We’ve reached the midway point of the 2019 World Long Drive tour season, with three events in the books and three still to be contested, led by the 44th edition of the World Long Drive Championship only a few short months away. Here are 10 moments you may have missed so far this season:
In July 2017, Philis Meti (Auckland, New Zealand) raised the bar for the Women’s Division with a record drive of 406 yards at the Mile High Showdown. But as they say, records are meant to be broken. In April of this year, the 32-year-old from New Zealand began the season in style by rewriting the history books when she broke her own record in the finals, blasting a 413-yard drive to break her own milestone for the longest drive ever recorded in competition for the Women’s Division.
Tim Burke and Phillis Meti Double-Dip at Ak-Chin and Atlantic City
Tim Burke (Orlando, Fla.) hadn’t won a World Long Drive event since the 2017 season at the East Coast Classic, but the two-time World Champ has returned with a fury in 2019. Burke won the first televised event of the season with a 474-yard bomb at the Ak-Chin Smash in the Sun, where he defeated Kyle Berkshire. He then followed that up with a win at the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bash in extremely windy conditions.
Philis Meti started her 2019 season in the same way that the she ended 2018, with a win. Meti won at Ak-Chin with a massive drive of 413-yards, and just like Burke, she followed up in Atlantic City where she defeated Cassandra Meyer (Orlando, Fla.) in the finals to capture her second win of the 2019 season. The three-time World Long Drive champion and No. 1 ranked Meti is on pace to top her impressive 2018 campaign, which also included two victories, albeit the latter of which came at the World Championship.
After initially hosting a military division at the World Championship from 2007-2010, World Long Drive in 2019 brought the division back with a new and exciting twist. In partnership with the United States Army Installation Management Command and the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, a dozen long drive qualifiers were staged at military bases around the United States in March-April earlier this year. Open to any active, reserve or retired military service member, the qualifiers helped identify the 12 competitors who would advance to compete in the military division at the Exchange Celebrating Service: Fort Jackson tour event in May.
– Jake Taylor – Marine Corps (Retired) – 335 yards (Fort Jackson, SC)
– Rob Wolfenden – Army – 339 yards (Fort Benning, GA)
– Chand Duncan – Army National Guard – 382 yards (Fort Bliss, TX)
– Jay Milinichik – Marine Corps (Retired) – 341 yards (Fort Hood, TX)
– Robert Watry – Army – 332 yards (Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA)
– Ryan Hixon – Coast Guard – 346 yards (Fort Belvoir, VA)
– Mike King – Army – 337 yards (Fort Lee, VA)
– Chris MacMurray – Army – 299 yards (Fort Sill, OK)
– Zack Rudy – Coast Guard – 298 yards (Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD)
– Tyler Jeffers – Air Force – 388 yards (Fort Carson, CO)
– Mikael Dubois – Air Force National Guard – 351 yards (Fort Campbell, KY-TN)
– Johnny Kozlowski – Navy – 369 yards (Fort Bragg, NC)
When it comes to World Long Drive venues, Fort Jackson quickly presented its case to be considered among the best in the sport. From the Army Golden Knights parachute team landing on the “grid” to help kick off the live telecast on Golf Channel, to the hundreds of soldier recruits enthusiastically cheering on the competitors on the hitting deck, to NBC Sports’ David Feherty contributing to the telecast as an avid supporter of U.S. military personnel, the event was an emphatic success for all involved.
In spite of his 5’ 10”, 180-pound frame that pales in comparison to most of his long drive peers, Mikael Dubois gave the Fort Jackson crowd a reason to get on their feet when he connected for a 326-yard drive on his eighth and ultimate ball in the finals to win the first-ever live televised military division at a World Long Drive event.
Dubois, a member of the Arizona Air National Guard, proudly adorned a pair of flashy American flag pants, and the win was made even more special for him given that it came on a military base.
“The crowd, I mean the soldiers were making it electric,” said Dubois. “This is easily the most golf balls I’ve hit in years. I think maybe the exhaustion helped calm the nerves. I couldn’t really overswing at that point. I can’t even describe how awesome this feels.”
