Hudson dentist relieves stress on driving range
After putting in a full day at work, many people exercise to unwind or relieve stress. Douglas “Doc” Howe heads to a local driving range.
“After I had seen all my dental patients, I enjoyed hitting a bucket of balls at the driving range on Ridge Road,” the 58-year-old dentist said of the now-defunct facility. “I was always blessed with the ability to hit a golf ball a long distance and noticed that my drives went farther than most other golfers.”
After watching the Long Drive Association competition on television in 2001, Howe decided to compete the following year. The district competition was held at nearby Timber Oaks Golf Club in New Port Richey. The top three golfers from each division would qualify for the regional competition and the top two regional qualifiers would move to nationals.
“Back then, you could customize your equipment to make the shaft longer and the club head larger,” Howe said. “Just about any driver was accepted. It was almost a circus atmosphere, with some competitors using drivers with 65-inch shaft lengths with monster heads.”
In 2002, Howe competed in the Men’s Senior Division for ages 45-plus. The Timber Oaks course was shut down and one of the holes was marked off for the competition. A grid 40 yards wide was marked off every five yards, from 250-400 yards. Each competitor was provided with six new Pinnacle golf balls.
“The theory was that you were swinging for the fences and just needed one good drive to advance to the next level,” Howe said.
Howe’s best drive was measured at 312 yards and earned him first place in his division.
A few weeks later, he traveled to Haines City for the regional competition. Despite a strong headwind, Howe's best drive of 278 earned him a third-place finish, which kept him from advancing. A worsening arthritic deterioration of his right knee prevented him from being a serious contender the following three years.
Howe is a member at Innisbrook Golf Resort in Palm Harbor and consistently shoots in the mid 70s or low 80s. His favorite local course is The Links Golf Club in Hudson. After hitting two buckets of balls in 90-degree heat, he’ll find some shade and reflect on his dental practice and golf game.
“Cosmetic dentistry is similar to golf,” Howe said. “You can take a dental patient with problems and pain and can turn his life around. In golf, even though you may be playing a terrible round, just making that one great shot can turn your entire game around.”
Correspondent Cliff Gill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @ReporterCliff.