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Player of the Year Preview: Open Division and Women’s Division

After nine intense tournaments across the United States, World Long Drive is down to its final event of the season. Each stop on tour has produced many exciting battles and storylines, where multiple competitors celebrate their maiden victories on tour as well as veterans of the sport returning to their winning ways after taking some time off. These eight competitors have dominated competitors throughout the season with their play and consistency across all the events. As the 2023 season is down to its last event, let’s take a look at who the top performers have been this season in the Open Division and Women’s Division.

 

Open Division

 

Justin James:

 

Justin James has been Mr. Consistent in 2023, making it beyond the quarterfinals in all but two events this year. The " Snapping Turtle"  was the champion in the second event of the year in Hobe Sound, as well as the champion in Portland, Connecticut, where he seemed to be untouchable in the head-to-head matchups. Justin stands with just Bryce Verplank as the only hitters to have won multiple titles in the Open Division in 2023. Justin has compiled the most points in the 2023 season with 675 points through the first nine events that have been held in 2023 by the World Long Drive and will look to capture his second world championship of his career, and first since 2017.

 

Josh Koch:

 

Josh Koch has put together one of the best seasons out of any competitors across all divisions. While he has not been a champion in the nine events run by the World Long Drive, he did capture a victory in May when the long drivers went to Martin Borgmeier’s home country, where Josh won the Continental Long Drive Open. Josh has been incredibly close to victory in many of the events, having been eliminated in the Semifinals four times and falling in the finals twice this year. Josh has compiled the second most points this year with 650 points so far in the 2023 season and will look to get that elusive win at the World Championships.

 

Bryce Verplank:

 

Bryce Verplank has shocked many with his impressive play this year. Bryce Verplank burst onto the scene this year with two victories since the beginning of July. The big-hitting Texas native won his first event of his career in Port Rowan, Canada and then went on to win his second event of the year just one month later in Utah. Bryce missed the majority of the 2022 season with a wrist injury but has made up for the lost time with 605 points on the year. Bryce holds the record for the longest ball of the season at 491 yards, making him a threat to take home his third title of the year if he can stay consistent through the World Championships.

 

 

 

 

Martin Borgmeier:

 

The reigning 2022 Long Drive champion started the year off hot, winning the first event of 2023. Martin’s success this year also unlocked an achievement not many have been able to hold as the world #1 following his strong performance in Connecticut. This was the first time in his career that he had accomplished this feat and an incredible accomplishment as he has been around the sport since 2017. Kyle Berkshire has since taken back the top spot, as Martin is currently #2 in the World Rankings, which will give Martin something to chase as he is looking to replicate his championship run from last year. Borgmeier has compiled the third most points this year with 625 points in the 2023 season as a result of his finals appearance in Memphis, along with two semifinal exits in the last three events.

 

Women’s Division

 

Monica Lieving:

Monica Lieving had the best start to 2023 of any competitor on tour, winning the first two events in Mesquite and Hobe Sound. As one of the most consistent hitters on tour, Monica has advanced into the quarterfinals or beyond in every event this year. The Colorado native became the world number one for the first time in her career but has since dropped a spot to the world #2, which should fire her up to reclaim the top spot in the World Championships in October. Monica will be one of the favorites to win the World Championships and Player of the Year in the Women’s Division.

 

Phillis Meti:

 

Phillis Meti has been one of the most feared hitters on tour for the last 15+ years. The world record holder for longest ball ever hit by a female at 414 yards has advanced into the finals in all of the last three events, with her lone win coming in La Salle Colorado. Phillis’ play as of recently has propelled her up the rankings to the top spot, a place she has been many times before. In the last event, she advanced to the finals, narrowly falling to Sandra Carlborg, but the two will definitely see each other again in the World Championships. When Phillis is hitting balls in the grid, she is a difficult out, no matter who she is matched up against.

 

Sandra Carlborg:

 

Sandra should still be riding a high after winning her first event of the season in Kingsport, Tennessee. After a finals appearance in the first event of 2023 and a semifinal in the second, Sandra returned home to Sweden for about four months to be with her family and focus on the preparation for the end of the season. Her strategy paid off as she returned to the winner’s circle after a short time away from competition. The 6-time world champion will be back in Atlanta to make it two in a row and finish the season with back-to-back wins.

 

Gabi Powell:

Gabi has quietly risen the ranks this season to enter the Top 5 for the first time in her career. She had an incredible run in La Salle, where she fell to Phillis Meti in the finals after a strong tournament. Gabi has compiled 280 points this season, which is tied with Devon Casazza and Kelly Rudney for third in the division, just behind Phillis and Monica. Gabi has one of the smoothest swings in the whole division and will look to capture her first title in October at the World Championships.

 

 

 

 

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