Former University of Hawaii softball player Jazmine Zamora is just as lethal with a driver
“The look” never gets old.
Jazmine Zamora had seen it as a member of the University of Hawaii softball team when she launched a towering home run that cleared not only the left-field fence but the net built to protect the tennis courts beyond Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium.
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“The look” never gets old.
Jazmine Zamora had seen it as a member of the University of Hawaii softball team when she launched a towering home run that cleared not only the left-field fence but the net built to protect the tennis courts beyond Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium. As the 5-foot-3 second baseman circled the bases, her blast drew the opposing coach out of the dugout to examine the bat laying in the dirt. Apparently satisfied the Easton was indeed legal, the coach handed it to the waiting bat girl about the time Zamora was turning third base toward her teammates gathered at home plate.
A first-team All-Big West honoree as a junior in 2013, Zamora had left competitive softball — save for the occasional slow-pitch game with a few of her former UH teammates — in her past when she saw the look again.
Zamora had dabbled in golf after college, mostly for its business networking possibilities, adapting her swing at the plate to her drives off the tee while retaining the same mind-set — “Hit it hard.”
So when she sent a drive soaring down the fairway during a round at Ala Wai Golf Course, her playing partner suggested she glance back toward the crowd that had suddenly stopped milling around outside the clubhouse.
“I turned around and everyone’s face just dropped,” Zamora said, opening her jaw to mimic the stares in her direction. “It was great.”
Soon she’d seen that look enough to consider a new outlet for her competitive drive.
A bit of research and an adventurous spirit convinced her to take a shot at a World Long Drive tour event, taking her self-taught swing to Maricopa, Ariz., for the Ak-Chin Smash in the Sun in April. There she tied for ninth out of 15 entrants in the preliminary round.
“I didn’t know some of the rules so I made some rookie mistakes,” she said. “I brought too high of a tee, so the ball didn’t get any roll at all.”
Along with her tee height, Zamora also quickly learned that the grid — a fairway 35- to 50-yards in width — shrinks considerably when “we’re swinging out of our shoes” for eight drives in three minutes. Only drives finishing within the grid count toward the standings and her best recorded drive measured 285 yards.
Encouraged by her initial results, Zamora entered the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bash in early June and tied for third in the round-robin portion to advance to the quarterfinals. She faced five-time world champion Sandra Carlborg and posted a best drive of 256 to Carlborg’s 272.
“I just didn’t have a good round and she ended up beating me,” said Zamora, who measured her longest drive on a course at 365 during a round at Ewa Beach. “I know I can win, it’s just the timing of it.
“Sandra had said in an interview one day she lost with 350 and one day she won with 250. It’s weird how that happens. It’s that day, that round, that ball.”
Zamora leaves Monday for New York to compete in the ROC City Rumble in Rochester. She’s also planning on heading to Thackerville, Okla., in late August for the World Long Drive Championship.
“I know I’m a rookie, I know I’m super new to this sport, but I wouldn’t go out to an event without the mind-set of wanting to win,” she said. “I’m always going to want to win. Some people think it may be questionable, but in my eyes it’s definitely not impossible.”
While some competitors train full-time for tour events, Zamora fits in her sessions in the gym and on the range after working a full shift as the branch manager at Enterprise Rent-A-Car’s airport location. She pays her own way to events, with next week’s event charging a $500 entry fee to compete for a $25,000 total purse, $12,000 going to the winner.
Zamora hit a team-best .337 for the Big West-champion Rainbow Wahine in 2013 and her swing mechanics still owe much to softball as she incorporates golf-specific principles. She carries two drivers 48 inches in length (most are closer to 44 inches) with extra stiff shafts and lofts of 5 and 7.5 degrees.
Even as her drives carry well past the 285-yard flag on the Kapolei Golf Course’s driving range, Zamora, one of the smallest competitors in the field long-drive fields, senses there’s even more power to be tapped.
“Right now I definitely use my upper body more than my lower body,” she said. “So the fact that I can hit as far as I do now with just my upper body, it makes me super excited to know what I can do with my lower body once I start learning that technique.”