21st August
Long Drive Championship 2015

Overall Champion: Dan Konyk
Ladies Champion: Rebecca McGinley
Over 45s Champion: Steve Kent

Friday night saw the conclusion of the first ever American Golf Long Drive Championship. Over 1150 contestants had been whittled down to the 15 regional winners who went into Long Drive battle at the American Golf National Academy.

The competition was world class in the three categories; Ladies, Over 45 and Under 45. Five qualifiers in each category played in a round robin format hitting 3 balls each match to decide which two would progress to the category final. Contestants were required to pull out their biggest drives but also to keep with the boundaries of a landing grid.

From the off it was clear that competition would be tight with the early matches being decided by a matter of yards. In the Ladies competition, 13 year old Abbi Gallagher-Rowlands put the first points on the board with a drive of 224 before Becky Tilke and Rebecca McGinley both recorded drives of 238 yards for their first round win.

Tilke then moved up a gear to hit 242 yards in her third match, a drive which would secure her a place in the final on long drive count back. With the second final spot up for grabs LET access Tour player Rebecca McGinley loosed her shoulders and hit drives of 283, 311 and 321 yards in her third match to secure a final spot and stun the crowd.

Qualifying in the other categories was just as tense. The over 45’s saw two clear favourites emerge with Charles Seo hitting 332 yards and Steve Kent 336 yards in their first matches. These two stayed ahead of the pack before meeting in the final round robin match to decide the group winner. Drives of 327 from Kent and 333 from Seo saw the New Moldon golfer top the group and set up a hotly anticipated final.

By the time of the Under 45 category, rain was falling hard making secure swings very difficult. Dave Benford from Sheffield set the early pace with drives of 324 and 326 yards while the rest of the field struggled for consistency. Andy Fox, Kyle Shultz, Martin Holder and Dan Konyk each recorded wins before Konyk emerged as the man to take on Benford in the final.

With the final pairings made, the rain continued to fall hard. Each contestant had 6 balls in the final in two sets of three. First up were the ladies with standout qualifier Rebecca McGinley taking on Becky Tilke. Tilke’s first two drives went out to 217 yards, a figure she was unable to better. But McGinley was a model of consistency, hitting her first four drives over 270 yards with the winning hit reaching 279.

Kent and Seo then took the stage to resume their closely fough battle. Kent hit his first two drives out of bounds before smashing his third 328 yards through driving rain. Seo then warmed up with a 305 before falling tantalisingly short of Kent at 324. Kent matched that 324 in his second set of three but Seo couldn’t improve leaving Kent the category winner.

Finally the two young guns stepped up. Dan Konyk, a well known face on the world long drive scene, taking on 21 year old Dave Benford. Each competitors first set of three saw them struggle with the conditions, Konyk registering two drives of 305 yards and Benford failing to get a drive in the qualifying area. Murmurs started to go round the crowd that Over 45 winner Kent might just win the whole competition outright. Konyk stepped up for his final set of three drives and ripped his first effort an enormous distance. News came back from the official measurers that he’d hit 333 yards taking him to the lead in the category and putting one foot firmly on the plane to the world long drive championships.

With the target set, Benford gave it his all to better Konyk’s mark but struggled for control. He failed to register a qualifying drive in his final three leaving Dan Konyk as the first ever American Golf Long Drive Champion.

Konyk commented, “This is one of the most satisfying titles I’ve won. I was laid up with a cold when I qualified at my local American Golf and today the tough conditions and quality competition have pushed me all the way. I struggled to get loose early on but managed to rip one in the final that was just enough. This has been a great event and I’m really excited to go on and represent American Golf and Garmin at the World Long Drive Championship.”