Pioneers of the Sport
Pioneers of Long Drive
Early Pioneers of the Sport
Going all the way back to those early days of golf, when the first hacker put stick-to-ball, golfers have been fascinated by trying to hit the golf ball as far as they can, and they love to watch guys who can hit the ball a country mile. Even a renowned golfer with an unprecedented and unmatched seventeen majors titles under his belt like Jack Nicklaus treasures the Long Drive Championship money clip that he won at the 1964 PGA Championship, and… as a one of the pioneers of long drive, Jack has every right to be excited about that drive, because armed with only a tiny 275cc wooden MacGregor driver head that was mounted on a stubby 43” long steel shaft “The Golden Bear” crushed a drive that travelled an incredible 357-yards for the win.
We say incredible, not just because of the limitations of the wood driver head and the steel shaft at this short length, but primarily because the ball wasn’t a three or four-piece modern ball, it was a mushy wound-ball with innards that looked like rubber bands, which was covered by an extremely soft and rubbery balata material. Even today, golfers are most fascinated by new pioneers of the sport like PGA Tour golfer Bryson DeChambeau who is setting records for driving distance on the Tour and has taken a page from the long-drive handbook by studying the swings of long drive champions Justin James and Kyle Berkshire, and he is toying with the idea of using a maximum legal 48” long-drive club in future PGA Tour events.
The 1974 GOLF DIGEST featured Jackie DePaolo on the cover of their magazine, proclaiming him to be the longest hitter in the world. A special long drive event was scheduled at the Grossinger’s Resort in the Catskills, NY that was called The World Challenge Long Drive Contest with the express purpose of determining once and for all who should be the rightful titleholder. Four of the PGA Tour’s longest hitters were there, including the favorite Jim Dent; however, an Assistant Golf Professional from New Jersey by the name of Evan “Big Cat” Williams became one of the pioneers of the sport when he shocked the golf world with a winning drive of 366-yards. Jim Dent finished in second place with a 354-yard drive, while DePaulo finished a distant fourth place with a drive of just 331-yards.
Pioneers of Long Drive (1975 to 1979)
1975 CHAMPION - Jeoff Long
GOLF DIGEST promoted the first “U.S. National Long Drive PGA Championship,” which was held in 1975 in conjunction with the PGA Tour Championship at the Firestone Country Club on the outskirts of Akron, Ohio. A 6’1” tall, 200-pound former St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago White Sox major league baseball player by the name of Jeoff Long from Fort Mitchell, Kentucky got the win with a drive of 321-yards. Although just a 15-handicapper Long got a long ball in the grid when needed to in order to get the win. The “Big Cat” failed to make the finals after suffering from a high fever during the regional qualifying events.
1976 CHAMPION - Evan “Big Cat” Williams
The venue for the 1976 long drive championships was the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda. Maryland. The event took place on the Wednesday before the PGA Tour Championship. Reportedly more than 40,000 spectators lined the fairway to watch the pros and amateurs battle it out for the title. Evan “Big Cat” Williams winning drive (into a massive wind) travelled just 307-yards before planting on the spongy fairway grid. Whereas Jeoff Long had won the prior year with a swing that was described as having as much chance of producing a drive in the grid as a roulette wheel hitting the double-00, the 6’6” tall, 200-pound “Big Cat” had a smooth, compact swing that produced massive swing-speed, which he turbo-charged with a strong leg drive, while uncorking his wrists at the last moment.
1977 CHAMPION - Evan “Big Cat” Williams
Using a somewhat rare for this point in time graphite shaft, the “Big Cat” went back-to-back getting the win at Pebble Beach prior to the 1977 PGA Championship event with a massive drive of 357-yards. This record distance drive held up for another 18 years until Sean “The Beast” Fister topped it in 1995. After watching the “Big Cat” blast a monstrous drive, baseball legend and sometimes golfer Joe DiMaggio is reported to have said, “They should lock that guy up in a cage.”
