Following last month’s first televised World Long Drive Association (WLDA) event of 2018 at the Clash in the Canyon in Mesquite, Nev., the season continues next week at the Ak-Chin Smash in the Sun. The inaugural event will be staged within the Ak-Chin Indian Community adjacent to the UltraStar Multi-tainment Center at Ak-Chin Circle in Maricopa, Ariz.
The event will feature a 36-man field competing in the Open Division based on World Long Drive rankings, which will include 29 of the top-30 in the current rankings, along with a Women’s Division field of 18 competitors, led by five-time – and defending – World Champion Sandra Carlborg (Alingsas, Sweden) along with Alexis Belton (Ruston, La.), winner of last month’s Clash in the Canyon. World No. 1 – and runner-up at the Clash in the Canyon – Justin James (Jacksonville, Fla.) leads the field in the Open Division, along with 2018 winners to-date Will Hogue (Memphis, Tenn., Clash in the Canyon) and Justin Moose (Columbia, S.C., East Coast Classic).
COVERAGE: Live coverage of the Ak-Chin Smash in the Sun will air in primetime on Golf Channel from 8-10 p.m. ET on Tuesday, May 15, with Golf Central previewing the event from 7-8 p.m. ET. An encore telecast is scheduled to air on Golf Channel from 10 p.m.-Midnight ET.
The production centering around live coverage of the competition will utilize six dedicated cameras, capturing all angles from the hitting platform and the landing grid, including a SuperMo camera as well as two craned-positioned cameras that will track the ball in flight once it leaves the competitor’s clubface. New to 2018 is an overlaid graphic line on the grid, the “DXL Big Drive to Beat,” (similar to the “1st & 10 line” made popular in football) displaying the longest drive during a given match to signify the driving distance an opposing competitor will need to surpass to take the lead. The telecast also will feature a custom graphics package suited to the anomalous swing data typically generated by Long Drive competitors, tracking club speed, ball speed and apex in real-time via Trackman. Trackman technology also will provide viewers with a sense of ball flight, tracing the arc of each drive from the moment of impact.
Morning Drive and Golf Central also will prepare viewers for the Ak-Chin Smash in the Sun through interviews and dedicated segments featuring competitors on-site in Maricopa.
OPEN DIVISION FIELD (in order of World Long Drive ranking): Justin James, Ryan Reisbeck, Maurice Allen, Will Hogue, Tim Burke, Trent Scruggs, Ryan Steenberg, Mitch Grassing, Paul Howell, Landon Gentry, Glenn Wilson Jr., Justin Moose, Kyle Berkshire, Tommy Hug, Nick Kiefer, Kevin Shook, Jason Eslinger, Troy Teal, Steve Monroe, Brady Torbitt, Jeff Gavin, Eddie Fernandes, Jeremy Easterly, Dan McIntosh, Scott Kalamar, Spencer McDaniel, Jim Waldron, Stephen Kois, Patrick Hopper, Josh Cassaday, Press LaBrie, Jeff Crittenden, Jeff Flagg, Mitch Dobbyn, Wes Patterson and Bryan Kelly.
WOMEN’S DIVISION FIELD: Hollie Bartsch, Alexis Belton, Monica Borowicz, Sandra Carlborg, Mary Driscol, Cierra Gaytan, Erin Hess, Jana Jones, Heather Manfredda, Phillis Meti, Rachel Miller, Troy Mullins, Debbie Peever, Alex Phillips, Erin Shireman, Haley Vandenberg, Lisa Vlooswyk and Katherine Wills.
FORMAT: The Open Division field will consist of 36 men broken into four “pods” of nine competitors across four three-minute sets of eight balls each, with a points system being used to identify four from each pod advancing to the Round of 16. From there, five sets of eight balls will determine the eight competitors advancing to take part in the single elimination match play bracket during the live telecast on Golf Channel. The Women’s Division will feature 18 competitors broken into two groups of nine taking part in four sets of eight balls. The top four point-earners from each pod will advance to the single-elimination match play competition beginning with the quarterfinals, with the winners moving on to the semifinals which will play out on Tuesday night’s telecast.
BROADCAST TEAM: A new voice to World Long Drive, veteran sports broadcaster Jonathan Coachman will conduct play-by-play at each of the five WLDA televised events on Golf Channel in 2018. Art Sellinger – World Long Drive pioneer and two-time World champion – will provide analysis, and Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz will offer reports from the teeing platform and conduct interviews with competitors in the field.
2018 VOLVIK WLD CHAMPIONSHIP QUALIFYING & MASTERS DIVISION: As part of the event, the WLDA will stage preliminary and final qualifying for the Open Division on Friday-Saturday, May 11-12, which will award six exemptions into the 2018 Volvik World Long Drive Championship field later this year. Also taking place on Saturday, May 12 will be a Masters Division (ages 45+) competition, with a field of 16 that includes several past World Long Drive champions (Open & Masters Division). The Masters Division format will feature a points system, with each competitor completing five sets of eight balls. The top eight will advance to the single-elimination, match play head-to-head quarterfinals, semifinals and finals.
MASTERS DIVISION FIELD: Don Beck, Kevin Blenkhorn, Jeff Crittenden, Pat Dempsey, Eddie Fernandes, Jeff Gavin, Chris Hall, Kevin Hughes, Dan Lambert, Brian Lawler, Brian Pavlet, Tom Peppard, Bobby Peterson, Lance Reader, Roy Studley.
DIGITAL & SOCIAL MEDIA COVERAGE: Fans can stay up-to-date on all of the action surrounding the Ak-Chin Smash in the Sun by following @GolfChannel and @WorldLongDrive on social media. Golf Channel social media host Alexandra O’Laughlin will be on-site contributing to the social conversation as the event unfolds, and, the telecast will integrate social media-generated content during live coverage on Tuesday, May 15 using the hashtag, #WorldLongDrive.
In addition to the latest video and highlights from on-site, WorldLongDrive.com will feature real-time scoring for the duration of the event, May 11-15. Golf Channel Digital also will feature content from the Ak-Chin Smash in the Sun leading up to and immediately following the live telecast.
2018 WORLD LONG DRIVE ASSOCIATION SCHEDULE:
March 15-17: East Coast Classic, West Columbia, S.C.
April 21-24: Clash in the Canyon (*Golf Channel*, Mesquite, Nev.
May 11-15: Ak-Chin Smash in the Sun (*Golf Channel*), Maricopa, Ariz.
June 4-5: Atlantic City Boardwalk Bash (*Golf Channel*), Atlantic City, N.J.
June 21-23: Bluff City Shootout, Memphis, Tenn.
July 6-8: Bash For Cash, Port Robinson, Ont., Canada
August 2-4: WinStar Midwest Slam, Thackerville, Okla.
August 12-13 Tennessee Big Shots benefiting Niswonger Children’s Hospital (*Golf Channel*), Kingsport, Tenn.
September 1-5: Volvik World Long Drive Championship (*Golf Channel*), Thackerville, Okla.
Showcasing the truly global nature of World Long Drive, several events will be staged in 2018 through officially sanctioned WLDA international partners, including stops in Germany, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom. Additionally, an all-encompassing international qualifier will be staged (late summer) featuring a minimum of four exemptions into the Open Division of the Volvik World Long Drive Championship in September.