Long and short of it ...

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:49 AM ET

Most guys need to leave a little extra room in their golf bag when they tee it up with 15-year-old Kaitlin Allan.

When a five-foot-one girl is knocking it 20 yards past you on virtually every tee shot, you need somewhere to stuff your ego on the back nine. Right next to the rain gear is a good place - to free up space, just pull out a couple of the beers you snuck in. You're going to need them anyway.

"I golfed my whole life and always kind of hit a long ball," said Allan, who'll begin defence of her 2004 World Junior Girls long driving championship at a local qualifying event this weekend in St. Albert.

"So when I'm in a competition I just try to keep to my normal swing and go with it."

Standing on the tee box, you'd never suspect she's a long drive champ. She doesn't look like she's swinging out of her spine, like the gorillas in the men's events, and doesn't shriek or grunt with every shot like Serena Williams. She just takes that peculiar backhanded grip of hers and belts them close to 300 yards.

UNUSUAL GRIP

"I barely swing at it," said Allan, who clocked one 320 yards in a recent round at Glendale."My dad always tells me my swing and my tempo are so natural that I don't really swing at it at all. If I do try to swing (hard) at it, I miss-hit it."

Her grip, however, should come with a warning label: Don't Try This At Home. She puts her front hand at the bottom and her back hand at the top - essentially a left-handed grip on a right-handed swing - and bashes the ball into a different area code.

"Everybody is surprised that I have it still, and that it works, but it does," she said, adding it all started when she was converting from left-handed to right handed. "I'd carry left-handed and right-handed clubs in my bag and hit right-handed one shot and left-handed the next. I love the left-handed grip, but so I kept it and played right-handed because I felt I had more power with it."

Everyone who sees her hitting on the range tries the grip themselves, usually with hilarious, or dangerous, results.

"I've tried to swing like that and almost killed myself," laughed her father Kevin. "I don't know how she does it, but she makes it look so natural. Eventually all the guys she played golf with kept asking her why she wasn't in long drive competitions."

So she decided to take it up, and won a world title in her very first year of competition. Her championship drive, 265 yards, was all carry (as sopping-wet conditions saw most of the drives plugging or spinning back). It turns out rain wasn't her only challenge.

"You get six balls and have two minutes and fifteen seconds to hit them," she explained. "I was hitting against the girl who had won it last year. When she hit her ball she would scream at her ball, actually scream at her ball, right while I'm trying to hit, too.

"The first two I was kind of nerved about it, I'm not used to someone screaming in my backswing, but the next three were the best I've ever hit, straight down the middle as far as I could. It was phenomenal."

FIVE-TIME JUNIOR CHAMP

Allan isn't just a power hitter, like so many of the one-dimensional brutes who show up for the Worlds. She won five events last season on the McLennan-Ross Sun Junior Golf Tour, shooting a 79 at Goose Hummock, a 78 at Sundre and winning the Blackhawk Invitational.

The highlight of the season, though, will be her return trip to Mesquite in the fall.

"When I went last year I thought I had no chance of winning," she said, adding she's hitting it a lot farther this year. " I'm going to go down this year thinking the same thing. But I would love to defend it, I can't wait to experience it again."


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