1978 CHAMPION - John “Big John” McComish
The “Big Cat” did not three-peat in 1978, as 6’6” tall, 235-pound John “Big John” McComish produced a 330-yard drive to get the win at the Oakmont Country Club in the outskirts of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania in the days preceding the PGA Championship at that course. This earned “Big John” the $15,000.00 first prize money. McComish took Second Place the following year and he turned professional that same year. He subsequently qualified to play on the PGA Tour in 1982. He played on the PGA tour and on various mini-tours, as well as in various international professional golf events for thirteen years. He led the PGA Tour in driving with a 276.9-yard average in 1983, and again in 1987 with a 283.9-yard average. When asked about his driving distance on the PGA Tour, “Big John” commented that he had to dial-it-down his long drive swing to about 80% in order to achieve the necessary accuracy. His best finish on the PGA Tour was a 67th Place finish at the 1989 Masters Championship.
1979 CHAMPION - Andy Franks
In 1979 Andy Franks stopped “Big John” from getting back-to-back wins at the Oakland Hill Country Club in Bloomfield Township just outside Detroit, Michigan, and he became the first true amateur to win the event with a drive of 314-yards. Because of his amateur status, Franks promptly donated a check in the sum of $7,500.00 to the PGA Junior Golf Association.
Pioneers of Long Drive (1980 to 1989)
1980 CHAMPION - Scott DeCandia
Stocky, at just 5’10” but at a strapping 240-pounds of muscle, former All-American shot-putter Scott “the Candy Man” DeCandia set an early body prototype for the later legendary power-lifter and six-time world champion Jason Zuback. The “Candy Man” got this first of his two wins at the Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York with a winning drive of 295-yards and 18” against a driving wind. This earned the “Candy Man” a $15,000.00 paycheck along with the use of a beautiful, new Buick Riviera for a year.
1981 CHAMPION – Lon Hinkle
Lon Hinkle finally got the first win for the PGA Tour golfers with a 338-yard 6” drive at the Atlanta Athletic Club in Duluth, Georgia using a long-drive club, which was a Taylormade “Pittsburg Persimmon” steel driver head on a shaft that was four inches longer than Hinkle’s tour driver. Defending champion Scott DeCandia had broken his wrist earlier in the year and he didn’t make the finals. The event was held in conjunction with the PGA Championship with the long drive championship telecast tape-delayed and shown during Sunday’s final round telecast on ABC Sports. Along with Hinkle a number of top PGA Tour golfers including Larry Zeigler and Fuzzy Zoeller competed. Jim McCoy, Peter Alliss and Dave Marr provided the commentary. Hinkle had joined the PGA Tour in 1972 and he played on the PGA Tour as well as on the Champions Tour, winning three PGA tour events. Hinkle’s length was best demonstrated at the U.S. Open at the Inverness Golf Club where he took shortcut on the Par 5 eighth hole by hitting his tee shot over a tree and into the 17th fairway for an easy approach shot. Course officials planted “Hinkle’s Tree” to block any future plans.
1982 CHAMPION - Andy Franks
The 5’11” tall, 200-pound Franks earned his second championship in 1982 at the Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma with a 346-yard and 17.5” drive. The event attracted more than 7,000 entrants. In addition to the $15,000.00 prize money, Franks also received a brand new Dodge 400 automobile. Several top PGA Tour long hitters entered the event with PGA Tour professional Freddie Couples doing the best of them by garnering a Fourth Place finish at the event.
1983 CHAMPION - Terry Forcum
As a follow-up to his second place finish at the prior year’s 1982 championships, former University of Houston golfer 6’5” tall, 215-pound Terry Forcum, a former professional bull rider who owned and operated a welding shop in Ponce City, Oklahoma, won the 1983 Championship. The event was held at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California. Forcum’s drive of just 307-yards against a stiff breeze was enough to get the win under tough conditions.
