Both Photos Courtesy of Golf Channel

By Rich O’Brien

Jeff Crittenden grew up in West Chester, PA as the youngest of six brothers in a very competitive family.  While in high school his shop teacher mistakenly called him “Critter” and that’s been his nickname ever since.  

He began playing golf while attending Millersville College and immediately developed a passion for the game.

After graduating Critter decided that he wanted to become a professional golfer.  He decided to move to Florida to pursue that dream and for the next six years played the Tommy Armour, Moonlight, and Hooters Tours. He was living the dream and even won several events, but unfortunately he wasn’t making a living.

In 2005 Jeff joined the PGA member and became a teaching professional at golf schools where he worked for some of the top instructors in the game including Hank Haney, Fred Griffin, Rick McCord, Ed Bowe, and Dick Farley.  

After some urging from his head pro in 2006 he decided to give long drive a try and quickly discovered that he was competitive with the world’s longest drivers and began competing in events both in the United States and internationally.

In 2007 he relocated to Greensboro, NC and has been the Owner and Director of Instruction at the North Carolina Golf Academy & Driving Range. As a golf instructor his goal is help students improve through personal golf instruction designed to increase knowledge, confidence, and consistency so that they are better able to increase their enjoyment of the game of a lifetime.  He teaches players of all ages and ability levels, but especially enjoys teaching fellow long drivers.

Long drive has always been his hobby while golf instruction has been his day job. For eight years he dreamed of making it to the final 8 in the World Long Drive Championship. He realized that the sport is a young man’s game and at 43 he was often competing against hitters nearly half his age. He decided that the 2014 season would be his last. But during the season he found another gear and began hitting the ball farther than ever before.

At the 2014 World Long Drive Championship he played his way through the qualifying rounds and advanced all the way to the Final 8. His dream had not only come true, but now he was in position to win.

The conditions that night were very challenging with a substantial left to right crosswind. This proved to be  an advantage for Critter whose low boring trajectory would stay under the wind. In the Quarterfinal he beat Matt Hanger by a single yard.  Then in the Semifinal he faced 2010 Champion Joe Miller and again won by less than a club length to advance to the finals against Jeff Flagg.

The 2014 World Long Drive Final featured a winner take all $250,000 first prize. Critter’s second drive was 365 yards to take the early lead.  Jeff Flagg followed with a drive of 365 yards as well. Neither player was able add to their distance.

The suspense grew as both players stood on the tee box waiting the official tale of the tape. A World Long Drive Final had never been this close before. The sports rules stipulate that if two shots are separated by six inches or less they are considered to be a tie and the match would be decided by a three shot playoff.

When the distances were announced Critter came up a mere 13 inches short of winning the title as his drive was recorded at 365 yards and 7 inches.

For some athletes this would have been a crushing defeat, but not for Critter. Instead of retiring from the sport he was driven to continue competing against the longest drivers in the world. In 2015 he returned to the Final 8, but lost in the quarterfinal and finished tied for 5th.

The following December he became eligible for the Masters Division as he turned 45. That year to tried to compete in both divisions. He was one of the favorites for the Masters, but during qualifying he injured his quad and made an early exit from the event.

At the 2017 World Long Drive Championship Critter would not be denied as he won the Masters Division with a drive of 363 yards to claim his first world title.

The 2017 Masters Champion is still getting better.  Now 47 he is working on increasing his club head speed. His goal is to reach 145 mph next season, but he would be happy with 140 mph and 210 mph ball speed because they both would be personal bests on Trackman. Critter is still driven to win the Open Division Title.

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