Chloe Garner put on a show at the Exchange Celebrating Service: Fort Jackson. The 29-year-old from South Africa took down World No. 1 Meti in the finals, and in the process earned her first long drive victory since June of 2017, when she won the Clash in the Canyon in Nevada.
“You can see the tears coming out of my eyes,” said Garner. “It’s just what I live for, to compete and win. And to win again is exactly what I need going forward with my career.”
Justin James had held a firm grip on the No. 1 ranking in the Open Division since claiming the 2017 Volvik World Long Drive Championship. But after James was unable to compete in the Exchange Celebrating Service: Fort Jackson in May due to a back injury, it opened the door for others within striking distance.
At the following event – the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bash (N.J.) – needing only to advance to the finals, Ryan Steenberg (Rochester, N.Y.) – who won at Fort Jackson – claimed the No. 1 ranking, becoming the first man not named James to hold the top position in 21 months.
After the Boardwalk Bash concluded, Steenberg reflected on his new role as No. 1. “It’s a hard place to be and there’s a lot of pressure that comes with it. But I felt like I came into [Atlantic City] with the expectation that I would hit a good ball, so I wasn’t worried about that. My expectations will be the same at the ROC City Rumble [in July].”
To say that Wes Patterson (Jupiter, Fla.) ran into a roadblock during the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bash would only begin to tell a fraction of the story. While en route to the preliminary round of the competition, Patterson became victim to a literal roadblock that nearly kept him from making his start time.
After speaking with a fire fighter responding to the situation on-site, Patterson – realizing his trip to Atlantic City would otherwise be all for nothing – hopped out of his parked car and resorted to extreme measures. He grabbed his golf bag and took off running down the highway for about a mile. Fortunately, for Patterson, the gamble paid off.
“I’m not in as good of shape as I used to be at 30,” Patterson said. “So, I caught an Uber [once past the wreck] and got [to Atlantic City Country Club] with about 20 minutes to spare.”
Kyle Berkshire Continues an Incredible Run of Top Finishes
Kyle Berkshire (Orlando, Fla.) is still in search of his first televised World Long Drive win, but that shouldn’t diminish the truly incredible run of consistency that has buoyed the 23-year-old’s rise in the sport.
Berkshire has advanced to the televised portion of World Long Drive competitions (quarterfinals – tour events; Round of 16 – World Championship) on nine consecutive occasions, which include three runner-up finishes dating back to the 2018 Tennessee Big Shots benefiting Niswonger Children’s Hospital. In fact, the last time Berkshire failed to make it to the televised rounds at a Tour event was back in July 2017 at the Mile High Showdown.
It’s no surprise that all of this has left Berkshire within striking distance of the No. 1 ranking heading into the ROC City Rumble in July. He’s currently a mere 200 points behind the No. 1 ranked Ryan Steenberg, and only 100 points shy of Justin James at No. 2.
Rochester (N.Y.) is a bit of a hidden gem in the golf world. The nearby Oak Hill Country Club designed by Donald Ross has hosted U.S. Amateurs, U.S. Opens, PGA Championships, a Ryder Cup, and Senior PGA Championships. The area also hosted the LPGA Championship (now the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship) for decades at Locust Hill Country Club.
The recently announced ROC City Rumble being staged in July in Rochester is made even more special by the fact that the new No. 1 ranked Ryan Steenberg is a Rochester native and was instrumental in helping bring World Long Drive to the city. The excitement from Steenberg in having his worlds collide with the tour’s newest event is certainly evident.
“As soon as I got exposed to long drive, I told myself ‘that needs to go to Rochester’,” Steenberg said. “As soon as I hit the tee box and got to taste what long drive was all about, I knew that Rochester would [be a fit]. Some good friends of mine own a piece of property that, when I saw it, I knew it [had the potential] to be the biggest and best grid in the world if we could pull it off. So, a small conversation turned into bigger conversations, and then finally we were able to see this thing through. And here we are.”