Tom Peppard defeats a talented field to claim first World Title
The Masters Division featured 42 of the longest hitters in the world over the age of 45. Many of the hitters earned their way to Winstar by virtue of exemptions earned from top finishes in recent Masters Division Championships (6); winning regional qualifiers (12), or being selected as an International representative (5).
Unfortunately, just days before the event, defending champion Jason Zuback was forced to withdraw from the competition because of lingering back issues. Despite the loss of Golfzilla and his six world titles, the field still included two former Open Division champions (Mobley and Pavlet), two Masters Division champions (Mobley and Gavin), a Masters Division champion (Ciurluini) and the #9 ranked player in the world rankings (Jeff Crittenden). The field also included many good veteran long drivers that were hungry for a chance at their first championship.
The early rounds of the event went basically as expected. But in the Round of 16 hitters battled a 15 mph cross wind and it began to take its’ toll on some of the top hitters; first Vince Ciurluini defeated Kevin Blenkhorn; next Chris Hall ousted Jeff Crittenden who had suffered a leg injury earlier in the day in the Open Division; then Hirofumi Torikawa upset former champion David Mobley; followed by veteran Tom Peppard ousting another former champion Brian Pavlet. And in the last match of the Round of 16 Richard Smith defeated Scott Smith in a battle of two contenders last year.
The Final 8 battled it out for the World Long Drive Championship on Monday evening. The competitors again faced a strong headwind of about 15 mph and a grid that was still moist from rains earlier in the event. In the first quarterfinal, Daniel Lambert (326) defeated Vince Ciurluini (298). In the next match, Chris Hall posted a drive of 357 yards that edged Eddie Fernandez by a single yard. Then in the third match Tom Peppard (339) defeated Hirofumi Torikawa (325). And in the fourth quarterfinal match up, Jeff Gavin (364) defeated Richard Smith (295).
Moving on to the Semi finals Daniel Lambert ended Chris Hall’s run with a drive of 326 yards, while Tom Peppard bested Jeff Gavin’s drive of 323 yards with his first swing.
That set up the final between Daniel Lambert and Tom Peppard to determine which of them would win their first World Long Drive title. Daniel Lambert from the Dallas area hit first and posted early drives of 305, 327, and 329 in his set, but was unable to extend it farther. Then it was left up to Tom Peppard, of Canton, OH to try and claim the World Title. Peppard was no stranger to the big stage at the World Long Drive Championship having made the Top 8 in the Open Division in 2010. This time when he stepped on the big stage in the finals of the Masters Division, he unleashed his first drive 347 yards to claim the title. For his victory Peppard won $15,000 while Lambert received $7,000 for finishing second.
He later credited his victory to being able to channel his adrenalin and calm down during a very nerve wracking competition. Peppard had been hitting the ball well all week and he even qualified for the Open Division during Last Chance Qualifying. In 2012 he finished 8th in the Open Division. Unfortunately, he later sustained serious injuries in a car accident that sidetracked his career for a time. He is considered by many of the hitters as one of the nicest guys on the long drive tour and on this night he proved that sometimes nice guys can finish first.
By Rich O’Brien
Photo credit: Golf Channel