World Long Drive Championship

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The Volvik World Long Drive Championship is an annual event identifying the longest golf drivers in the world , originating in 1976.  Currently, it serves as the culminating event of the World Long Drive Association season and crowns champions in three divisions – Open, Masters and Women’s.

The event was initially staged on-site early in the week in conjunction with the PGA Championship. In 1995, The Long Drivers of America (LDA) was established, adding RE/MAX as a title sponsor the same year. A Masters Division (Age 45+) was first staged in 1996, and the Women’s Division was added to the competition in 2000. In 2013, Golf Channel – part of NBC Sports Group – began airing the Championship, and in 2015 acquired the franchise, re-branding it as the World Long Drive Association. Also in 2015, the World Championship transitioned from its typical location in Nevada to WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Okla. In 2017, golf ball manufacturer Volvik became the new title sponsor of the annual World Championship each fall. Since adding World Long Drive to its portfolio, Golf Channel has increased the number of annual televised events. Previously only the Open (Men’s) Division Championship was televised, and in 2017 Golf Channel aired three events in total, including the Women’s Division being showcased live for the first time ever. Five events are scheduled to be televised in 2018. In addition to its sanctioned schedule in the North America, several events are staged around the world through officially sanctioned World Long Drive Association international partners, including stops in Germany, Japan, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

The final championship event in 2018 will be held from August 30-Sept. 5 at the Winstar, located near the Oklahoma/Texas border and will be televised live on Golf Channel with commentators Jonathan Coachman, Jerry Foltz and two-time champion Art Sellinger. Sellinger was one of the first long drive champs to become famous worldwide for his long-driving and trick-shot exhibitions.[1]

Canadian Jason Zuback has earned a record six championships in the event, including five in the Open Division (four in a row from 1996-99 and 2006) and one in the Masters Division (2015). Swede Sandra Carlborg has won a record five titles in the Women’s Division since 2011.

History[edit]

The Early Years – 1976-85[edit]

Some of the early events were held in conjunction with the PGA Championship each year, with the long drive championship being contested a day or two before the PGA’s opening round.

Evan “Big Cat” Williams won the first two events in 1976 and ’77. Andy Franks became the second two-time winner, capturing his second title in 1982 after also winning in 1979.[2] Players from the PGA Tour often participated in some of the early long drive championships, with veteran Tour player Lon Hinkle winning the sixth annual event in 1981. Of note was the creativity of 1984 champion Wedgy Winchester who used an unconventionally long 60-inch club to register a winning drive of 319 yards and finish ahead of touring pros Hinkle and Payne Stewart, who finished second and third.[3] Scott DeCandia won the first of his two titles in 1980.

1986-95 – Parity[edit]

The next decade of the long drive event featured nine different champions, with only Sellinger managing two titles in the 10-year span (1986, ’91). DeCandia won his second title in this span with the others all being first-time champions. Sean Fister closed out this 10-year period in 1995 with the first of what would be three long drive titles for him. The longest recorded winning drive in this 10-year stretch was Darryl Anderson’s 345-yard shot in 1994 but that still fell short of Williams’ then-record winning drive of 353 yards in 1977.

1996-2006 – The Jason Zuback Era[edit]

Zuback became the first player since Williams in the inaugural two events to win consecutive championships. In fact, Zuback won four straight from 1996-99. He later added a record fifth title (since tied in the women’s division by Sandra Carlborg) in 2006. Zuback also was the first to crack the 400-yard barrier with a winning drive of 412 yards in his second win in 1997. The former pharmacist also received a $50,000 first-place check for the ’97 victory, the first winner to eclipse that amount. [4]After his four straight titles and a runner-up finish in 2000, Zuback was inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame. [5] Clayton Burger became the second to top the 400-yard mark with his winning shot of 402 yards in 2003. [6] Fister added his second and third championship belts with wins in 2001 and ’05, joining Zuback as the only men to win three or more titles. Former Big Ten champion javelin thrower Carl Wolter (Penn State) won the first of his two titles in 2002 in a major upset, having just taken up the game of golf three months prior to the event.[7]

