in amateur golf. I’m a bit older than she is, so we didn’t represent at the same time however, we have teed it up together once before. No surprises, she beat me, but only by 2 – then she became world #1 female amateur…the rest, you already know.”

11. We hope to see you back next year to defend your title. Are you planning to be a regular participant in the year’s to come?
“I loved being in amongst the Long Drive scene this year. I would absolutely love to come back to compete again next year.”

By Rich O’Brien