ORLANDO — Local golfer Justin Young will be returning for his third appearance in the World Long Drive Championship this fall after qualifying in Florida.
Young, a North Surry and Surry Community College golfer, finished second in a regional event in South Carolina a month ago, then took third in the qualifying tournament here recently.
In 2012, Young performed well enough at a qualifying event to earn entry into the ReMax Long Drive Championship in Mesquite, Nev. There he finished sixth in the world, which earned him a spot in the championship for 2013.
Last October, Young cranked out drives as long as 400 yards, but eventually fell before reaching the final eight. He lost that exemption and had to earn his way back into the field.
It’s tougher to make the cut this year, said Young. The field was 192 players deep last year, but this September only 128 will get in.
Young said he was breathing a sigh of relief in Orlando after making the final four and securing his return to Nevada.
In fact, Young said he was so relieved to qualify that he wasn’t bearing down and concentrating in the finals. He said he’d been crushing the ball well throughout the qualifier, but he had to go through several rounds and put out a lot of effort on a day when both the temperature and humidity were pushing 100.
He had trouble keeping his drives inbounds in the finals and finished third.
The qualifier had 60 strong competitors and was nearly as tough as the world championships, said Young.
The conditions were tough, too, and the numbers would look very pedestrian to those who didn’t witness it firsthand, he believed.
In the regional event in Greenville, South Carolina, the temperature was close to 100, too, but Young said he still finished the finals with a drive of 406 yards that gave him the lead. Then the last competitor beat him with a drive of 414 on the last ball.
In Orlando, however, Young said he had a long drive of only 336 yards. The humidity slows the ball down, then there was wind blowing directly into the golfers’ faces, he said. And the landing grid where the balls were bouncing was slightly uphill, so drives weren’t getting favorable bounces, either.
By finishing in the top four, Young said he accomplished his task, which made the 615-mile drive down from Surry County worth it.
Now he can focus on preparing for Nevada Sept. 24-27.
Last year with so many entrants, the event lasted five days, so this will be one day shorter, he said. If he can make the final field of eight, then he should be a little fresher.
At the start of the year, Young signed a sponsorship deal with golf giant Callaway.
Callaway Golf started a team of long-drive standouts it calls the Kings of Distance, explained Young. The team had 10 guys last year, and he was one of three added to the team this winter.
Callaway has its hands in lots of different equipment fields, and Young will get plenty of freebies such as golf shirts, pants, gloves, hats, towels, bags and most importantly Callaway’s latest and greatest clubs.
Callaway’s equipment technology and research/development team are top-notch, according to Young. And being a part of its Kings of Distance team means that he can earn extra incentive money if he performs well in events.