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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Re/Max World Long Drive Championship

One Shining Moment

The place to be in Las Vegas golf in November was the Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort, the home of three Pete Dye golf courses. On November 4, the eight longest drivers of a golf ball on Earth took to an elevated tee in a golf stadium on the Snow and Sun Mountain driving range at the resort to determine the King of Distance. The RE/MAX World Long Drive Championship was televised live on Golf Channel and a large crowd watched from the grand stands and standing-room-only areas as the golfers battled wind and cold to determine the world champion.

Coming out on top with a final drive of 365 yards was former Mississippi State and minor league baseball player Jeff Flagg, who beat the oldest player in the event, Jeff Crittenden, by a mere 13 inches in the final match. Crittenden, 43 years old, won his quarterfinal and semi-final matches by a combined total of less than two yards, but his Vegas luck ran out in the final against Flagg, a relative newcomer to the sport.

“I thought I had him,” says Flagg, “but if there’s anything I learned from baseball it’s that you can’t get too high or too low until it’s a done deal.” Flagg took up long driving after his baseball career at Mississippi State University (where he was teammates with fellow Las Vegas 8 competitor Connor Powers) and a few years with the New York Mets organization.

Crosswinds and crisp temperatures created a challenging environment, making it difficult for all players to hit the grid or reach the distances to which they have become accustomed. Qualifying yardages in Mesquite hit as high as 469 yards but were consistently at more than 400 yards in calm conditions. Headlining the field of eight heading into the night were returning former champions Joe Miller of London, England, and Jamie Sadlowski of St. Paul, Alberta, Canada, who faced off early in the telecast, with Miller winning. The other competitors included: Daniel Beckman, Fresno, California; Matt Hanger, Anaheim, California; Connor Powers, Naperville, Illinois; and Adam Smith, Tomball, Texas.

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