24 Sep 2023 | Participation |
Atkins off to America as Australia's long drive champ
by Paul Munnings
Queenslander Jason Atkins only made a last-minute decision to enter the Australian Long Drive Championship – and after beating a field of the country’s longest hitters at Sandy Links today, he’s very happy he did.
Turning back the clock, the 49-year-old, who plays off a handicap of 11 at his home course Windaroo Lakes and has been troubled by back issues, smashed a 340-metre drive in the final to defeat another Queenslander, Joel Taylor, whose longest of six balls recorded 332.7 metres but finished outside the grid.
By finishing in the top two, Atkins and Taylor qualified for the open division of the World Long Drive Championships in the United States and will also back up to contest the seniors.
After qualifying in seventh position in the indoor TrackMan session, Atkins thrived outdoors, running through his three finals matches with seven 320m+ drives and caused a big upset in his semi-final, ousting the top qualifier, Jordan Bovalina.
“It’s been a long while since I’ve been in this position so I’m absolutely thrilled,” said Atkins, who has been a long-time competitor on the long drive scene and has “DaBomma” as his Twitter/X handle.
“I’m coming to America. Watch out.
“The future of long drive in Australia is exciting. Look at Jordan, what he can do – wow. He’s got the ball speeds that will do what he wants to do over there in the US.”
The oldest competitor in the last eight, Atkins last won his national title in 2011 and it was only a round at his home course yesterday that convinced him he was right to travel to Melbourne for a shot at another.
“I’ve had back issues but I played yesterday, made the decision then jumped on a plane and here I am,” he said.
"This means a lot."
Taylor, who turns 45 on Monday, made it through to the last two by beating Melbourne’s Stefan Scutti in the semi-final, launching a 319.4m drive while the 2022 Asian champion had a longest of 331m but was slightly wayward and couldn’t find the grid with any of his six attempts.
“I was already going to America for the seniors at the world champs, but I guess I’ll be having a go at the opens now,” said Taylor, who no longer plays regular golf but was a +2 handicapper at his best.
“It’s going to be a pretty full on week. I’m glad to be back hitting again after having a bit of a break.”
Western Bulldogs star Rory Lobb was a celebrity contestant before the final and showed his long drive potential, crunching one 302 metres, leading to some friendly offers to be the 207cm key forward’s long drive coach.
Top eight qualifiers (via TrackMan): Jordan Bovalina 355.0, Joel Taylor 340.7, Ben Jeffries 332.3, Reece Pospishil 331.4, Stefan Scutti 330.8, Jason Atkins 330.6, Karl Peters 327.0.
Quarter-finals: Bovalina 337m d Ryan 313.7; Atkins 321.8m d Jefferies -; Scutti 333.5m d Pospishil 331.7m; Taylor 320m d Peters -.
Semi-finals: Atkins 326.9m d Bovalina -; Taylor 319.4m d Scutti -
Final: Atkins 340m d Taylor -
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