1984 CHAMPION - Wedgy Winchester
As the story goes, legendary PING GOLF founder Karsten Soldheim was desperate to get some credibility for his new Ping wood driver heads, which were innovative in terms of their larger size over the conventional wood driver heads of the day; however, the very conservative and tradition-based golfers of the era were slow to warm to the new product = enter Wedgy Winchester, a well know trick shot artist who could hit a long ball. Wedgy had contacted Kim Carpenter, the VP of the ALDILA golf shaft company to get him as long of a shaft as possible; however, ALDILA didn’t have any shafts anywhere near the length that Wedgy wanted. Finally, they used not a driver shaft but an ALDILA ski pole, upon which Wedgy built-out his 18-inches-longer (at 60” length) PING driver. Soldheim was so worked up about the event, that he donated PING golf balls for the competition, which attracted a whopping 9,000 competitors. The PGA Tour pros came out in force, but Wedgy got the win with a 320-yard drive over pros Lon Hinkle (Second) and Payne Stewart (Third) at the Shoal Creek Golf Club in Birmingham, Alabama. The event was held in conjunction with the 1984 PGA Championship, and it was telecast on the final day of the tournament on ABC Sports with Jack Whitaker and Dave Marr offering the commentary. Of note, golf legend Jack Nicklaus made an appearance at the event, participating in a long-drive clinic.
1985 CHAMPION - Wedgy Winchester
The U.S. National Long Drive Championship became a stand-alone event (no longer held in conjunction with the PGA Championship) in 1985 with Wedgy Winchester getting a back-to-back second title with a drive of just 319-yards and 14” against a driving wind under soggy grid conditions.
1986 CHAMPION - Art Sellinger
An accomplished golfer Art Sellinger who had been represented his home state of Nevada at the Juniors Americas Cup and the at the USGA Junior Amateur Championship before being a standout collegiate golfer at Arizona Western and the University of Nevada at Las Vegas got the first of his two U.S. National Long Drive Championships with a drive of 33-yards and 4”.
1987 CHAMPION - Mike Gorton
Beginning an incredible run that would later include an unprecedented record of championships in four divisions to include: the Senior Championship, two Super Senior Championships and a Legends Long Drive Championship, Mike Gorton got this U.S. National Championship win with a 318-yard drive on this first leg of his trip to the LDA’s Hall of Fame.
1988 CHAMPION - Jim Maynard
The 1988 U.S. National Long Drive Championship went international moving to a venue in the Bahamas at the Lucaya Golf and Country Club at the Princess Resort. More than 10,000 competitors had attempted to qualify by paying $5.00-a-set to hit three balls with the winners of local qualifying events moving on to fifteen district events. The sponsors included the Michelin Tire Company, Nabisco, and MCI. Jim Maynard got the win with a 334 14” drive.
1989 CHAMPION – Scott DeCandia
While visiting the Bahamas on his honeymoon, the former 1980 U.S. National Long Drive Champion Scott “Candy Man” DeCandia got his second championship at the Lucaya Golf Club adjoining the Princess Resort in the Bahamas with a drive of 327-yards. DeCandia subsequently successfully competed in the older divisions and he was later inducted into the LDA’s Hall of Fame.
Pioneers of Long Drive (1990 to 1999)
1990 CHAMPION - Frank Miller
Long time top long drive competitor 6’6” tall, 250-pound Frank Miller, who later went on to win titles in the Seniors and Super Seniors Divisions on his way to the LDA’s Hall of Fame, got the victory with a drive of 328-yards and 14-inches.
1991 CHAMPION - Art Sellinger
Art Sellinger got his second world long drive title on his way to the LDA’s Hall of Fame with a drive of 329-yards and 13-inches. Just a few years later Sellinger with partner Randy Souza founded the LDA Long Drivers of American organization, which created a governing body for the sport and held the subsequent world championship events, and later, Art Sellinger offered color commentary for long drive events on both ESPN and the GOLF CHANNEL.
1992 CHAMPION - Monte Scheinblum
The son of former Major League Baseball All-Star outfielder Richie Scheinblum, Monte Scheinblum had as a child spent two years in Japan while his father was playing baseball for the Hiroshima Carp. When Monte’s own baseball career was derailed by injuries he turned to golf where he played on the Nike tour (now the Korn Ferry Tour) with a best finish at 5th in the Monterrey Open. He also played in one PGA Tour event. Monte had taken a second place finish to champion Art Sellinger at the prior year’s 1991 championships and following this 1992 championship he again took another second place finish to Brian Pavlet at the 1993 championship; however, 1992 was the golden year for Monte who finally got his win in Boca Raton, Florida over second place finisher Mike Gorton with a 329-yard drive into a 20-mph headwind.
