ST. GEORGE — St. George resident David Watson understands what it means to be the best 71-year-old long-drive golfer.
“It’s like being the best bobsledder in Jamaica,” Watson told St. George News.
Maybe so but Watson continues to refine his craft and in October won a third consecutive first-place golf title at the Ultimate Long Drive competition in Columbia, South Carolina.
This year was different from the previous two, Watson said, because the competition was international. Well over 50 golfers came from Canada and as far away as Mexico, Japan, Zimbabwe and South Africa.
In all, this year’s international event drew 176 men and women qualifiers from nine different countries, competing in 43 age divisions.
“We didn’t know for sure what kind of quality hitters would show up, but there were a bunch of really big hitters,” Watson said. “It was fun facing such a diverse field from around the world.”
In the prelims, Watson qualified for the 70-plus “fossil division” finals with a drive of 304.4 yards. He also qualified for the 65-plus finals with his longest drive of 311.3 yards.
“That’s really the big number,” Watson said. “In the sport, a good drive at age 70 is 250 yards. If you’re 70 and can hit 311, that’s a pretty impressive hit for sure.”
Watson went on to lose the two-man finals in the 70-plus division but captured the title at 65-plus with his winning blast of 299.1 yards.
He is automatically qualified to defend his title in the 2024 Ultimate Long Drive competition.
Watson’s passion for long-drive golf extends throughout the year and has roots in other competitions. He plays in the events and also promotes outreach to seniors, encouraging their participation.
“I’m retired, and it’s important to our senior community,” Watson said.
The Huntsman World Senior Games has a classification called “Skilled Events” which includes putting, chipping, pitching and long-drive golf at the yearly games in St. George.
“We had a 100-year-old hitting a long drive this year, and he was a king, a celebrity,” Watson said.
Watson said he also spends a lot of time hitting long drives in Mesquite, Nevada, where facilities and competitions allow year-round access to the sport.
Ironically enough, Watson cannot shoot any random 9- or 18-hole round of golf if he wants a little variety in his game.
“The big muscle swings that you need in long drive completely ruin your game,” Watson said. “It makes your short game kind of miserable. You swing differently to get that clubhead speed if you’re looking for a big drive.”
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