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‘You don’t know what you’re capable of until you try’



Sudbury native Lori Blencowe hopes her world long drive championship will inspire others to strive for success

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Few are the athletes who take up a new sport in their late 30s or early 40s with aspirations to compete at anything above a recreational level.

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Fewer still are those who excel to the point where they win not one, but two world championships.

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Lori Blencowe can count herself as a member of that highly accomplished group, after the 44-year-old Sudbury native defended her title as Amateur Long Drive World Champion in Columbia, S.C. on Oct. 8.

Now an Ottawa resident and a member of Greyhawk Golf Club who maintains close ties with the Nickel City and its Finnish-Canadian community, the daughter of Bob and Myrna Ojala defended the women’s over-35 title she won in 2022 and also took home the over-40 world championship with a winning drive of 285.6 yards.

Blencowe also whacked a ball 301 yards during the preliminary round to establish a new personal best.

“Last year, because it was my first year on Team Canada and winning worlds, it honestly took me by surprise when I won it,” Blencowe recalled in a recent interview. “This year, going back, I trained a lot more, I had two coaches, a fitness-specific coach for golf, as well as a technique coach.

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“I felt really good going in and that I had prepared well, but it really comes down to how you perform on that day. I was up against some pretty stiff competition, but I managed to focus and get the job done.”

Impressive, to say the least, for a longtime competitive athlete, but a relative newcomer to the game of golf, who only started to play regularly in 2018 and soon discovered she had one of the more powerful tee shots on the course.

“I was out golfing with a good friend of mine, as well as the club pro, and the club pro made a comment, as well as my friend, that I could hit the ball really far,” said Blencowe, who lives in the nation’s capital with her husband, Chris, and works for the government while pursuing a PhD focused on the ethnic identity of Finnish Canadians.

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“My friend said why don’t you look at one of the long-drive competitions? I had never thought about it, because I was like OK, I can hit the ball far at my local club, that’s one thing, but what does that mean up against whoever else?”

She took a chance, however, and signed up for the Amateur Long Drive Canada newsletter and the tour commissioner convinced her to come out to a competition. She made her very first foray into the sport during a 2021 season that was cut short by a bad case of golfer’s elbow, but she was hooked and returned for a full campaign the following year.

“The rest is history,” Blencowe said.

Such a rapid rise through the ranks has resulted in no small amount of media attention, including a recent appearance on CTV in Ottawa, with glistening WWE-inspired title belt in tow, and has certainly given Blencowe plenty of opportunities to toot her own horn, but she has focused instead on encouraging others to pursue their own passions.

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“The fact that I became a world champion at 44 years of age, what I want to do with the success I have is use that to inspire others, to really just go for things,” Blencowe said. “It doesn’t matter what it is. This is a message I really want to build on and work to try to motivate other people.

“You don’t know what you’re capable of until you try.”

A graduate of Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School, Blencowe was active in basketball, volleyball and track and field growing up, but her big sport was competitive tennis. A member of the junior team at the Sudbury Indoor Tennis Centre, she was also a certified instructor who taught up-and-coming players at the iconic Igloo on Cypress Street. She believes her tennis training gave her a solid pedigree for her eventual transition to long drive, including the required leg and core strength and an understanding of how to transfer weight while in motion.

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Many successful long drivers are former tennis, softball, baseball or hockey players, she noted.

She developed her powerful swing, as well as the technique necessary to harness it without being injured, while working with Evan Bett from SwingFit in Ottawa.

“What he has done is develop golf-specific fitness training for me,” explained Blencowe, who recently partnered with Bett as a SwingFit Athlete. “What that does is identify those areas I really need to work on in my body to ensure they’re strong and much less vulnerable to injury, while giving me the strength and the power I need to be able to work with my technique coach and translate that into my swing.”

When the time came to defend her title in South Carolina last month, she faced fierce competition, including a woman who out-drove her in the preliminary round.

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“You hit three sets of six balls, then at the end, the top two women go to a final set of six where nothing else counts,” Blencowe said. “It’s whatever happens in that set of six. That’s the sport of long drive, where anything can happen.”

While she hopes to continue her reign atop the long drive mountain, Blencowe also enjoys the other aspects of golf and will look to refine those parts of her game going forward.

“I absolutely love the game of golf,” she said. “I made a decision this year to play fewer rounds and focus on my long-drive training in an attempt to go back and defend my title, but the plan for next year is to really work on my all-around golf game and continue with long drive, but just become a really good, all-around golfer.”

Those who are interested in trying long drive can find more information at

Sudbury native Lori Blencowe defended her title as Amateur Long Drive World Champion in Columbia, S.C. on Oct. 8, 2023.
Sudbury native Lori Blencowe defended her title as Amateur Long Drive World Champion in Columbia, S.C. on Oct. 8, 2023. Photo by Supplied

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