The 2017 Volvik World Long Drive Championships, presented by Performance Inspired, ended as they began, with a bang. When Justin James launched a staggering 435-yard drive in his championship match against Mitch Grassing, the tournament's second-seeded player guaranteed himself his first championship in the Men's Open Division and elevated himself to the WLDA's #1 ranked player. In the woman's division, long drive legend Sandra Calrborg won her record fifth title, emerging victorious with a 320-yard drive in her finals match against a game Heather Manfredda.
It was a fitting culmination to a remarkable competition, one that saw athletes from around the world battling over the course of five days for the WLDA's signature prize. Both championship winners have deep roots in the WLDA — James' father Gerry is a former champion in the Masters (age 45+) division — and both reflect the best of what the sport is all about.
For Carlborg, this week's focus was regaining her primacy after last year's disappointing third place finish. After championship runs in 2011, '12, '14, and '15, nothing less than a first place finish was sufficient. "I'd been working so hard the whole year to get my title back," she said after the match. "The sport has grown so much with so many good players. I'm so happy."
A humbled James, who utilizes Performance Inspired products in his training, found himself struggling to describe his emotion following his triumph. "There's no words to describe it. It's the best thing ever. I'm really happy to win for my dad. I'm really happy to pull this one out for him. If it weren't for him I wouldn't be doing this."
Family, legacy and furious struggle were the order of the day at the WLDA Championships conducted at the WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackersville, Oklahoma. In a testimony to the sport's ascendant profile and ever-growing prestige, the season-ending shootout was broadcast live by Golf Channel and reached as many as 300 million homes in 65 countries worldwide. With two new champions crowned and a forthcoming season of spectacular events planned, buckle up for more high-octane action coming soon.