Whether it's golf or fishing, flycaster Rajeff has 'em beat
By Steve Wright
Special to GOG
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. Expert flycaster Steve Rajeff has been called the Tiger Woods of his sport. A trick competition at a pro-am golf tournament in Portland, Ore., several years ago makes the comparison not so farfetched.
Rajeff, who has won 13 international all-round flycasting championships, stated he could cast a golf ball farther than a professional golfer could hit one. This particular pro-am, held in 1990, happened to have a field that included Fred Couples, Lee Trevino, Arnold Palmer and Johnny Miller.
In an opening exhibition of trick shots and entertainment, the event coordinators decided to test Rajeff on his claim. Couples would hit a drive, then Rajeff would follow with a cast.
"Peter Jacobson was the master of ceremonies," Rajeff recalled. "Couples hit a perfect drive and there was a slight downhill slope. Jacobson announced the distance as 333 yards."
Rajeff used an 11-foot surfcasting rod. He put a screw eyelet in a golf ball and attached a 30-foot leader to it. The idea was to sling the ball and fly line, which would come shooting off the reel.
"I had about nine feet of line out the last guide, which gave me about a 20 foot radius," Rajeff said.
Before making his cast, Rajeff slung the rod and line, just to make sure he had enough room to operate.
"I almost wiped out half the PGA tour," Rajeff said. "All these guys just about fell over backwards trying to get away from the golf ball."
When Rajeff did make his cast, Jacobson called out the distance at 337, four yards longer than Couples' drive.
Rajeff, 44, grew up in the San Francisco area, where he started competing in casting competitions at the age of 12. He won the American Casting Championship at 15 and the World All Around Casting Championship a year later.
There are 11 other flyfishing anglers gathered here for ESPN's Great Outdoor Games. It's obvious that Rajeff's casting ability is admired by all.
Matt Henderson, 31, of Turah, Mont., is one of those who calls Rajeff the Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan of this sport.
Baseball's home-run king Mark McGwire might be another apt comparison for Rajeff.
In 1985, he was invited to perform an exhibition at Comisky Park, home of Chicago's White Sox. Rajeff sewed a 30-pound leader into a baseball and again used an 11-foot surf rod to sling it. One cast soared all the way out of the baseball stadium.
"You can cast a baseball way farther than you can hit one," Rajeff laughed.
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