By Mr. Tim Hipps (FMWRC)November 8, 2010
MESQUITE, Nev. - U.S Coast Guard Ensign Ryan Hixson won his fourth consecutive Military Long Drive Championship presented by 7UP with a winning drive of 358 yards Nov. 3 at Mesquite Regional Park.
Hixson put the winning ball on the grid with his first drive in the final round of the Army Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command event against challenger Chief Warrant Officer 2 Rocky Alumbaugh of the Florida Army National Guard at Cecil Field, Fla.
It was the only swing Hixson needed in the final round to maintain his crown.
"I told myself when I hit my first three it was going to be my last three," Hixson said. "Once I hit it 358, I didn't think Rocky had 358 in him."
Alumbaugh was not sure, either.
"He hit a low burner, wow, he killed it," Alumbaugh said of Hixson's winning drive. "He put a big number up there and just made me try harder to get a hold of one. It was nerve-wracking. I could barely tee up the ball."
Hixson's second and third shots of the final showdown were out of bounds, but his 358-yarder topped Alumbaugh's six-ball, final-round best of 328 yards, which allowed Hixson to forego his final three swings of the night.
"They were climbers," Alumbaugh said of his drives of 315, 325, 298, and 328 yards in the finale against Hixson. His other two shots were out of bounds. "The wind picked up, I got too much spin on it, and they just started climbing into the wind.
"I wasn't hitting them as good as I was earlier, but I had my chance. I'm happy. I can't complain."
Hixson was atop his game from the outset, posting marks of 376, a tournament-best 387, 354, 378, 365 and another 387 in the first round of competition.
"I was really focused this year and determined to win," explained Hixson, whose post-victory interview was briefly interrupted by reigning Australian Long Drive champion Mark Bylsma, who stopped by to belly dance for the four-time U.S. military champion. "He told me earlier today, 'Captain America, if you win tonight, I might do a special dance for you.'"
Hixson also received a trophy, $10,000 and an exemption into the 2011 RE/MAX World Long Drive Championships powered by Dick's Sporting Goods.
Hixson was the only Military Long Drive competitor who kept six balls on the grid in the first round. He followed with four more - 319, 354, 355, 344 - in the second round before hitting back-to-back out of bounds shots.
After two rounds, Air Force Capt. Mikael DuBois, 28, of Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City, was in second place with a longest drive of 367 yards. He was eliminated in the semifinals by Alumbaugh, who outdrove DuBois, 346-327, for a shot at Hixson in the finale.
In the other semifinal pairing, Hixson escaped by one yard. His 363-yard drive nipped a 362-yarder by Army Staff Sgt. Kelsey Steiner, 31, of Camp Hovey, Korea. Hixson, however, did not need his final three swings to advance.
"I was like, shoot, I've got to go up against Ryan now," Alumbaugh said. "I've got to focus."
Alumbaugh, whose stocky build and tee-box demeanor resembles that of big-screen boxer Rocky Balboa, elicited several classic one-liners from the crowd, such as 'C'mon, Rocky, do it for Adrianna.'"
Alumbaugh blocked everything out and heard nothing but "silence" in the early rounds, but he appreciated the verbal support in the finals.
"The crowd out there supporting me, that was awesome," Alumbaugh said. "I've never had anybody scream for me like that. That truly was a once in a lifetime experience and I really appreciate it.
"This experience probably ranks top two in my life behind marrying my beautiful wife, Jessica," added Alumbaugh, a maintenance test pilot for CH-47 Delta helicopters. "She's an IS1 in the Navy. She works in intelligence. You know how they say opposites attract' It's true in our case."
Alumbaugh, whose game plan was to "tee it up high, swing hard, and see what happens," was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support throughout his week in Mesquite.
"I can't get enough of people coming up and saying 'thank you for what you do,' he said. "That's the best feeling.
"Last weekend, I was at an air show in Jacksonville, Florida, and a little girl came up to me with these little coins that said 'I salute you. Thank you for your service.' She popped to attention, cut me a salute, and handed me a coin. If that doesn't put a tear in your eye, I don't know what will."
Conditions were almost perfect for the event with temperatures in the upper-70s to low-80s and a headwind of about 15 miles per hour.
The 2010 Military Long Drive Championship will be televised Dec. 25 on ESPN.
The semifinals and finals were head-to-head competitions. The results after the quarterfinals of the 2010 Military Long Drive Championship presented by 7UP on Nov. 3 in Mesquite, Nev., were:
1. Coast Guard Ensign Ryan Hixson, Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas, 387 yards;
2. Air Force Capt. Mikael DuBois, Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., 367 yards;
3. Florida Army National Guard Chief Warrant Officer 2 Rocky Alumbaugh, Cecil Field, Fla.,
4. Army Staff Sgt. Kelsey Steiner, Camp Hovey, Korea, 366 yards;
5. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Nathan Damon, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., 363;
6. Utah Army National Guard Army Capt. Jeremy Williams, 360 yards;
7. Army 2nd Lt. Preston Collich, Fort Rucker, Ala., 352 yards;
8. Nevada Army National Guard Pfc. Chad Duncan, Las Vegas Armory, 350 yards;
9. Army Family member Brandon Boehmer, Camp Zama, Japan, 346 yards;
10. Army Staff Sgt. Bryan King, Bamberg, Germany, 344 yards.