Kimihiro Minamide – Japanese Long Drive Champion

1. Your father is a famous Japanese actor and comedian; an icon of Japanese culture. What types of lessons on success were you able to learn from him?

My father never told me to do this or to do that. However, as he has been working for 40 years in show business, I’ve learned a lot from him: making daily effort, being up for challenges and paying courtesy. FYI, I didn’t inherit his sense of humor (laughter).

2. Please describe your life off of the grid.

When I am not competing or practicing, I work at golf courses or giving lessons. I also work for magazines and at some events. On my days off, I work out, surf the net and relax at home. I don’t like being in crowds. I have no specific hobbies but I like eating out. It is nice to enjoy good food and drink at restaurants that are in walking distance.

3. How did you get started in Long Drive? And how long did it take for you to start competing?

I started in 2006. My friend recommended (that I) compete in Long Drive. I kept turning down his suggestion for two years, but he was really persistent. That is why I decided to try it once. It resulted in 310 yards. I couldn’t get it right and I was frustrated. Thus, I competed once again. Then, I set a Japanese record, getting 403 yards thanks to a tailwind.

4. For many athletes, corporate sponsorships are a big part of their success, please take a moment to thank your sponsor(s) and the key individuals that are critical to your success in Long Drive.

Callaway GolfK.K., Colan Totte Co., Ltd., IS Securities Co,. Ltd., IPR Consultant PPC, Soft Communications Co., Ltd., Apple care net Inc. Infinity Enterprises Inc.
These are my current sponsors. Without their support, I cannot continue to play golf professionally.
They provide me supplement, medication, medical devices, and of course, financial support.

In Japan, there are few competitions where we can earn prize money; 10 or 20 grand. Even in bigger events, the award is not more than a million yen. It costs a lot to just get into the game. Although almost all of competitions offer no cash prize, we need to participate and win certain points to take part in the national competition. I rely on the sponsors tremendously. Especially Callaway Golf K.K. supports me not only financially but also materially; they provide customized clubs, golf wear and shoes. If they didn’t assign me as a long driver to a special staff player’s post, I would have had to give up my profession and this interview would have never happened.

In addition to achieving outstanding results for them, I will contribute to the sales increase and golf-related events.
I once again extend my sincere gratitude to you and all the sponsors.

5. With Callaway as your equipment sponsor, please let know the set up (heads and shafts) of the various drivers in your bag.

The club head is Big Bertha Beta.
Shafts are TourStick K’s, JBEAM ZY-SPEED and SEVEN DREAMERS.

6. What is your five most memorable moments in the sport?

In 2006, at the Golf Digest Japan Long Drive Championship Final, I became a Japanese Champion for the first time by one yard difference.
In 2013, at the Golf Digest Japan Long Drive Championship Final, after 5 foul balls, the last shot brought me a comeback victory.
In 2013, at the World Driving champion, I placed in the top 16 and photographed with the world’s top 15 players.
In 2013, at Callaway’s event, I played with Jamie Sadlowski, one of the longest drivers in the world.
In 2014, at the Golf Digest Japan Long Drive Championship Final, after 5 foul balls, I got another comeback win for two consecutive years.

7. The Japanese Tour Championship Final and the New Japan World Long Drive Qualifier will be in early September. How are you preparing for those events and how do you prepare for the various stages of the Japanese Long Drive Season?

Every year, I follow the same old routine. If anything, I’ve changed my workout and incorporated weightlifting. I (am) now 38 years old. I should avoid injuries since it takes longer to heal at my age.

Golf gear-wise, I am testing various shafts.
I am not focused too much on the games but preparing in my own way.

8. Who do you feel are the Japanese competitors capable of competing at the international level.

Motoki Ochiai , Sotaro Nagahara, Tadayoshi Wada, Soya Matsumoto, Senior: Yasuhiro Yamazaki

These are the players, I think, who can compete internationally. Soya needs to further improve his skills, though.

9. This month in the magazine we are highlighting the amazing contributions to the sport of Long Drive that were made by Mike Dunaway. In many ways the 350 Yard Club and their tours in Japan was the precursor of both the US and Japanese Long Drive Tours. So how is Mike Dunaway and the 350 Yard Club remembered in Japan?

In Japanese Long Drive community, Mike Dunaway does not seem to be that famous. However, Mr. Dunaway’s long straight shot is something all golfers seek for. And I sympathize with the words of his mentor, Mike Austin, “Distance has little to do with size or strength.” I am a small build as a long driver with 70″ tall and 172lb, “a tiny player” in the world championships. Pursuing the maximized physical efficiency, we could gain more yardage looking like swinging loosely as Mr. Dunaway taught us.

10. The Summer Olympics are beginning this week in Rio. Golf is now an Olympic event and will be competed in Tokyo during the 2020 Olympic Games. How excited is Japan about the games coming to the Land of the Rising Sun?

Follow up question:
Some people in the Long Drive and ParaLong Drive communities suggest that Long Drive would be an excellent addition for the Olympics and growing the game around the world. Would you like to comment on that….

In 2020, it might be hotter in Tokyo compare to Rio’s temperature due to the global warming. I wonder how athletes and staff will cope with the heat. I do hope the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games will tackle issues raised in Rio and have the Tokyo Olympics truly praised by staff, participants and spectators.

If Long Drive become an additional event, I’d be very happy. This sport is easy to enjoy watching and we can do team competition as well. It could be categorized by weight or age. I guess I would be a coach when it happens (laughter)…