1993 CHAMPION - Brian Pavlet
Monte Scheinblum was unsuccessful in his attempt to repeat his 1992 championship, taking second place, while longtime top competitor Brian Pavlet earned the first of his two long drive championship titles with a drive of 336-yards and 3-inches on his way toward an LDA Hall of Fame career.
1994 CHAMPION - Daryl Anderson
This was an important milestone year for world long drive competition, because two-time national champion Art Sellinger partnered with longtime top contender Randy Souza to establish the Long Drivers of America (the “LDA”), which created a governing body for the sport and which both a professional long drive tour, as well as grass-roots pro-am and qualifying events leading to a world long drive championship. Yonex and Nitro golf balls provided the sponsorship, while Darryl Anderson got the win with a drive of 345-yards.
1995 CHAMPION - Sean “the Beast” Fister
This was also a milestone year for long-drive for a number of reasons. First, Re/Max became the primary sponsor of the event, and secondly, a major TV deal for event’s telecast was struck with PGA Tour Productions and ESPN, and lastly, the finals were held “under the lights” on the first hole at the Las Vegas Hilton Country Club. NITRO Plus golf balls were used with entrants competing for a $100,000.00 purse with a winner’s check of $30,000.00. Jim Kelly offered the commentary on ESPN. Former University of Florida pole-vaulter and decathlete Sean Fister got the first of his three titles on his way to the LDA Hall of Fame with a drive of 362-yards.
1996 CHAMPION - Jason “Golfzilla” Zuback
This was the first year where the LDA painted the grid. Contestants were allowed six balls. Again, the venue was the first hole at the Las Vegas Hilton Country Club. Rookie competitor, Canadian full-time pharmacist Jason Zuback entered the event the same way as so many rookies. He contacted the LDA for a list of qualifying locations, which he received by mail/not computer, then he made the seven-hour drive to a local qualifying event in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. After getting the win, he changed plans and skipped another long road trip and instead took a quick flight to qualify for the local and then districts in Salt Lake City, Utah. Zuback was concerned when he arrived and noticed that nearly one hundred entrants were competing for just 3-4 spots for the World Championships and he recognized that many of these competitors were top long drivers; however, Jason won the event and he headed to the world championships. Using a tiny 195cc, custom-made, low loft (4*) R.L. Zeider metal driver head on a Harrison XXXX-flex shaft, Jason got the win with a 351-yard drive. In this inaugural year of the Masters Championship Mike Hooper got the first of his record-breaking three wins.
1997 CHAMPION - Jason “Golfzilla” Zuback
More than 5300 entrants had applied for the event that had changed venue to the city of Mesquite, which is about 90-miles north of Las Vegas. It was telecast on ESPN with Jim Kelly providing the commentary. The championship was held on the first hole of the Casablanca Resort and Casino. Despite Zuback’s impressive showing in 1996, no one expected him to repeat, simply because no one had done so in more than ten years going back to Wedgy Winchester. Zuback was using a slightly larger (at 250cc) R.L. Zeider custom low-loft metal driver head with a Harrison shaft at 47.75” length, and he was clocked at having 156-mph club-head speed. The defending champion quickly served notice on the other competitors by hitting drives exceeding 400-yards in each of the qualifying rounds, and he unleashed a massive record-setting 412-yard drive to seal the victory. Following the event there was an impressive fireworks display, which unfortunately ignited a brushfire that blazed all night, such that was the last long drive championship to be held at the Casablanca. Mike Hooper took down the Masters championship for the second year in a row.
1998 CHAMPION - Jason “Golfzilla” Zuback
The name of the event had been changed from the Re/Max North American Long Drive Championships to the Re/Max World Long Drive Championships and the venue was changed to the Palms Golf Club’s driving range in Mesquite, and a new ball (the Pinnacle Extreme Titanium); however, the results were the same with Jason Zuback using a blind-bore Titleist 975D with a Penley shaft to three-peat and win the open division and the $75,000.00 prize money over Adriann van Rensburg of South Africa, while Mike Hooper likewise three-peated for the Masters title with a drive of 354-yards.
