ST. GEORGE – Reigning World Long Drive Champion Ryan Winther was at the old St. George Airport Wednesday afternoon trying to chase down the world record of the longest drive ever recorded.
“The mark to beat is 802 yards,” said Winther. The current record was also set at an airport, in Dubai. Airports are a popular place to challenge the record due to the long airport runways.
On Wednesday afternoon, Winther initially set up his tee mat facing north as the wind conditions were blowing in a slight northeasterly direction. The drives soared between 450-550 yards in the air, but the wind conditions prevented Winther’s shots from getting the bounce needed to break the record. As the balls struck pavement the wind pushed them off the runways into the gravel where the balls died quickly. Winther did have one drive go 705 yards.
He then changed position, hitting toward the south, in an effort to keep the wind from interfering with the bounce. Hitting from the new position required Winther to hit against the wind however and the ball stayed in the air at a lesser distance than from the former position. Also disrupting the bounce were the grooved runways. Several of the balls that stayed on the runway were slowed considerably by the grooves.
Winther already holds two world records. In August, 2012, he became the fastest golfer ever recorded with a ball speed record of 226.7 mph. Also in late 2012, Winther, along with Comcast Sports, filmed a special at Wenti Vineyards where he set the Guinness Book of World Records mark for longest carry drive on a golf course, under 1,000-meter elevation with a carry drive of 430 yards.
Though he did not set another record, the normally subdued Winther stayed upbeat. “We have three more days here. Perhaps we will get a day with more favorable wind conditions.”
Winther’s powerful drives were so long that they exceeded the capabilities of the rangefinders being used by onlookers. In attendance was Greg Walker, the Utah Senior Division Long Ball Champion.
“He does not say much, but he doesn’t need to,” Walker said. “He lets his skills and equipment to his talking for him.”
Winther is in St. George competing Thursday through Saturday at Coral Canyon in the Utah State Long Drive Championship. Along with Winther, several other LDA Pros, including locals Logan Leavitt, Chad Kline (last year’s Men’s Open champ) and Walker as well as other competitors throughout Southern Utah and the West will make up another terrific field.
There are seven divisions to compete in for the long drive: Men’s Senior 45 and up, Super Senior 52 and up, Masters 60 and up, Men’s Amateur Open, Men’s Open, Women’s Open, and the Junior Division (17 and under).
There are several other exciting events taking place within the Long Drive competition. The Zion Golf Accuracy Zone and the Wingnutz Hot Zone will give competitors a chance to win prizes on the spot. Another event open to the public is the Salisbury Homes Hole-in-One Shootout. The daily top eight qualifiers will go to the finals and get one shot for a chance to get a hole-in-one and win a home valued at $250,000. The public may also compete in the Sunrise Tire Putting Contest with qualifying rounds starting at 4 p.m.-8 p.m., on June 27.
The World Long Drive Championships are sponsored by Re/Maxx Realty and the Utah competition was brought to southern Utah by ESPN Sports Radio 1210.
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