Ben Witer has carved out a special place for himself in a sport, and has made a decent living at it in the process. So does that make him a professional athlete?
Not in the way you might think.
After pursuing golf with a competitive nature for decades, Witter began to look differently at the sport he’s been excelling at since he was an adolescent. Currently, the Myerstown native is the owner/operator of Ben’s Power Golf Learning Center in Quentin and Ben’s Power Golf Show, an exhibition of skills that will make viewers think differently of the game.
‘It’s hard to say that it’s been a natural evolution,” said Witter, referring to his competitive past, “because it’s been such a crazy journey. But it’s led to a lot of cool things.”
Located on the grounds of Fairview Golf Course, Ben’s Power Golf Learning Center utilizes a simulator, visualization and Witter’s experience and patience to help average golfers improve their games. While Ben’s Power Golf Show features Witter performing an array of trick shots, many of which he is either balancing himself on objects or striking golf balls out of the air – or both.
“I only have vision in one eye,” said Witter, “so you wouldn’t think I’d be able to hit a ball out of the air. But I see it in my head, figure out a way to do it and it happens.”
While Witter’s learning center keeps him close to his Myerstown home, wife and five children, the trick shot show has taken him around the world. Witter has performed for audiences in 38 of the 50 United States, as well as China, Japan, Singapore, Malasia, Thailand, London, England, Denmark, Mexico, Indonesia, India and Lancaster, PA.
An appearance by Witter could command up to $5,000 per day.
“I’ve cut back drastically on my air travel,” said Witter. “I’ll go to Philly to do a show for less than my fee. There are a handful of guys out there who do what I do for a lesser fee.
“Well, they’ve both (trick-shot show and learning center) been negatively affected by the economy,” Witter continued. “But I still give lessons and do 25-30 shows a year. I still do the same number of corporate events, but the charity events are way off. I only have so much time, and if I had twice as many shows it would be less tieme I could spend at the learning center, so it turns out OK.”
A cancer survivor, Witter’s personal life has mirrored his career. He’s overcome every obstacle with adaptability and flexibility.
“The show actually started in 1988 when I was in the hospital,” said Witter, who won the 1981 PIAA championship in golf while a senior at Elco High School. “I was recovering and couldn’t leave and my mom brought me a wedge and a golf ball. And I started boucing the ball off the wedge. I got pretty good at it and I realized people liked it. But I never had an idea I’d be traveling around the world doing trick-shot shows.
“It’s not just an extension of long drive,” Witter added. “It’s about conditioning, hand-eye coordination, balance and strength. It shows people a different side of golf that they don’t normally see.”
Up until a few years ago, the 6-3 and well-proportioned Witter still competed in professional golf tournaments and long-drive contests.
“I just sort of got out of it,” said Witter. “There’s only time for so much. There’s not too many 47-year-olds out there doing long drive competitions. But I absolutely have no regrets. I wish I could’ve gone further wih the competitive career. But you can’t do everything, plus it would be difficult with my family and the health challenges I’ve had.
“But that’s what the show does for me,” Witter continued. “I get something out of standing up in front of 2000 people and performing.”