1999 CHAMPION - Jason “Golfzilla” Zuback
In 1999 the venue was the same at the Palms Golf Club in Mesquite, Nevada with ALIEN Sports being a major sponsor. The event was telecast on ESPN with Roger Twibell and former PGA Tour player Dan Pohl offering the commentary. While Jason Zuback earned his fourth-straight open division title, Mike Hooper was unable to match his four-peat with Fred Hooter edging Mike Gorton with a drive of 352-yards to win the Masters Championship.
Pioneers of Long Drive (2000 to 2009)
2000 CHAMPION - Viktor “SwingKong” Johansson
This was a milestone year, as former owners of the LDA went their separate ways with Art Sellinger retaining the rights to the Long Drivers of America. Attempts had been made to increase international interest and strong contingents of foreign competitors were among the 3760 entrants who attempted to qualify for the finals, which were again held at the Palms Golf Club in Mesquite, Nevada. Using the Pinnacle Titanium Extreme golf balls, Viktor “Swing Kong” Johansson of Stockholm, Sweden who had driven several balls over 400-yards in the qualifying rounds, was only able to must a drive of 315-yards; however, that was enough to get the win in the finals, which had been delayed due to pouring rain. Mike Gorton got the win in the Masters Championship, while Stacey Shinnick 249-yard drive took down the Women’s Championship.
2001 CHAMPION - Sean “the Beast” Fister
The 2001 Championship set a 6-ball limit with participants in five divisions. The new event sponsors included COBRA Golf, Penley, IBC Root Beer and the City of Mesquite. Sean “the Beast” Fister took down his second championship in 2001 with a 376-yard drive using a Dunlop driver with a Penley ETA shaft. Ted Fostey won the Masters Championship with a 357-yard drive, while strength and conditioning specialist Lee Brandon won the Women’s Championship by producing a 291-yard drive with her Nike 400 driver and Accuflex shaft.
2002 CHAMPION - Carl Wolter
This was the first year where a major OEM company (Cobra) was offering a low loft head, the Cobra 427 350cc. A former Big Ten javelin champion at Penn State who had hit the three longest drives on the championship grid in this event, Carl Wolter won the Championship using an Alpha 460 driver that was fitted with an Accuflex Assassin XXXXX shaft. Pat Dempsey won the Masters Championship, while Stacey Shinnick got her second Women’s Championship on her way to the LDA’s Hall of Fame. The new Juniors Division Championships were won by Owen Hanson and Lauren Motyl.
2003 CHAMPION - Clayton Burger
Pinnacle introduced their new Gold Maximum golf balls for this event, which offered a $80,000.00 payout to the champion. Although ESPN commentators Roger Twibell and Art Sellinger set the favorites as being defending champion Carl Wolter and former champion Brian Pavlet who had won 3-of-the-6 LDA tour events, this year proved to be the year of the rookie as Clayton Burger took down the open championship with a drive of 412-yards using the new Cobra 450SZ on a Penley ETA shaft. The 2002 tour’s leading money winner Gerry James was second and David Mobley was third. In the Seniors Championship winner Eric Jones set a Senior’s record at 381-yards with his Alpha C830-2 driver that was fitted with a Harrison XXX-flex shaft. Nancy Abiecunas used her Big Bang 450 driver with an Accuflex shaft to win the Women’s Championship, and the 1999 Masters Champion and LDA Hall of Famer Fred Hooter got another win in the newly introduced Super Senior Championship with a 345-yard drive.
2004 CHAMPION - David Mobley
Cobra, Pinnacle and Club Glove were major sponsors for the ESPN telecast of the event, which featured commentators Roger Twibell and Art Sellinger. The new Pinnacle Gold Max Velocity balls were used, and maximum driver length was lowered to 50” maximum against-the-wall for the event, which now featured $100,00.00 in first place prize money. The rain was so heavy and the course became so drenched that a low-hovering helicopter was used to try and dry-out the championship grid. David Mobley who had placed third in 2003 got the win in the open division with a 377-yard drive using his Alpha Reaction driver that was fitted with an Accuflex Assassin XX-Flex shaft. Hall of Famer Bobby Wilson got the win in the Seniors Division with a 360-yard drive, and Sally Dee an LPGA tour player from Tampa, Florida got the win in the Women’s Championship. Hall of Famer Fred Hooter won the Super Senior Championship with a drive of 327-yards.
