By Mr. Tim Hipps (FMWRC)October 29, 2008
MESQUITE, Nev. - U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Hixson won the 2008 Military Long Drive Championship presented by 7UP with a 389-yard drive on his third shot of the final round Oct. 23 in this desert oasis golf and casino resort town.
"I was hitting it pretty much as good as I could," said Hixson, whose first two balls of the finals came to rest 375 and 384 yards from the tee. "I was catching it tonight."
Hixson also blasted balls straight down the middle of the grid, which proved elusive for many of the six Military Long Drive Championship finalists.
Brandon Boehmer, a former Army sergeant whose wife, 2nd Lt. Simone Boehmer, is stationed at Camp Zama, Japan, squared off against Hixson in the finals at Mesquite. In keeping with the Army Family Covenant's promise to support the entire Army Family, the competition was open to all authorized military Morale, Welfare and Recreation patrons.
"I'm not afraid to say it, I'm a housewife," said Brandon, who was deployed in Afghanistan from Thanksgiving Day 2002 until Dec. 10, 2003. "I'm a working housewife, but I'm a housewife now. I was enlisted and she wanted to be an officer, so it was one of the two of us."
Boehmer, who met his wife at Fort Bragg, N.C., finished second in Mesquite with a longest drive of 364 yards in the second qualifying round. His best drive in the finale was 341 yards.
"The first couple of rounds went awesome," Boehmer said. "The last round didn't go as hot as I thought it should have, but it was alright. I've been through enough stuff in my life that I don't get nervous. I was just over-swinging. I got it in my head that I had to go a little bit further than he did."
That, after all, is the object of the sport, but long drivers also must keep the ball on the grid.
"I tried too hard," said Boehmer, who took up the sport just six months before the finals in Mesquite. "Got to back off a little bit and hit the ball straighter. It happens. I'll be back again. It was a disappointing final, but the whole show was awesome from start to finish."
Boehmer plans to get bulked up for next year's long-drive competition.
"My workout partners back home have already called me three times between walking from the grid to the tent," he said. "They wanted to know how I did, and they said it's time to get to work in the weight room."
Hixson, who successfully defended his 2007 Military Long Drive Championship, won another $10,000, which he said is "already spent" on his wedding set for Nov. 21 on the beach in St. Petersburg, Fla., where he will marry Helen Craver of Chesapeake, Va.
"It meant a lot to have her here and my family - my mom, dad, aunts and grandparents were here," Hixson said. "To win it in front of them was special."
For one week in the desert, however, Hixson put the sounds of wedding bells on hold.
"I told my fiancAfA that this week she was not allowed to talk about the wedding," he said. "It's very important, it is, but at the same time, it's stressful. So I told her this week she could talk with my mom and dad about it, but she wasn't allowed to talk to me about it.
"I just tried to come out here and be focused and just be in the moment - and just focus on what I had to do out here and put everything else on the side."
Having already won a military long drive title, Hixson felt right at home in Mesquite, where he won an exemption into the 2009 RE/MAX World Long Drive Championships.
"I've been there before, so I was really relaxed up there," said Hixson, who launched a 376-yard blast in the second round. "The other guys you could tell were a little on edge. In the second round, some of them started hitting it a little better, but it's a little nerve-wracking your first time here.
"Once you've been through it and know the process, it's a great time out there. I just wanted to make the most of it."
By virtue of his military victory here in 2007, Hixson was entered in the 2008 RE/MAX World Long Drive Championships, but he failed to reach the final round on Saturday night.
Hixson and Boehmer were joined in Mesquite by Army Staff Sgt. Bryan King, Idaho Army National Guard Sgt. Ben Wood, Air Force Reserve Staff Sgt. Carl Taylor and Navy dependent Kyle Blakely.
King, 30, who is stationed in Bamberg, Germany, hails from Mesquite, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. His longest drive was 353 yards in the second round of the Military Long Drive Championship - 16 yards shorter than his longest drive here in 2007.
"I injured my right wrist two weeks ago and wasn't able to hit until six days ago," said King, who earned a berth in the finals with local and regional victories in Heidelberg, Germany, with drives of 355 and 352 yards. "I was lifting weights at the gym and just lifted wrong. I actually told my wife, coming in, that I didn't expect too much, unfortunately. Of course I tried my hardest, but I knew my swing speed wasn't where it was three weeks ago.
"I just wasn't able to come through the ball like I needed to."
Taylor had an even rougher night. He did not come keep a single ball on the grid with his mighty 12 drives.
The morning after, as golfers and long drivers boarded carts for a Pro-Am Scramble at the Oasis Golf Club, Long Drivers of America CEO Art Sellinger joked with Taylor that he "created a new zip code for Mesquite: 0-4-12."
Taylor, 43, of Troy, Ill., could only laugh it off.
"Last night, I just kind of let it go and started making jokes about it," he said. "I went 0-for-6 and then 0-for-12. I told myself that I was here last year and I was nervous; and I wanted to come this year and get it done. It just didn't happen.
"I didn't hit me until this morning when I woke up at about 4 o'clock. Then it hit me. I worked all year to get here and then blew it, but I had fun while I was here. Everybody took care of us. It was an awesome experience. I'm coming back next year."
Taylor reached the finals by winning a local competition at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and a regional at Cheyenne Shadows Golf Club on Fort Carson, Colo.
"MWR did it up right," he said. "It was awesome."