James Tait, who was born in Edinburgh and grew up in St Andrews, comes from good golfing stock. His great uncle, Freddie Tait, was a two-time Amateur champion in the 1890s and also finished third on two occasions in the Open Championship.
By all accounts, he was known for giving the ball a good old thump and now, aided by equipment much more suited to that purpose, James is doing likewise and is beginning to make his presence felt against the likes of two-time World Long Drive champion Joe Miller.
In one of his first events earlier this year, Tait beat another double world champion, American Tim Burke, with a crushing effort that was close to 400 yards, while he also claimed another notable scalp when coming out on top against another experienced American, Ryan Steenberg.
On the back of performances like those, Tait, now based in London, has been picked as one of just 12 players for the 2018 Long Drive World Series (LDWS), which has increased from three events last year to 10, starting in Dubai in February then moving on to Mexico, South Africa, United States, United Kingdom, Sweden, Russia, Portugal, China and Turkey.
“I’ve done okay,” said Tait, who won a prestigious R&A junior event when he was as a member of The St Andrews Golf Club and played against the likes of James White, who went on to win the Scottish Order of Merit, when he was cutting his golfing teeth in Fife.
“A bit of luck was involved as I was in the right place at the right time. After being out in Florida, where I’d been playing mini-Tours without any success, I came down to London and my sister, who works for Today’s Golfer magazine, told me that American Golf were running a Long Drive competition and I should give it a go.
“I did and I think I hit it 390, something I didn’t know I was capable of. They had all clubhead and ball speeds coming up on the screen and I was interested to see where I was in relation to the boys who do it professionally. I realised that I wasn’t too far away, so I decided to explore it a bit more.”
Tait started working with Lee Cox, who also coaches Miller, and he’s excited to now have earned a place alongside the Englishman on those big stages next year.
“I think they were wanting someone who was fresh and upcoming but also had the potential do do well and I got a phone call about a month ago saying I was going to be one of 12 who will be taking part in the Long Drive World Series in 2018,” he said. “It is going to be huge and I’m just thrilled to be a part of it.”
Miller claimed his second world title in 2016 with a drive of 433 yards, while last year’s Mile High Showdown, at altitude in Colorado, saw American Maurice Allen record an incredible effort of 483 yards. “I’ve not broken 400 yards in tournament yet,” said Tait. “The longest so far is 386 at Windsor. But, in training using gadgets etc, I’ve recorded 420 and, in 2018, you are definitely going to see some big hits from me.”
So, what does it take for someone to be successful? “Well, for starters, most of the boys are 6ft 1in plus,” said Tait, who currently works as an assistant manager at retail store in central London but can no longer use one of the driving ranges in that part of the city after being banned for hitting balls over the net.
“It is easier to generate that extra clubhead speed when you are a bit taller.
“As for what I work on, it’s mainly power-lifting, lots of rotational stuff, plyometrics and speed work. A lot of it is to do with the core.
It’s certainly paying off and, though not exactly in the same way as his great uncle made his mark on the game, Tait could be on the verge of something big in a big-hitters’ game. “Freddie was quite the player,” he said. “He, too, was known for hitting a long ball,especially with equipment back then. I’ve heard a story that he hit it 320 yards on a frosty day. I think they stopped play to measure it.”