There was no shortage of appeal for the viewers at home or those looking to take in a World Long Drive event in-person for the first time, as cars were backed up for a half mile awaiting entry into the parking lot at the inaugural ROC City Rumble in Rochester, N.Y. for a chance to see the longest hitters in golf.
The night belonged to the No. 1 ranked hitters in the sport, as Phillis Meti continued her reign atop the Women’s rankings by narrowly edging out Alexis Belton in the final by less than a yard. Meti’s longest ball measured 320 yards to outlast Belton’s 319-yard drive, securing Meti’s third victory in four tour events in 2019. On the men’s side, Kyle Berkshire entered the night ranked No. 3 in the world, and exited Home Team Sports Park as the new No. 1 in the Open Division.
Prior to Wednesday night, Berkshire had made nine consecutive TV appearances at World Long Drive tour events, but had failed to hoist the trophy in any of them. In his 10th straight TV appearance on Wednesday, he finally broke through to win for the first time live on Golf Channel. He made quick work of his opponents, needing only four balls total over the course of three matches (quarterfinal, semifinal, final) and registered the most-dominant individual performance World Long Drive has seen all year, capping it off with the longest ball of the night, a 380-yard blast to surpass Martin Borgmeier in the final.
“It feels great,” said Berkshire after the win. “You know, we’ve been really doing well all year, but it’s kind of been masked by guys hitting incredible shots [against me] at the right time, like Tim Burke and at Ak-Chin [in April] and Ryan Steenberg getting that huge shot at Fort Jackson [in May].”
After learning that the win also signified his ascent to No. 1, Berkshire was quick to reflect on a sentiment that he doesn’t expect his new stature to change his competitive mentality.
“I don’t feel any added pressure because I never put pressure on myself in the first place to become No. 1,” said Berkshire. “My job is to hit the ball as far as I can as often as possible. That’s what I’m worried about.. I just kept it really simple, and that’s what I’m gonna keep doing. That’s kind of the attitude you got to have.”
Meti’s season has been one for the record books, and she’s hopeful she can carry the momentum she’s had all season on to Kingsport, Tenn., for the Tennessee Big Shots benefiting Niswonger Children’s Hospital in just two weeks. During the final against Belton, Meti hit the grid seven out of eight times.
“Every event is new, and I always think to take one ball at a time so that I don’t get ahead of myself,” said Meti. “All I want to do is hit one ball the best I can, each set. It gives me better confidence to show that I can do it. It gives me reassurance that I’m on the right track.”