Military Long Drive finalist
Retired Sgt. 1st Class John Merritt, seen here driving the ball 357 yards during the 2007 Military Long Drive Championship in Mesquite, Nev., earned a trip to the 2009 Military Long Drive Championship presented by 7UP with a 364-yard drive at Fort Belvoir, Va., on Aug. 9. Twenty finalists will tee it up in Mesquite on Oct. 27-28 to compete for $10,000 and bragging rights as the longest driver in uniform.

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (Sept. 9, 2009) - Utah Army National Guard Capt. Jeremy Williams is the early leader in the clubhouse as local qualifying rounds wind down in the 2009 Military Long Drive Championship presented by 7UP.

Williams drove a golf ball 418 yards on a blustery day at Cheyenne Shadows Golf Club on Aug. 15 while 30-mile-per-hour winds swept across the mountain post of Fort Carson, Colo.

The gusts were so strong that Military Long Drive officials had to move 16 big hitters onto a backup grid to escape tailwinds that carried balls beyond the confines of the 400-yard grid and into an adjacent parking lot.

"Three of the first four hitters hit the parking lot, and we knew we were in for an exciting time," said PGA Professional Frank Jacobson, manager of Cheyenne Shadows. "By the time the three-hour qualifier was completed, 16 players had hit the ball more than 400 yards."

Jacobson then moved the competitors onto No. 1, which measured 410 yards to the center of the green, with a recently watered fairway.

"With a cross wind and wet landing conditions, we knew we would not run out of landing area," Jacobsen said.

The first several hitters' longest drives came to rest around the 345-yard mark. Air Force Lt. Col. Rich Kolberg took the lead with a drive of 367 yards, only to be surpassed by Air Force Capt. Mikael DuBois' seemingly insurmountable 401-yard blast.

Williams responded with a winning drive of 418 yards that rolled to the back fringe of the green and earned him a spot in the 20-man finals of the Military Long Drive Championship, scheduled for Oct. 27-28 in Mesquite, Nev.

The local winners on 20 installations around the world will advance to the Military Long Drive finals in the desert oasis golf and casino resort town 80 miles north of Las Vegas.

Comparing the preliminary results is somewhat like comparing apples and oranges because of varying conditions at the local venues. For example, Williams posted the best qualifying drive to date in the thin air of Fort Carson, elevation 5,835 feet. But all golfers will compete on the same grid when they arrive in Nevada.

Navy Petty Officer 1st Class James Packard earned a trip to Mesquite with a drive of 383 yards at Camp Zama, Japan. Army Sgt. 1st Class (ret.) John Merritt's 364-yard blast at Fort Belvoir, Va., earned him another trip to the finals.

Army Sgt. Jason Dangel's blast of 360 yards prevailed on The Courses of Clear Creek at Fort Hood, Texas. Army Maj. John Tulifua of Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, won his local event with a drive of 357 yards on the Leilehua Golf Course, another Army Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command-operated facility.

The FMWRC-sponsored Military Long Drive Championship is now in its third year. The event's field of finalists was expanded from six to 20 servicemembers who will earn an all-expenses-paid trip to Mesquite, where they will receive the red-carpet treatment on their way to the driving green.

Air Force Reserve Staff Sgt. Carl Taylor punched his third ticket to Mesquite with a 357-yard drive on Aug. 22 at Fort Campbell, Ky. Taylor finished runner-up to Army Reserve Pvt. Nate Chadwick at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., on Aug. 15, but he refused to be denied a return to Nevada for his third consecutive appearance in the finals.

Army National Guard Chief Warrant Officer 2 Bynum "Rocky" Alumbaugh won with a 356-yard drive at Fort Benning, Ga. Daniel Ridgeway took the qualifier at Fort Bliss, Texas, with a drive of 350 yards, the same distance Air Force National Guard Tech Sgt. Jeffrey Johnston won with at Fort Huachuca, Ariz.

Army Staff Sgt. Tafuna Oney prevailed in Heidelberg, Germany, with a 346-yard drive. Oney defeated two-time Military Long Drive Championship finalist Staff Sgt. Bryan King, who finished second in Heidelberg at 336 yards.
James Agate of Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base, Calif., prevailed at Naval Air Station North Island, Calif., with a 343-yard blast on the Sea N Air Golf Course.

Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Kenneth Leonard defeated Air Force Airman 1st Class Eric Dasher in a playoff at Fort Lewis, Wash., after they tied in regulation with drives of 338 yards.

Army Sgt. 1st Class (ret.) Nathan Allen won with a 338-yard drive at Fort McPherson, Ga.

At the U.S. Army Garrison in Yongsan, Korea, Army Sgt. Kelsey Steiner of Camp Hovey qualified for the finals with a 336-yard drive at Sung Nam Golf Course. Chadwick prevailed at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., with a drive of 333 yards.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Todd Sneed advanced with a drive of 326 yards at Fort Sill, Okla. Nathan Damon's 324-yard blast was a winner at Fort Dix, N.J. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Ron Batten of Robins Air Force Base, Ga., prevailed with a 318-yarder at Fort Jackson, S.C.

The final two local qualifiers are scheduled for Sept. 12 at Fort Lee, Va., and Sept. 19 at Fort Bragg, N.C., where all eligible competitors are welcome to take one more swing at making the finals in Mesquite.

(Tim Hipps writes for FMWRC Public Affairs.)

Page last updated Wed September 9th, 2009 at 15:54