2005 CHAMPION - Sean ‘the Beast” Fister
The 2005 championship was marked by a massive qualifying campaign with more than 500 local qualifying events in 24 countries along with 8 tour events. Larger grandstands were brought in, which included a new lavish VIP section. Sean “The Beast” Fister got his third win (now placing him just behind Jason Zuback’s record four wins) with a 377-yard drive, while Gerry James won the Senior Championship with a 366-yard drive. Hall of Famer Stacey Shinnick won the Womens’s championship with a 311-yard drive, and Steve Griffith took the Super Senior Championship with a sixth-and-last-ball 320-yard drive to beat NBA legend Rick Barry.
2006 CHAMPION - Jason “Golfzilla” Zuback
The first year of March Play Finals at the Palms Golf Club was a dramatic one. Following Sean “the Beast” Fister’s 2005 championship victory (his third championship) it looked as if Jason Zuback’s record of four wins might be within reach; however, “Golfzilla” had other plans winning the title over second place Erik Lastowka with a 368-yard drive. Gerry James repeated as the Senior’s champion with a monster 378-yard drive, while Doug Miller won the Super Seniors title, and New Zealander Phillis Meti won the Women’s championship.
2007 CHAMPION - Mike Dobbyn
Most competitors knew that huge 6’8” tall and 320-pound (with less than 10% of body fat) Mike Dobbyn had what it took to be a world long drive champion, especially following his seventh place finish in 2006; however, it didn’t become clear that the Big Man was on-a-mission until needing a monster ball to beat Jesse Petterson of Canada, he unleashed a walk-off last ball 400+ drive that literally sucked the air out of the driving range at the Palms Golf Club in Mesquite, Nevada. He went on to defeat Brooks Baldwin in the finals by hitting a 385-yard drive using a GEEK Golf Dot Com This driver head on a House of Forged Whup-N-shaft to win the $125,000.00 prize money. Frank Miller won the Seniors title with a monster 394-yard drive, and Mike Gorton won his second Super Seniors title with a 340-yard drive. NBA legend Rick Barry won the Grand Champions with a 349-yard drive, while firefighter Sheila Kelleher won the Women’s Championship with a 329-yard drive. At the inaugural Military long drive championship US Coast Guard Airman took the title over Army Staff Sergeant Brian King
2008 CHAMPION - Jamie Sadlowski
This was truly the year where the international exposure and interest in long drive was at its highest when competitors from Canada (Jamie Sadlowski), and England (Joe Miller), and South Africa (Ryan Louw) joined top USA competitors in the TV Finals. It also was the first year for the Military Long Drive Championship. Following two Junior world Long Drive Championships in 2005 and 2006, the just 5’10” and 160-pound former junior hockey player from Canada Jamie Sadlowski got the win with a 418-yard drive using a Cobra driver head on a House of Forged severely tip-cut XX-Flex Whup-N-Shaft. Dan Boever took down the Senior’s title with a 366-yard drive, after just missing the Senior’s title Mike Gorton won the Super Seniors division with a 311-yard drive, and NBA legend Rick Barry won the Grand Champions division. Lana Lawless won the Women’s Champion with a 245-yard drive, while Coast guard Airman Ryan Hixson repeated in the Military Championship.
2009 CHAMPION - Jamie Sadlowski
Under the lights at the new Mesquite Sports Complex Hall of Famer Bobby Wilson set a yet to tied or broken record with wins in two divisions on the same night (Senior and Super Senior) using an Adams driver head on a House of Forged Ultra shaft, while Jamie Sadlowski repeated in the open division with a 384-yard drive using an Adams driver head and a House of Forged JS Jamie Sadlowski signature shaft. There was no Women’s competition this year, in which Coast Guard Airman Ryan Hixson three-repeated in the Military Championship.
