GC1 goes down in the history books!!
Well that is a wrap ladies and gentleman, and what an event it was. GC1 sold out with in the first two weeks of registration opening. It was then that we knew we were in for a true spectacle of Long Drive Golf.
Muriwai Golf Links, Golf Digests 12th ranked course in New Zealand was the home of GC1 and will go down in the history books as being the first club to hold a Grid Chasers long drive competition.
The weather started out as if it were on our side. Blue skies, sun out, no wind, a very still, calm Tasman Sea in the background, but in true long drive fashion it switched contrary to forecasting beliefs and turned into a head wind coming from the South-West. That didn't deter the some 150 people who came along to watch. Whether you were a VIP, or an early bird that snapped up a bean bag for the day, vantage points were in abundance.
The day was kicked off with a Love Golf Futures section, where the kids could have a go and show off their talent, and talent did we spot! Young Keira who is only 12 years old and plays off an 11 handicap absolutely winning the crowed over with her monster drives well over 100m. We would say this is a name to keep an eye on in the future.
Keira Rhind winning the crowd over with monster drives.
Futures kids giving the event a thumbs up.
Following on from the Futures was the men's open division qualifying. We had competitors from Gulf Harbour Country Club, Whangarei, Ngaruawhahia, Morrinsvile and even as far as from the Gold Coast ready to take their chances on the tee box.
Qualifying was tough with only 8 men missing the cut, the pressure was on to make sure you hit the grid. With two players going OB in both their sets including previous 5th place getter at the WLD World Long Drive championships - Davyn Nola.
The pressure proved too much for some, whether it be first event nerves, or just being up against experienced competition. One lad who was getting the crowds attention was Nick Hanna taking an early lead with the longest drive of the day from surpassing the previous holder in Alan Stroud. It wasn't until the second round of qualifying did we see a ball over 300m and that was by the experienced campaigner Grieg Mooney. This drive of 306m held out for most of the day, and it wasn't until the Semi finals did 3 of the 4 hitters surpass that distance.
Muriwai Golf Links is a traditional Links course and uses Kaikuyu grass on its fairways. This more often than not means there isn't a whole heap of run out from a golf ball. We were seeing most of these numbers only running out a meter or two. So in perspective anything over 300m into the wind was an impressive shot.
The women's open division was next to get seeded. Samantha Jackson would take out the honors of top qualifier in the ladies. Moving into the match play sets, it was the 17 year old from Taupo, Candis Brunning and Kimberly from Whangarei that would move on to battle it out in the final. Kimberly won the crowd over with her 262m belting of a drive to knock out the local Fleur Reynolds. But it was Candis Brunning with the cool head in the match play scenario. Kimberly hunting for a big number and Candis putting four of her 6 balls in the grid which was enough to get the job done and claim the title of GC1 Womens Champion.
The top 16 from the 24 were separated by only 46m. Then it was on to match play. A very different format where the pressure instantly doubled. You have to hit the grid here, because if you don't and your opponent does, you're off to pack your bags. There were some massive scalps in the top 16. Nick Denz taking out one of the sure favorites in Nick Hanna, Simon Eccleston another first timer taking out Grieg Mooney another of the local favorites, and Matty Tiplady taking out Dan Crook. George Wardell was up against a tough opponent in Alex Lunn who eventually got the job done.
The top 8 was a 50/50 split between new and experienced long drivers, and there were more upsets to be had. Alan Stroud finding some late form and taking out Chase Mckeown. Matty Tiplady got it done against Adam Taylor and Sam Mcrae managed to sneak through against Eccleston to get to the Semi's.
The Semi Finals could not have been closer. With one OB set from Matty Tiplady the other 3 competitors all hit 309, 310, and 311m which saw Sam Mcrae and Alex Lunn through to the final. Some Final it was with one ball to go it was looking to be the new guy Sam Mcrae to take home the win, but as true to long drive as you can get, if you have a ball left you have a chance, and after recovering from a shoulder surgery last year, Alex Lunn hit the longest ball of the tournament to win the final match and take home the title as GC1 - Mens Open Division Champion. For his days work he takes home $1000 for the win and another $100 for the longest ball of the day.
Men's Final - Sam Mcrae (left) and Alex Lunn (right)
GC1 Womens Open Division Champion
GC1 Mens Open Division Champion
GC1 at Muriwai Golf Links shaping up to be a thriller
GC1 is less than three days away and the hype of the event speaks for itself. With a total sell out in the open division, Muriwai Golf Links and the event's supporters are in for a real treat.
Kicking off at 2pm is the kids section and a give-it-a-go section for all those intrigued or just parents wanting to prove their status. The open division begins at 3pm with qualifying, and after that it's all go.
With our furthest travelling competitor coming from Queensland, Australia and youngest registered competitor from Centennial Golf Club in Taupo, it is safe to say that Grid Chasers has a diverse range of competitors attending this weekend's event.
Who do you think will take it out? Will it be the highest world ranked New Zealander in long drive, Grieg Mooney? Will it be the local lad from Muriwai Golf Links, Bevan Stratton? Who will take out the women's division? Perhaps our youngest competitor, Candis Brunning?
All will be revealed on Sunday evening as the sun goes down on GC1 at Muriwai Golf Links. Grid Chasers first ever event will not only be an experience, but a start, a taster, of what is to come.
2019 World Long Drive Championships
Thackerville, Oklahoma, USA
Chloe Garner from South Africa and Kyle Birkshire from the USA are your 2019 World Long Drive Champions. Jeff Crittenden took out the Masters Division.