2007-Present – 400-Plus Yards Becomes the Norm[edit]

The 400-yard mark was topped by six champions in the next 11 years with Justin James establishing a tournament-record mark of 435 yards in capturing the 2017 championship.  James’ record-breaking drive turned out to be much more than he needed.  After his finals competitor missed the grid on all eight of his drives, James only needed to keep one in play at a minimum distance of 270 yards. He easily topped that distance and set the record for the longest winning drive in the tournament’s 42-year history. [8] This 11-year time frame also featured three two-time winners with Jamie Sadlowski going back-to-back in 2008 and ’09, Joe Miller winning in 2010 and ’16 and former University of Miami standout baseball pitcher Tim Burke taking the honors in 2013 and ’15. [9]  In addition, Wolter won his second title in 2011.  Miller’s win over Sadlowski in the 2010 semifinals prevented Sadlowski from having a chance at winning three straight long drive titles. [10] First-time winners in this time period also included Mike Dobbyn in 2007, Ryan Winther in 2012 and former minor league baseball pitcher Jeff Flagg in 2014. [11]

Winners[edit]

  • 1976 – Evan Williams, 307 yards
  • 1977 – Evan Wiliams, 353 yards
  • 1978 – John McComish, 330 yards
  • 1979 – Andy Franks, 314 yards
  • 1980 – Scott DeCandia, 295 yards
  • 1981 – Lon Hinkle, 338 yards
  • 1982 – Andy Franks, 346 yards
  • 1983 – Terry Forcum, 307 yards
  • 1984 – Wedgy Winchester, 319 yards
  • 1985 – Dennis Paulson, 323 yards
  • 1986 – Art Sellinger, 311 yards
  • 1987 – Mike Gorton, 318 yards
  • 1988 – Jim Maynard, 334 yards
  • 1989 – Scott DeCandia, 327 yards
  • 1990 – Frank Miller, 328 yards
  • 1991 – Art Sellinger, 326 yards
  • 1992 – Monte Scheinblum 329 yards
  • 1993 – Brian Pavlet, 336 yards
  • 1994 – Darryl Anderson, 345 yards
  • 1995 – Sean Fister (🇺🇸 USA) 362 yards
  • 1996 – Jason Zuback (🇨🇦Canada) 351 yards
  • 1997 – Jason Zuback (🇨🇦Canada) 412 yards
  • 1998 – Jason Zuback (🇨🇦Canada) 361 yards
  • 1999 – Jason Zuback (🇨🇦Canada) 376 yards
  • 2000 – Viktor Johansson (🇸🇪Sweden) 315 yards
  • 2001 – Sean Fister (🇺🇸 USA) 376 yards
  • 2002 – Carl Wolter (🇺🇸USA) 384 yards
  • 2003 – Clayton Burger (🇺🇸USA) 402 yards
  • 2004 – David Mobley (🇺🇸 USA) 377 yards
  • 2005 – Sean Fister (🇺🇸 USA) 377 yards
  • 2006 – Jason Zuback (🇨🇦Canada) 368 yards
  • 2007 – Mike Dobbyn (🇺🇸 USA)[12] 385 yards
  • 2008 – Jamie Sadlowski (🇨🇦Canada)[13][14] 418 yards
  • 2009 – Jamie Sadlowski (🇨🇦Canada)[13] 384 yards
  • 2010 – Joe Miller (🇬🇧 UK) 414 yards
  • 2011 – Carl Wolter (🇺🇸 USA) 409 yards
  • 2012 – Ryan Winther (🇺🇸 USA) 343 yards
  • 2013 – Tim Burke (🇺🇸 USA) 427 yards
  • 2014 – Jeff Flagg (🇺🇸USA) yards
  • 2015 – Tim Burke (🇺🇸 USA) 394 yards
  • 2016 – Joe Miller (🇬🇧 UK) 423 yards
  • 2017 - Justin James 435 yards