Pioneers of Long Drive (2010 to 2019)
2010 CHAMPION - Joe Miller
Dick’s Sporting Goods became the title sponsor for the ESPN telecast. The compelling story of the event was 16-year-old rookie Domenic Mazza’s attempt to make history only as the youngest competitor to ever qualify for Worlds, but also the youngest competitor to make the TV Final Eight. Domenic hit more 400+ drives than any other competitor with his Krank driver head and House of Forged Prototype shaft; however, in the finals he would be facing three competitors (Jamie Sadlowski, Ryan Louw, and Joe Miller) all of whom had been clocked at having 224+/mph ball-speeds. Mazza made the Top Four semi-finals where he beat two-time finalist Ryan Louw before he ran into a buzzsaw in the finals in the form of the 6’4”-tall, 279-pound beast of a fitness instructor by the name of Joe Miller from the United Kingdom, who was using a Krank Rage driver head with a Fujikura LiveWire shaft. Of note, young master Mazza turned down the $70,000.00 2nd Place prize money in order to maintain his amateur golf status. Hall of Famer George Slupski finally got his first world championship in the Seniors Division with a 389-yard drive, while Doug Miller got the win in the Super Seniors division with a 367-yard poke. Thomas Proben hit an impressive 366-yard drive to get the win in the Grand Champions division.
2011 CHAMPION - Carl Wolter
With Dick’s Sporting Goods being the title sponsor, their Slazenger Raw Distance golf balls were used for the competitions. Clearly, two time champion Jamie Sadlowski and defending champion Joe Miller were the favorites to win the 2011 World Long Drive Championship, which was held under the lights at the Mesquite Sports Complex; however, 2002 former champion Carl Wolter walked right through both of them in head-to-head match play before winning his second championship using a Krank Rage Black driver head that was fitted on a Fujikura LiveWire shaft. David Mobley took down the Seniors title with a monster wind-aided 459-yard drive, while Sandra Carlborg won the Women’s title.
2012 CHAMPION - Ryan Winther
The 2012 finals at the Mesquite Sports Complex were held under difficult headwind and cross-wind conditions. While the former Tampa Bay Rays minor league shortstop and pitching prospect Ryan Winther had always been a top long drive competitor, his violent swing had often brought him as many injuries as long drives and there was a question as to whether he could go the distance. Ryan made the TV Final Eight; however, to get into the Final Four he would need a monster 365+ ball into difficult against-the-wind/cross-wind conditions. Unfazed, Ryan unleased one of the longest (under the conditions) balls in LDA history, bombing a 390-yard drive that surpassed the other seven finalist by 30+ yards. He followed by beating LDA Tour Champion Tim Burke to win the championship using a Krank Rage Black head on a House of Forged Ryan Winther signature XXXX-Flex shaft. Eric Lastowka won the Seniors Division with a 343-yard drive, while Sandra Carlborg repeated in the Women’s division with a 339-yard drive.
2013 'CHAMPION - Tim Burke
The 2013 championship was the first winner-take-all event, and while the qualifying rounds for the event were held in Mesquite, the TV Finals were moved to the Las Vegas International Raceway with the GOLF CHANNEL now involved in the telecast. It was a difficult night for the Final Eight competitors who were obliged hit off of platform out into the night at a straight grid in the distance, which was at-odds with the curved race course. Other than having the additional headache of being interviewed on their way up to hit, competitors got their practice swings in under the grandstands off mats with just simulators giving them a read-out of where and how far the ball would had gone. This didn’t trouble Tim Burke who dominated the competition with a record 427-yard ball in the finals, which left the other competitors in the dust by at least 30-yards. Tim was using a Krank driver with the Fujikura Flywire shaft. Stephen Kennedy won the Senior’s division, while Vince Ciurluini won the 50+ Super Senior division. Hall of Famer Bobby Wilson won the 55+ Grand Champions division and Mike Gorton got his fourth world championship winning the 60+ Legends division. Rick Scott won the 65+ Masters Division, and Heather LeMaster earned her first Womens Championship
2014 CHAMPION - Jeff Flagg
Again, while the qualifying rounds and several division championships were held at the Mesquite Sports Complex, the men’s open TV Finals were held a month later at the Las Vegas Paiute Indian Reservation Golf course for the GOLF CHANNEL telecast. Jeff Flagg of Pelham, Alabama a former Mississippi State University baseball standout and later player in the New York Mets minor league system got the win over Jeff “Critter” Crittenden by a mere 13-inches with a drive of 365-yards using a Callaway X2Hot driver head on a UST LD-4 dempsey XXX-flex shaft. Jeff Gavin had won the Seniors championship with a drive of 384-yards, while Sandra Carlborg won the Women’s championship with a drive of 332-yards.
