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June Golf Article - Long Drive Field Down To 16 At Tennessee Shootout

The Greeneville Sun, June 16, 2017

Long Drive Field Down To 16 At Tennessee Shootout

By Tate Russell, Sun Sports Writer
All images courtesy of The Greeneville Sun, Photographer:  Tate Russell

The defending champ made things look easy, a newcomer put up the big number, the hometown hero squeaked by and a girl smacked a shot that had everybody talking on the first day of the Laughlin Memorial Hospital Tennessee Long Drive Shootout.

The field was narrowed from 35 to 16 on Thursday in the 17th edition of the event, played on the first hole of Knobs Nine at Graysburg Hills Golf Course.  Today some of the world’s top long drivers will compete for a $10,000 top prize in the finals.

The finals will start after the pro-am charity tournament, with an estimated start time of 3 p.m.

Will Hogue, the defending Tennessee Shootout champ and top-ranked long driver in the world, made easy work of the first nine-man grouping of the day and advanced to the finals in just two rounds of hitting.

Hogue advanced through Group A with a long of 385 in the winners’ bracket final.

“I think I performed well today. Going win-win in a tough bracket is something I’m pleased with,” Hogue said.  “I struggled to find the grid a little at first, but once I found it I felt good.”

“Getting through early definitely made the rest of the day less stressful.  It was nice to be able to relax in the afternoon, to get off of my feet and enjoy watching the other guys.”

In addition to winning the 2016 Shootout, Hogue has twice finished in second place at the Graysburg Hills tournament and hopes that a good finish tomorrow can get his season going in the right direction after a slow start.

“The grid fits my eye really well,” Hogue said.  “I feel very comfortable when I’m up there looking at it and feel like I can swing freely.  There is a little bit of dog-leg to the right, which works for the fade I hit.  It’s a place that is set up for me to do well.”

“I have really struggled so far this year and this is typically a tournament I do well at, so I’m hoping I can use this to get going for the rest of the year.”

The big drive of the day also came out of Group A with Mitch Grassing pounding a ball 413 yard through Thursday’s thick, humid air.

“Hitting the ball solid and getting a big number always feels great, especially against guys like this that are out here,” Grassing said.  “You have so many of the best guys in the world and to out-drive them is a great feeling.  I’ve been hitting the ball good recently, but hitting that big ball on a narrow grid like this is always key.”

Grassing is competing in the Tennessee Shootout for the first time, but after day one the 21-year-old Canadian feels good about his chances of cashing a big check on Friday.

“If I hit the ball tomorrow like I did today I think I will be in pretty good shape,” Grassing said.  “I was hitting really good today and feel like if I can bring that again tomorrow I will have a chance.”

Grassing and Randy Hunt (374 yards) advanced out of the elimination bracket in Group A, while Steve Monroe was also two-and-through with a drive of 372 yards in the winners’ bracket final.

The 35 golfers were split into four groups on Thursday – A, B, C and D – and hit in sub-groupings of four or five competitors.  Golfers had to finish outside of the bottom two of their subgroup to advance.  Finishing in the bottom two twice ended a hitter’s day.

In Group B, Kevin Shook and Paul Howell advanced through the winners’ bracket to today’s final with long drives of 380 yards and 374 yards, respectively.  Howell entered the Shootout ranked 10th in the world, while Shook sits at 13th.

The reigning women’s long drive world champion, Phillis Meti, did her best to play spoiler on Thursday but came up about two bounces short.

Trying to work through the elimination bracket in Group B, Meti had to beat 359 yards with her last of eight balls.  The New Zealander unloaded on the dimpled sphere and sent it down the narrow grid 353 yards, coming up just short.

Travis Britt (374) and Patrick Hopper (373) were the other two competitors to advance out of Group B.

In the afternoon session, Glenn Wilson cruised through Group C with drives of 390 yards and 407 yards.  Kyle Berkshire, a 20-year old who is on the golf team at the University of North Texas, also came out of the winner’s bracket with a long drive of 388 yards.

Tommy Hug, the sixth ranked long driver in the world, came through the elimination bracket with a 389-yard drive to advance.  Justin James, the seventh ranked long driver in the world, advanced with a drive of 380 yards.

Group D was nip and tuck the whole way with measurements required to determine who advanced through the winner’s bracket and who made the finals through the elimination bracket.

Trent Scruggs, ranked fourth in the world, was the top hitter with a drive of 396 yards, but Brady Torbitt and Maurice Allen had to get out a yard stick to see who was going to take the second spot out of the group.  Torbitt, a Knoxville resident, beat out Allen by 23 inches with a drive of 395 yards, one foot and nine inches.

Allen then hit a ball 384 yards to get through the elimination bracket.

Greeneville native and Jacksonville, Florida resident Jeremy Easterly was the last player to make Friday’s field of 16.  He put up a drive of 369 yards in the elimination finals of Group D, but had to wait for Aaron Mansfield, the last driver of the day, to finish.  Then there was a measurement and Mansfield came up one yard short.

Photo:  Defending Tennessee Shootout champion Will Hogue swings at a ball on Thursday at Graysburg Hills Golf Course.

Photo:  Tennessee Long Drive Shootout newcomer Mitch Grassing had the long drive of the day with a 413 yard blast at Graysburg Hills.

Photo:  Ladies Long Drive World Champion Phillis Meti makes contact with a ball on Thursday in the Laughlin Memorial Hospital Tennessee Long Drive Shootout at Graysburg Hills