Masters winners[edit][edit]

  • 1996 – Michael Hooper  333 yards
  • 1997 – Michael Hooper  371 yards
  • 1998 – Michael Hooper  354 yards
  • 1999 – Fred Hooter  352 yards
  • 2000 – Mike Gorton  310 yards
  • 2001 – Ted Fostey  357 yards
  • 2002 - Pat Dempsey (🇺🇸USA) 342 yards
  • 2003 - Eric Jones (🇺🇸USA) 381 yards
  • 2004 – Bobby Wilson  360 yards
  • 2005 – Gerry James  366 yards
  • 2006 – Gerry James  378 yards
  • 2007 – Frank Miller  394 yards
  • 2008 – Dan Boever  366 yards
  • 2009 – Bobby Wilson  374 yards
  • 2010 – George Slupski  389 yards
  • 2011 – David Mobley  459 yards
  • 2012 - Eric Lastowka (🇺🇸USA) 355 yards
  • 2013 – Stephen Kennedy  369 yards
  • 2014 - Jeff Gavin (🇨🇦Canada) 384 yards
  • 2015 - Jason Zuback 339 yards
  • 2016 - Tom Peppard (🇺🇸 USA) 347 yards
  • 2017 - Jeff Crittenden 363 yards

Womens winners[edit][edit]

  • 2000 – Stacey Shinnick  249 yards
  • 2001 – Lee Brandon  291 yards
  • 2002 – Stacey Shinnick  292 yards
  • 2003 – Nancy Abiecunas  332 yards
  • 2004 – Sally Dee  287 yards
  • 2005 – Stacey Shinnick  311 yards
  • 2006 – Phillis Meti  326 yards
  • 2007 – Sheila Kelliher  329 yards
  • 2008 – Lana Lawless  245 yards
  • 2009 – N/A
  • 2010 – N/A
  • 2011 - Sandra Carlborg 285 yards
  • 2012 - Sandra Carlborg 339 yards
  • 2013 - Heather LeMaster 306 yards
  • 2014 - Sandra Carlborg 332 yards
  • 2015 - Sandra Carlborg 321 yards
  • 2016 - Phillis Meti 310 yards
  • 2017 - Sandra Carlborg 320 yards

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Longball Hitter? Try 270-with A Putter". tribunedigital-chicagotribune. Retrieved 2018-06-15. 
  2. ^ "346-Yard Shot Tops Long Drive Contest". NewsOK.com. 1982-08-04. Retrieved 2018-06-15. 
  3. ^ "Using an unconventional 60-inch driver, Wedgy Winchester of Phoenix,..." UPI. Retrieved 2018-06-15. 
  4. ^ "NEWS AND NOTES". Vault. Retrieved 2018-06-15. 
  5. ^ Shelsea. "Zuback, Jason". Retrieved 2018-06-15. 
  6. ^ "World Long Drive History - World Long Drive". World Long Drive. Retrieved 2018-06-15. 
  7. ^ "2002: Unknown outblasts Daly, other big boys". Golfweek. 2002-11-16. Retrieved 2018-06-15. 
  8. ^ "WATCH: Justin James leaps into stands after World Long Drive Championship win". CBSSports.com. Retrieved 2018-06-15. 
  9. ^ "Burke takes home long drive title at 427 yards". ESPN.com. Retrieved 2018-06-15. 
  10. ^ "Sadlowski upset at Re/Max World Long Drive Championship". Golf.com. Retrieved 2018-06-15. 
  11. ^ "Flagg captures long drive title at 365 yards". ESPN.com. Retrieved 2018-06-15. 
  12. ^ "Mike-Dobbyn-joins-Zero-Friction-Performance-professional-staff". World Golf. Retrieved 15 July 2011. 
  13. ^ a b "Super Freak: The longest hitter in history". Golf.com. Retrieved 15 July 2011. 
  14. ^ "About Jamie". jamiesadlowski.net. Retrieved 15 July 2011.