2015 CHAMPION - Tim Burke
For 2015 the Winstar Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Oklahoma became a title sponsor and the event was held on their golf course. Comcast had acquired the GOLF CHANNEL and they had re-branded the LDA as the World Long Drive Association. This was a winner-take-all $150,000.00 first prize with GC’s Ryan Burr, Michael Breed, and Art Sellinger handling the telecast commentary. Tim Burke got his second world championship with a drive of 394-yards to beat Jeremy Easterly, while five-team champion Jason Zuback got his first win in the Seniors division, and Sandra Carlborg added another Women’s championship to her resume.
2016 CHAMPION – Joe Miller
The event was again held at the Winstar Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Oklahoma and telecast on the GOLF CHANNEL with a purse of $260,000.00 with a check for $125,000.00 going to the champion. Joe Millers drive of 423-yards in the finals against strongman Ryan Steenburg earned the Englishman his second world long drive championship title. With a drive of 347-yards Tom Peppard took down the Seniors championship, while Phillis Meti of New Zealand won the Womens Championship with a drive of 310-yards.
2017 CHAMPION - Justin James
With the VOLVIK Golf Ball Company at the new title sponsor, the GOLF CHANNEL telecast three of the LDA tour events during the year to enhanced viewership. Justin James (along with father and two-time Seniors Champion Gerry James) became the only father-son combo to win world championships, when Justin defeated Mitch Grassing of Canada in the finals with a massive record-setting 435-yard drive using a Callaway driver head on a XXXXX-Flex House of Forged Raptor shaft. Jeff Crittenden won the Masters Championship with a drive of 363-yards, while long drive legend Sandra Carlborg of Sweden won her record setting 5th Womens Championship with a drive of 320-yards.
2018 CHAMPION - Maurice Allen
VOLVIK was again the tile sponsor of the event with their new Vivid XT 95-compression golf balls being used, and the Winstar Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Oklahoma was again the championship venue with Jonathan Coachman, Jerry Foltz and long drive legend Art Sellinger providing the commentary for the GOLF CHANNEL’s live telecast, as Maurice Allen became the first African-American World Long Drive Champion with a drive of 393-yards to edge Justin Moose. Eddie Fernandez won the Masters Championship with a 373-yard drive, while Phillis Meti won her third Womens Championship with a 317-yard drive.
2019 CHAMPION - Kyle Berkshire
Following an impressive showing at the end of the long drive tour season, Kyle Berkshire was slated as the heavy favorite to win the 2019 VOLVIK World Long Drive Championship at the Winstar Resort and Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma, and the former top junior golfer from Maryland, as well as collegiate golfer from the University of North Texas didn’t disappoint the fans, producing a 406-yard drive in the finals to get the win using his Krank driver with a Paderson LD-30 shaft. Jeff “Critter” Crittenden earned his second Masters Championship with a drive of 388-yards to beat Eddie Fernandes, while South African Chloe Garner earned her first Womens Championship following two straight second place finishes with a monster 347-yard drive to beat three-time Womens Champion Phills Meti of New Zealand.
Pioneers of Long Drive (2020)
2020 CHAMPION - COVID-19
Although several of the Pro Long Drive events scheduled for 2020 received permission from state health agencies and were contested, the coronavirus pandemic has played havoc with tournament planning and the conducting of events. Moreover, as the spread of COVID-19 accelerated, the increase in travel restrictions and requirements placed on event organizers, officials, and competitors caused the remainder of the season to be put on hold.