World Long Drive will stage its first televised event of the 2019 season, with the Ak-Chin Smash in the Sun airing Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET live on Golf Channel. The event marks the first of six televised Tour events, culminating with the Volvik World Long Drive Championship in September. Taking place at Ak-Chin Hotel and Casino in Maricopa, Ariz., Tuesday’s live telecast of the Ak-Chin Smash in the Sun will feature the four women and eight men having advanced from preliminary rounds taking place this afternoon and Tuesday morning.
The Open Division field consists of reigning Volvik World Long Drive champion Maurice Allen (Pine Hills, Fla.); current No. 1 in the world Justin James (Jacksonville, Fla.); and Will Hogue (Memphis, Tenn.), three-time Tour event winner in 2018 – including the Ak-Chin Smash in the Sun. The Women’s Division is led by five-time world champion Sandra Carlborg (Alingsas, Sweden), along with defending (and three-time) world champion Phillis Meti (Auckland, New Zealand), who also won the Ak-Chin Smash in the Sun Women’s Division title in 2018.
“World Long Drive is positioned for continued growth in 2019, with an expanded schedule of televised events kicking off with the Ak-Chin Smash in the Sun this week, and a growing global audience through our recent partnership with Sky Sports,” said Matt Farrell, executive director, World Long Drive Association. “It’s also a testament to our valued corporate partners fueling the sport’s growth in reaching new and younger fans as we carry out our vision – as part of the sport’s strategic plan – to showcase golf at its farthest, loudest, most athletic and adrenaline-filled extreme.”
SKY SPORTS AIRING EVENTS IN 2019: Furthering NBC Sports’ and Sky Sports’ programming collaboration efforts following Comcast’s acquisition of Sky last year, World Long Drive events in 2019 also will air on Sky Sports Golf in Europe, either live or the following day depending on the network’s programming schedule. The collaboration expands World Long Drive’s international audience, which included airing events in 66 countries in 2018. In 2018, WLD posted its most-viewed season ever, with 8.3 million unique viewers (+23% year-over-year) according to data released by The Nielsen Company.
WOMEN’S WORLD RANKING DEBUTS WITH TOP-10 IN 2019: Ahead of the Ak-Chin Smash in the Sun, the World Long Drive Association is releasing a Women’s Division World Ranking, beginning with a top-10 based on past performances in officially-sanctioned competitions over the past five years. Along with the Open (men’s) Division rankings (which are being utilized for the third consecutive season in 2019), the point system ensures a transparent and equitable way for hitters to be seeded, receiving points based on their respective finishes in officially-sanctioned events.
COVERAGE & BROADCAST TEAM: World Long Drive events airing on GOLF Channel in 2019 will utilize six dedicated cameras, capturing all angles from the hitting platform and the landing grid, including a SuperMo camera as well as two crane cameras that will track the ball in flight once it leaves the hitter’s clubface. Telecasts also will feature a custom graphics package suited to the exorbitant swing data typically generated by hitters, tracking club speed, ball speed and apex in real-time via Trackman. Trackman technology also will provide viewers with a sense of ball flight, tracing the arc of each drive from the moment of impact.
Veteran sports broadcaster Jonathan Coachman will return to the World Long Drive broadcast booth for the second consecutive season, calling play-by-play at each of the six televised events on GOLF Channel. Art Sellinger – World Long Drive pioneer and two-time world champion (1986, ’91) – will provide analysis, and GOLF Channel’s Jerry Foltz and Tripp Isenhour will rotate as reporters at events, offering insight from the teeing platform and conducting interviews with hitters taking part in the competition.
DIGITAL & SOCIAL MEDIA COVERAGE: Fans can stay connected to the action surrounding World Long Drive by following @WorldLongDrive and @GOLFChannel on social media. GOLF Channel social media host Alexandra O’Laughlin also will be on-site contributing to the social conversation at each event in 2019, and live telecasts will integrate social media-generated content through the hashtag, #WorldLongDrive. In addition to the latest video and highlights from on-site, WorldLongDrive.com will feature expanded editorial coverage and real-time scoring for the duration of the event. GOLF Channel Digital also will feature content leading up to and immediately following events telecasts.