Columbia golfer pushes the limits of teeing off - - Columbia, South Carolina |

Columbia golfer pushes the limits of teeing off

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Patrick Hopper routinely hits golf balls over 400 yards. Patrick Hopper routinely hits golf balls over 400 yards.

A Columbia golfer is pushing the limits of driving ranges in hopes of striking it rich. For years, Patrick Hopper has competed in international long drive contests, and he's got a shot at $250,000 at the end of this month.

"It's not the most lucrative sport, but you can cash a few checks," joked Hopper.

Hopper has cashed enough to get him through college and recently placed in the top 8 among a field of 192 other long drivers from around the world.

Hopper's love of the game started in an unusual place.

"Got into the gym and just started hitting it farther and farther," said Hopper. "Just fell in love with the sport."

Of course, he was also raised on a golf course.

"I've been playing all my life," said Hopper. "My handicap is five or six. I play as much as I can. I love it."

At the end of the month, Hopper is competing in the Remax World Long Drive Championship in Las Vegas.

"What he does is incredible," said Tom Mason, owner of Par Tee Driving Range, the place where Hopper routinely blasts balls into the hinterlands of Lexington County at near-orbital velocity.

Incredible indeed. You don't find many golfers who can hit the ball 432 yards. For you non-golfers out there, that's four Williams-Brice Stadiums.

"I've seen him do some things with a golf ball I've never seen anyone do," said Mason.

But do chicks dig the long ball?

"Maybe ask Tom at Par Tee that question," Hopper said as he laughed.

And so we did.

"All the good-looking moms that come out here and bring their kids out for the clinic, they like watching Patrick," said Mason.

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