Mark Costello Becomes the Most Unlikely Winner
In one of the most unlikely results in World Long Drive history, Mark Costello emerged as the winner of the Open Division at the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bash in what turned out to be more like a double header.
Costello, a collegiate javelin thrower, is 29 years old stands 6’4” and weighs 240 pounds. In the quarterfinal he used his effortless swing to outdistance 4th ranked Maurice Allen by 8 yards with a drive of 353 yards.
That set up a semifinal matchup with Jeff Gavin, the 2014 Masters Division champion who entered the week ranked #25 at age 50. As the match proceeded everyone saw just how challenging the conditions were as inclement weather rolled in and a heavy crosswind combined with a very narrow grid made hitting the grid nearly impossible. In fact, Hall of Famer Mike Gorton suggested that the grid was effectively only about 20 yards wide under those conditions. Add to that having to wait out an 18 minute rain delay Gavin and Costello faced a mental challenge that few champions have ever faced. On the 28th ball, Costello switched to his playing driver and hit a drive of 367 yards. It was a drive that the former Masters Division champion could not match.
After surviving the marathon semifinal Costello faced Ryan Steenberg, the 8th ranked player in the world, who had defeated top-ranked Justin James in the Semifinal 371 to 367. Steenberg hit first and his drive measured 344 yards. Costello once again struggled to find the grid and for the first seven balls it appeared that he may run out of steam. But, as the saying goes, in long drive it only takes one and he saved his best shot for his last ball. The ball came to rest at 344 yards and the players had to wait for the official measurement to determine the winner. It looked like Steenberg was going to be declared the winner by about a foot, but the remeasurement determined that there was only a three inch difference and the two would have a four-ball playoff to determine the championship. Hitting first there was a feeling of deja vu as Steenberg as hit another 344-yard drive. That set the stage for Costello who claimed the title with a drive of 360 yards that had an impressive ball speed of 222 mph.
With the win Costello earned 1,000 points. He entered the week ranked #36 in the world, but with the win he will vault up near the Top 20 when the new rankings are released later this week.