Will Hogue allowed himself one week to reflect on his meteoric three-win campaign in 2018 before getting right back to work last September. The abrupt end to Hogue’s season certainly didn’t play out the way he had hoped: with a World Long Drive Championship belt wrapped around his waist. His chances at the season-culminating event weren’t helped by the fact that he’d injured his left ankle hopping off a firetruck in mid-June that left him less than 100% for the balance of the season.
“It was nice to take a little time to let my ankle finish healing up.”
Despite the injury, he mustered enough determination to win the Bluff City Shootout – his hometown event in Memphis – about a week after the incident. It made for a trio of wins in as many months, after winning the Clash in the Canyon (April) and Ak-Chin Smash in the Sun (May) earlier in the season. But despite not being televised live on GOLF Channel like the other two victories, the win close to home meant the most to Hogue.
“I would say the Memphis win stands out more than any of them, and that’s not just from last year but in my [entire] career. It didn’t feel good the whole time I was out there,” he says, with respect to his ankle. “It was kind of one of those times where I was thinking ‘if I can get through one more swing, just one more swing.’ I wasn’t really trying to win. I was just trying to make it through.”
Hogue is used to the pressure and big stage of World Long Drive competitions. As a firefighter/EMT in his day job, he finds himself in situations far more stressful than anything he encounters as a long drive competitor.
“You get a lot of calls where a life is in the balance and things don’t always go the way they are supposed to. And that’s kind of like long drive. Hitting golf balls doesn’t seem nearly as stressful as someone else’s life,” he says. “I think it helps keep me calm because at the end of the day, if for whatever reason I am not able to make the adjustments [in competition], it’s not the end of the world. So I don’t really feel a whole lot of pressure when things aren’t going right.”
This week, Hogue is back in Maricopa, Ariz., for the Ak-Chin Smash in the Sun – the first Tour event of the 2019 season. He comes in with a mentality that is clear of preoccupation about his ankle, or the pressure of defending last year’s victory.
“I’d love to stay the defending champion. I’m feeling probably the best I have since Ak-Chin last year. It was probably the fastest and most powerful swings that I had [in 2018].”
While he’s fully focused on getting his 2019 season off on the right foot – or left ankle – it’s not difficult to imagine Hogue’s goals for the season may ultimately center around winning a coveted world championship in September – something that has eluded him to this point in his career.
“I’ve come so close so many times. I think I’ve made the final eight four or five times, I can’t remember. That’s the one that I want to win, because that’s the big one.”
But much like the PGA TOUR, Hogue is fully aware that winning in World Long Drive doesn’t come easy. For further proof, one needn’t look further than World No. 1 Justin James, who surprised everyone last September by failing to advance from the World Long Drive Championship preliminary round.
“I don’t think anybody in this sport is invincible. I don’t think you ever go out there and think there’s no way you’re going to lose,” says Hogue.
But he also knows that if he were able to put together another season like the one he had in 2018, it’s possible that a return to the No. 1 ranking in the world could be within his reach.
“If I keep doing what I’m doing like last year, and if I have another three-win season, I would be very surprised if I wasn’t No. 1 at the end of the year. My goal is to keep doing what I’m doing, and the rest will take care of itself.”
By: Michael Shamburger (World Long Drive Digital Contributor)
April 13, 2019