This is always the most exciting day of the event 32 players come out early in the morning with 16 in the winners bracket and 16 in the losers bracket. I took a look at the pairings this morning and I simply said I would not be surprised if any of these 32 held the trophy tomorrow!
Let the games begin.
Joe Miller set the early tone with 415 yard smash and then the usual suspects kept advancing on the winners side. Gentry, Sadlowski and Winther kept cruising and ended up grabbing 3 of the 4 quarterfinal spots on the winners side. The losers bracket got extremely tight and it looked like Jason Zuback might see the final 8 for I think 12 out of 18 years. Unfortuntately the legend didn't get it done in round 13 as the winds were playing havoc on the players. Also bowing out on that side were former champions Mike Dobbyn, Carl Wolter and Joe Miller.
The field is set for tomorrow:
I like seeing our LDA Tour Stars Ryan Winther, Josh Crews, Tim Burke and Landon Gentry making the finals. These players have competed all season on our tour and this definitely paid off.
I spoke to these players after the action and 6 of them are going to take the tee for first time at the RE/MAX finals. They were so excited. I then told them, could you imagine a guy like Zuback that has won 5 of these? Incidentally this is Sadlowski's 6th straight final 8, an amazing feat.
Look for some much shorter yardages tomorrow as Mesquite will show its first north wind in a week. It is going to be a shotmakers contest, whoever keeps the spin down will win.
October 23, 2012
Tuesday was one wild day at the RE/MAX World Long Drive Championship qualifying in Mesquite. The winds continued to blow upwards of 20 miles an hour with gusts close to 30mph. Add that to the all star line-up of hitters including 2-time Open Champion Jamie Sadlowski and defending champ Carl Wolter, and the threat on the end of the grid was very real. Wolter hit in the morning and ripped a pair of 430 yard bombs to advance to the next round. Nico Grobbelaar, a last chance qualifier from South Africa, opened a few eyes by challenging Wolter for the long drive of the morning, hitting two drives 428 yards.
With the high desert winds whipping from over the players shoulders, the apparent strategy was to get the ball up into the jet stream, with a slight fade for the right handed hitters and watch the ball carry close to 400 yards.
The legend of Jamie Sadlowski continues to grow as he put on a clinic of consistency and power in the afternoon session. In his fist time up he pounded a drive 458 yards...the longest of the day but he was just warming up. In round two he put together one of the most impressive 6 ball sets ever seen. His numbers looked like this; 443, 460, 448, 420 and 439. Awesome.
Hard to imagine it could get any better.
October 22, 2012
The Open players took the tee and once again the winds played havoc on the grid and competition. The question become, Do we have enough real estate to hold these guys. Ryan Winther hit it 468 and the norm seemed to be 430-440. We are saying these numbers like they are just another tee shot but I assure you this is over a quarter of a mile and very long!!!!
The 4 groups of 16 (Half the field) competed in 7 rounds of double elimination play. So many top players are already out of the field, you just can't predict anything in this division anymore.
I'll try to give you some highlights and lowlights
Zuback & Pavlet to staples and Hall of Famers are into Round 9 on the winners side
Landon Gentry, Josh Crews, Ryan Cooper and Ryan Winther all LDA Tour Standouts in 2012 breezed through.
Failing to advance were Aaron Mansfield (LDA Player of the Year) and Ben Tuaone last years runnerup.
Keep an eye on Ryan Louw of South Africa and Mick Yelovich as the competition progresses.
The other half of the field goes tomorrow and it is stacked with Speed and Power.
The wind is looking like it will be in the players face on Wednesday and Thursday, the key rounds of the event. Players that have built both swings and equipment for the downwind grid are going to have to re-tool quickly!
October 22, 2012
The seniors took the tee this morning and wow! what a competitive division this is becoming. You used to be able to write in the finalists and now I feel this division is at least 32 players deep if not more. As the former open players turn 45 they not only bring young speed to this division they bring years of competition to the tee. Former champion George Slupski looks like the normal "Animal" if there is such a thing. He came out of the gate with 423. Tom Celone made a statement with 438 and the other usual suspects showed they were still here to win; Fister, Ciurlini, James, Miller, Howell, Mobley and more.
