Lisa “Longball” Vlooswyk is an eight-time Canadian long drive champion, keynote speaker, golf/travel journalist and golf entertainer.
Tell me about Lisa Longball. How, why and when did you start this venture and what you do?
Vlooswyk: Well I wear many hats as Lisa Longball. I compete at a world-class level in the sport of long drive golf. I’m also a keynote speaker who specializes in peak performance at meetings, conferences and conventions. I own a golf school for women that I run in Canada and the U.S. I’m a golf entertainer at corporate and charity golf tournaments across North America and I’m a golf journalist specializing in writing golf instruction and travel articles.
This career path has been exciting and has taken me around the world, but if you told me 10 years ago this is what I would be doing for a living I would think you were off your rocker.
I started my journey as an educator teaching elementary and junior high school students. I believe teaching is a vocation. A calling. It’s all I ever dreamed of being.
After graduation from university, my husband Anton also recently graduated and was being asked to participate in corporate and charity golf tournaments. Growing up in Indus, Alta., he didn’t golf but realized he was missing out on key business and networking opportunities by not playing. So he dragged me out to the local golf course, wherever we could afford to get on and play. I golfed a little as a junior with my dad but there were not a lot of strong junior girl golf programs in the 1980s.
My turning point came in 1999 at the LPGA Tour event the du Maurier Classic at Priddis Greens. I volunteered that week out at the tournament and I was so inspired by watching the best female golfers in the world that I became passionate about golf.
I couldn’t break 100 to save my life, but luckily there are competitions for people who can’t break 100. I entered and was hitting it 80 to 100 yards past most of the other female players. I saw an advertisement for a long drive competition and won with a 313-yard drive with a set of clubs from Costco.
As I started competing at national championships and world championships, I realized I couldn’t have a full-time job. I knew I had to quit competing or resign my school teaching position, which I was passionate about. My husband said, “Lisa, you have a limited opportunity to be the best in the world in something. Do it.” And the rest is history.
What is it about golf that fascinates you?
Vlooswyk: What I love about golf is that it’s a game against yourself. You’re constantly trying to beat your best score or your longest drive. A brand new golfer and a scratch player can both tee it up and play 18 holes and have a fantastic day.
I often catch myself when I’m golfing stopping in the middle of the fairway, putting my face up to the sun and just breathing in. I find a lot of peace and serenity on the course. It’s also a fantastic family sport where children and adults can play together for four hours and the electronic devices are put away, you’re being active outdoors, and having wonderful conversation and many laughs.
It’s also a great sport to play with your girl friends or guy friends and is a fanatic business networking skill.
You’re a noted speaker. When it comes to performance, whether on a golf course or in a business, what’s the key message you want people to take from you?
Vlooswyk: My signature keynote speech is entitled Drive Determines Distance. I truly believe knowing what drives you, and being clear and committed to that purpose, determines how far you’ll go both personally and professionally.
I break my speech down into three parts, in which I share the importance of being able to clearly identify a person’s passion/drive. We all have something that gets our juices flowing. That excites us. Personally, it could be running, skating, skiing, photography or singing. Professionally, it could be the strong desire to be an entrepreneur, a team leader, a people person, an inventor.
The problem with passion and drive is that it tends to wane over time. It’s natural. I share strategies to help reignite that passion and drive.
Many of my audience members can figure out their professional passion but many have lost their way with their personal passion or drive. They allow the burdens of busy careers, hectic schedules with young children, aging parents or family commitments to get in the way. The first thing they start cutting out of their overloaded schedule is that early-morning workout or run, shinny with the boys, etc.
There has to be a balance or you won’t be able to reach peak performance. Once that drive is reignited and/or rediscovered, I talk about the importance of getting laser focused on that drive and having a clear plan that you are constantly working towards.
Finally, I share the importance and necessity of perseverance. I’ve learned so much more from my failures than I ever have from my success. I want people to leave my talk and feel they know exactly what drives them at work and personally, have a big crazy goal for both their personal and corporate life, and that I’ve given them the strategies to find success over a sustained period.
I’ve been competing for 17 years and I just won my eighth Canadian long drive title in 2017 and came top five in the world in 2016. I want to teach people about how to find and maintain success for years.
How important is it for people to set goals for themselves?
Vlooswyk: Setting goals is absolutely imperative to success. You can have all the drive and passion you want but without goals and a clear plan for your goals, you won’t find success.
I think the biggest mistake I find with goal setting for my audiences would be they only set either a personal goal such as running a marathon or they set a professional goal such as owning their own business. Few people set both.
The second pitfall I see would be that the goals people set are simply not big enough. They don’t aim high enough. It has to be a goal that’s hard. Something you won’t achieve in a matter of months. If you achieve that goal, set an even crazier one.
Professionally, I think the big crazy goal you should have is your dream job. Whatever your absolute dream job is, that should be your professional goal. To achieve that goal, one of the very first things you should do is find a person doing your dream job and connect with them. This will save you years of reinventing the wheel. Find out their pitfalls and tips for success to get there. It’s a road map.
The most successful people I know would absolutely take the time to help someone who showed they were very serious and asked for help, because someone took time to help them as they were climbing the ladder to success.
What’s the value of golf as a networking skill?
Vlooswyk: Golf is a key business networking skill, period. People do business with people they know, like and trust. Would you rather a one hour-lunch with a client or customer or four and half hours on the golf course?
A round of golf is much more than getting a little white ball into a tiny cup 18 times. If you’re playing with colleagues, customers or executives, it’s all about relationship building. In that 18-hole round, you will talk about vacations, kids, sports, and there will be great shots and missed shots that will most certainly elicit laughter and create stories shared not only at the 19th hole but also the next time you pick up the phone to talk shop.
By having this shared experience, I guarantee it will make your next negotiation a lot easier as you have established a level of rapport with this person after spending a day on the links together.
My biggest disappointment is that I’m brought out as a golf entertainer to 30 to 40 corporate and charity golf tournaments each year and 75 to 80 per cent of attendees are typically men. Women are often back in the office doing the work while the guys do the networking. Women are missing out on building key relationships.
The problem is that women don’t like to do things poorly and we especially don’t like to do things poorly in front of our male counterparts.
The myth busters are that very few golfers actually legitimately break 100 and the worst swings I see on the course are from the guys. But the big secret is that guys don’t care! They realize it’s about having fun, the social aspect, building relationships and having some cold beverages.
I strongly recommend ladies start to take some golf lessons and, more importantly, if you have daughters, granddaughters or nieces, get them into golf as a child. Children just do. They pick up technique very easily. Adults have 357 swing thoughts going through their head when they learn to golf.
If we can introduce young girls to golf, even if they leave it for high school and university, when they’re invited out to their first corporate/charity tournament as a lawyer, banker, homebuilder, realtor, they will be more likely to accept that invitation because they have played the game before.
– Mario Toneguzzi