Winther sets new record to win Utah long drive title

Champion Ryan Winther at the Interstate Batteries Utah State Long Drive Championships at Coral Canyon Golf Course, Washington, Utah, June 29, 2013. | Photo by Chris Caldwell, St. George News

WASHINGTON, UT. – With the green at Coral Canyon Golf Course’s first hole 448 yards from the tee box, one would think it would be safe from the long drivers. But then, World Long Drive champ Ryan Winther never played Coral Canyon before.

Winther peppered the first green at CCGC and easily became the champion at the Interstate Batteries Utah Long Drive Championships here Saturday night. Winther hit a 441-yard drive in the men’s open semifinals to beat Greg Walker, then blasted a 438-yarder to beat defending Utah champion Chad Klein in the finals.

“Oh, I hit that one good,” Winther said, just after hammering his fourth ball (of six) in the finals. That one was the winning shot, although he hit his previous shot even longer, but out of bounds. “I just love these smaller events and interacting with the crowds and stuff. It was a lot of fun.”

Winther, from Sacramento, came to town at the request of Walker, his friend, and Devin Dixon, who sponsors the event through ESPN Sports Radio 1210AM.

“It was very cool to have Ryan Winther here,” Dixon said. “We’re always around 400 or so, but 438 and 441 is just ridiculous.”

To Klein’s credit, he hammered some long balls in the finals as well. His third shot in the alternating sequence went 420 yards. But Winther had already nailed one 432 and Klein knew it would take a career shot to even have a chance.”

“To hit against the world’s best was amazing,” Klein said. “My career-best is 431, so that wouldn’t even have done it. But it was fun and I love hitting with all these guys. We’re real close.”

The event featured age group events as well as an amateur open division and then the top division, the men’s open. The top eight men qualified for the open match-play bracket with seedings one through eight.

Winther was the top seed with a 407 in qualifying. Klein, who won last year with a drive of 390 in a heavy headwind, barely qualified for the bracket as the seventh seed. But his experience showed in the bracket rounds as he beat Ben Tuonone 407-375 in the quarterfinals and downed Jim Carriel 417-376 in the semifinals.

Winther, meanwhile, beat Andy Levine 436-392 in the quarters before downing Walker by 42 yards in the semis.

“I have two rules that I like to play by,” Winther said. “The first one is swing fast. The second one is have fun. I had fun today.”

This is the ninth year of the long drive championships in southern Utah.

Some of the other winners include:

Women’s open
Taylor Bandley, 287.35 yards
Junior, 17 and under
James Tidwell, 393 yards
Men’s 45+
Greg Walker, 419 yards
Men’s amateur open
Kyle Chappell, 385 yards
Men’s 52+
Greg Walker, 373 yards
Men’s 60+
David Watson, 350 yards
Salisbury Homes Shootout
First place, Matt McArthur
Sunrise Tire Putting
First place, Rich Gardner

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Twitter: @oldschoolag

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

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