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This Grand Strand golf event will be the focus of an hour-long national TV show

Finals of the World Long Drive Championship at Barefoot Resort

Scenes from Barefoot Resort on Saturday as the three finalists compete in the second Amateur Long Drive Championship, which was created and is operated by area resident Jeff Gilder.
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Scenes from Barefoot Resort on Saturday as the three finalists compete in the second Amateur Long Drive Championship, which was created and is operated by area resident Jeff Gilder.

A television audience throughout the U.S. will be able to see the extent to which a golf event that was created on the Grand Strand has grown in its second year.

The finals of the burgeoning Amateur Long Drive World Championship were held Friday and Saturday at the Barefoot Golf Resort driving range, and it featured 134 competitors from 25 states as well as South Africa, United Kingdom, Venezuela and Canada.

The competition was live streamed on the amateurlongdrive.com website, and was filmed by Lucky Dog Television Productions of Conway for a one-hour edited highlight show to be broadcast on the Stadium sports network. The highlight show will primarily feature the three finalists who faced off early Saturday evening.

Stadium is a new multi-platform sports network that was founded in April 2017.

Stadium is available in more than 60 markets across the U.S. as a television network, and it is also available free to viewers at WatchStadium.com, the Stadium iOS and tvOS apps, Stadium Android app, Twitter (@WatchStadium), Pluto TV Channel 207, and Facebook and Instagram channels.

It can be found locally on HTC local channel 4, WWMB Channel 21-3 in Myrtle Beach and Florence, and cable channels on Charter and Frontier.

Three-time Re/MAX long drive world champion Sean “The Beast” Fister and reigning World Long Drive Masters Division champion Jeff Crittenden were analysts on the television taping with Brian Stefan, a host of the Myrtle Beach Golf Channel.

The world champions also took part in interviews and awards presentations.

There were qualifiers in six U.S. locations to reach the finals, including one Thursday at Barefoot.

A stiff wind that was generally between 10 and 25 mph coming off the ocean was in the face of competitors over all three days of competition at Barefoot so the distances were less than they would have been under calm conditions.

The longest drive of the week was 327 yards by Jake Redlinger, who came through a qualifier in Des Moines, Iowa.

Paul Howell, who competes in professional world long drive competitions, put on an exhibition Friday and hit a drive 347 yards that was essentially all carry.

The winning drive in the final round was 309 yards by Corey Culver of Kings Bay, Ga., who won the Veterans division. The other finalists were Ryan Thiele of Charleston from the Open division and leg amputee Chris Arnold of Nashville, Tenn., in the Adaptive division.

Culver, a sergeant in the Marines 0311 infantry who said he received permission from his commander to take leave to compete this past weekend, gained 30 pounds over five months from 185 to 215 to increase his distance.

“I kind of kept the 30 pounds extra I had to put on for this away from them,” Culver said. “It wasn’t a lot of garbage food, just having that one more chicken breast and hitting the gym and not trying to put on bad calories or bad carbs. I was fortunate to have that.”

Thiele had a long of 310 yards during the competition and 292 in the finals.

“This was the first time I’ve done anything like this. I’ve had a lot of friends over the years say I should take a crack at it, and maybe I should now,” he said. “This event was awesome. It was great to see the veterans out here and good to see them perform well as well.”

Paul Howell, who competes in professional world long drive competitions, put on an exhibition Friday and hit a drive 347 yards that was essentially all carry.

Founder and director Jeff Gilder said a major expansion of Amateur Long Drive is planned over the next year.

The organization is creating regional, national and world ranking points for competitors next year, and is entering into what Gilder calls “pre-franchise” agreements with five to seven tournament directors across the U.S.

The plan is for each director to conduct five to 10 long drive events next year, including championship qualifiers, so there may be 30 to 50 events next year.

“We’re testing out the league concept next year and the pre-franchisees will have first right of refusal on franchises,” Gilder said.

He said he has received emails since Saturday from people asking the ALD to sanction events in Malaysia, Finland, the UK and Canada next year as well.

Gilder said he is meeting with Barefoot Resort general manager Dave Genevro to discuss next year’s championship. “I’d love to do this event there time and time again,” he said.

Amateur Long Drive requires competitors to use equipment that adheres to USGA guidelines, so all heads are conforming and the maximum driver length is 48 inches. The Pro World Long Drive Association began requiring clubs to conform with the USGA Rules of Golf in 2016.

“Ten years ago, I was thinking we needed an amateur division because I’ve always been in support of trying to make long driving equitable to golf,” said Fister, a Charleston resident who intends to remain involved with the ALD. “Back in the heyday there were guys hitting super long clubs and people couldn’t relate to it. I often thought if we could showcase our talent and hit the same thing that the average golfer hits, then they’d appreciate how long we hit it.”

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