Keep an eye on former runner-up Eric Lastowka. The newest Senior in the field, Eric has a ton of experience having made 3 RE/MAX finals and taking a runnerup to Zuback several years back. There are 16 Seniors remaining and they will hit Tuesday to determine the final 4 spots for the Thursday Finals Showdown.
A great day of hitting was capped off with this years LDA Hall of Fame Induction. We welcomed Frank Miller and Pat Dempsey to the HOF. We were on the championship tee at the grid and all of the competitors were able to bring their guests for the induction. More than 500 were there to support these players.
The players and guests also were there to here LDA's huge announcement about our new media partner Golf Channel and NBC. In 2013 Golf Channel will broadcast 4 shows both documenting the RE/MAX World Long Drive Championship and showing the finals Live will be unprecedented. Look for more information to come out shortly about October becoming Long Drive Month on Golf Channel as well as a 1 hour special of the RE/MAX finals on NBC Sports.
October 20, 2012
If you like tension, excitement the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat then the Last Chance Qualifier today at the Mesquite Sports and Event Complex had all of that!
Imagine flying 8000 miles and missing out in the last round? That came from a player that nearly won the championship four years ago. Imagine flying 8000 miles and making it! What a relief. Joe van Wyk did just that. He is from Pretoria South Africa.
We saved the best for last, a six ball playoff for the last spot in the event.
It came down to Peter Carlborg from Sweden and Mesquites own Chad Klein. Klein pulled it out a 374 yard bomb to Carlborg at 367. The Euro's were screaming languages I've never heard and the Mesquitions were screaming for their hometown hero. Good Stuff
Cheers to Geoff Freeborn who won the whole shooting match today. Geoff came to my Power Academy this spring am I here to tell you this man can move it. He might not be the most consistent but if he squares it up, I told him at the school he can make it VERY far in this competition.
Others making it today were veterans Steve Magan who told me that is the most adrenaline he has ever felt in more than 15 years of competition.
Andrew Williams rounded out the four.
The field is set, The Seniors take the tee tomorrow. 64 will start, 4 will make it to Thursday. Should be great action.
October 19, 2012
Another beautiful day in Mesquite Today.
As I walked down the range today I was impressed by the strong, international field of competitors battling for the last few spots in the main draw.
Both the open and senior events produced some impressive performances. South African, Ryan Louw lead the way with a 411 yard drive in relatively calm conditions while Kenzaburo Konishi, from Japan showed why he belongs in the championship with a 383 yard blast!
It is a testament to the global reach and strength of this event.
The true last chance qualifier is tomorrow.
The final field will be set.
Now the real pressure begins!
Brent Champion - 392
Ryan Louw - 373
Nico Grobbelaar - 362
Rock Hicks - 354
Kenzaburo Konishi 383
Brandon Hobson 369
Scott Cameron - 364
Phil Naylor - 363
October 18, 2012
Probably the best weather in Mesquite I've seen! 85 and sunny. The breeze has shown up here and there but the groups of 8 with 4 on the tee don't have to worry to much as the condition wasn't changing between groups.
What a great field and only 4 semi finalists will survive this afternoon
The usual suspects seem to find a way. Sean Fister is a walking Med Vac unit. More surgeries than a man should have!
Others that are hitting the ball solid are
Players like RJ Laffins, Joakim Boltenstern and Jackie Scholar are making statements and keeping up with the favorites. Mike Barbarosa seemed to be gaining momentum.
As the quarterfinals approached it was a stacked deck of 8 competitors and boy did they put on a show and the upsets starting happening quickly. Out went Gerry James, Pat Dempsey and Frank Miller and the final 4 were set with Jackie Scholar,, Mike Barbarossa, Eric Jones & Sean Fister.
What a great finale this afternoon! We handed out 4 RE/MAX World Long Drive Trophies and the matches were amazing. Players were winning matches on their final ball. Incredible drama
We started out with the ladies and boy did they put on a show. Troy Mullins Heather Lemaster and Sandra Carlborg just lit it up. I think they hit 16 out of 18 in the grid. Nobody could match the amazing speed of Sandra as she set a record at 339 yards to win the title.
Next to the tee came the Legends and one St. Louis Cardinal came up with the magic as David Brinker beat Steve Clement to take home the title. Doc Droege came up a little short as did Rick Barry.
The Grand Champions proved to be just that GRAND!! Two lefty's Jack Crutchfield and Gary Ramirez stole the show in the semi finals. Ramirez couldn't find the grid with his first 5 balls and needed over 360 yards to beat Pat Dempsey and boy did he unload on his last ball. 365 right down the middle.
Crutchfield faced Mike Gorton in the other semi and Took care of business as he beat the Hall of Famer by more than 25 yards. All he did was say Roll Tide and the next thing you know we had a SEC Final with Georgia vs Alabama (Two lefty's., did I mention that?) Ramirez just didn't have his stuff and Crutchfield nailed it 354 to win by 20. It was awesome to crown another first time winner!
The Super Seniors had a very long day starting at 9AM.
The final four took the tee and let the show begin! Mike Barbarosa faced Sean the Beast Fister in match one. The Beast looked solid filling up the grid as Barbarosa was struggled. But he saved his best for last. Needing 370 on his final ball to win he found that 5th gear and hit it 373.
In the other Semi Eric Jones came roaring out of the gate with 377 and Jackie Scholar just couldn't top that as his best was 351.
So now it was time for the final and Jones started slow and saved his best for last bombing his last ball 369 Yards. Barbarosa wasn't done though and he had one ball left and 10 seconds on the clock and smashed it 364 and fell a little short.
Lots more action coming tomorrow with the On-site Qualifiers.
October 17th 2012
It is great to be back at the championship grid in Mesquite, NV for the 2012 RE/MAX World Long Drive Championship powered by Dicks Sporting Goods.
The sun was shining but the usual winds at the championship grid were flexing their muscles as the Grand Champions took the tee. Pat Dempsey picked up right where he left off and smashed balls over 340 yards while others tried to cross the 300 barrier. Other players started getting into the swing of things including LDA Hall of Famer Mike Gorton. As the rounds went on the tension built as Steve Griffith looked like he would stamp his ticket once again in the finals but unfortunately had that one bad round at the wrong time.
The Finals are set for the Grand Champions Today
Gary Ramirez & Jack Crutchfield look for their first trophy as Mike Gorton and Pat Dempsey lead the way to the match play finale
As I watched the Long Drive Legends and warriors take the tee it dawned on me that some of them were in their 5th decade of competition. Simply amazing. There seemed to be a little something special going on around the grid as Bill "Doc" Droege kept advancing through the rounds. He made it to the quarterfinal shootout and on his 6th ball he unleashed a 312 yarder into the wind to grab the top seed. Not bad for the LDA Lifetime Achievement Award winner.
Grabbing the next few spots in the finals are three time Champion Rick Barry, Steve Clement (Ill be back to Steve shortly) and fellow St. Louis Long Drive Team member David Brinker.
Oh, Clement thought he was eliminated and was headed to the parking lot but was called back to the tee for a three ball playoff and with his laces untied he peeled off a 258 yard shot that fortunately didn't get threatened.
SIDE NOTE: Droege had a plane ticket to leave this morning, didn't think he would sniff the finals. He came out here for the achievement award and might go home with the hardware too!
We saved the Ladies for last and boy did they deliver!
Defending Champion Sandra Carlborg also picked up where they left off. WITH HUGE SHOTS. How about over 320 yards into the wind. After multiple sets the solid field kept withering away and 3 were still standing.
Troy Mullins out of So. Cal more known for competing in the womens Mid-Am golf tournament stepped up with her stock driver and peeled off 3 bills.
Also in the finals we welcome Heather Lemaster. What a golfswing and what a great girl!
This shootout should be awesome!