Phillis Meti | Former Champion Regains Title in Dramatic Fashion

It was big news when 2006 World Champion Phillis Meti registered for the Women’s Division of the 2016 World Long Drive Championship. In her late teens and early twenties she had earned a reputation as the longest hitter in women’s golf. In 2006 she won the Women’s Long Drive Championship with a drive of 326 yards in the final versus Jackelyn Diekemper; in 2007 she finished 2nd to Sheila Kelleher’s drive of 329 yards; and in 2008 she set a championship record of 349 yards in the preliminaries before losing in the final to Lana Lawless on the last ball. It had been eight years since she had last competed in the event.

Phillis quickly realized that the depth of good players in the field was probably the strongest that she had ever faced at the world championship. The event truly brought together the longest hitting women from around the world. The field of 16 women represented six countries (Canada, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden, and the United States) and five continents. In addition to four-time champion Sandra Carlborg, the field featured 2013 champion Heather LeMaster, a pair of former runner ups in Troy Mullins and Lisa Vlooswyk, Rebecca McGinley and Alex Phillips who finished 3rd and 4th respectively last year, and newcomer Chloe Garner who has had a sensation season.

The Women’s Championship was held on Tuesday afternoon and was a grueling day with a 15 mph wind blowing in their face as they hit three or four sets in the preliminaries before the Final 8 played off in match play.

Chloe Garner, Philis Meti, Rebecca McGinley, Sandra Carlborg emerged as the top four seeds. They were joined by Lisa Vlooswyk and Troy Mullins. Also advancing were former NCAA Long Drive Champion Blair O’Neal and Sato of Japan. Surprisingly two of last year’s top four finishers, Heather LeMaster and Alex Phillips, struggled in the preliminaries and failed to advance to the final 8.

In the quarterfinals, #1 seed Chloe Garner defeated Sato of Japan. In the second match, #4 seed Sandra Carlborg edged Lisa Vlooswyk 289 to 283. Meanwhile in the third match of the round, #2 seed Phillis Meti defeated Blair O’Neal 294 to 276. And in the fourth match #3 seed Rebecca McGinley defeated Troy Mullins 297 to 274.

That set up a pair of semifinal matches featuring former champions against newcomers that have emerged as top contenders. The first semifinal featured a matchup worthy of a final between phenom Chloe Garner and four-time champion Sandra Carlborg. Chloe Garner stripped a low boring drive 304 yards and that forced Sandra Carlborg to chase her distance. With a strong 15 mph wind in her face, Sandra Carlborg mustered 291 yards and was eliminated. Meanwhile in the other semifinal, Rebecca McGinley faced off against the 2006 Champion, Phillis Meti. McGinley applied pressure by gradually building speed with progressively longer drives that started at 268 and finished at 290. It was Meti’s chance and she quickly seized on the opportunity with drives of 278 and then 296 yards to advance to the final against Garner.

Less than six months ago, Chloe Garner was introduced to the sport of Long Drive when she was invited to a charity golf tournament as part of the Tennessee Shootout. Now she was going head to head in the final of the Women’s World Long Drive Championship against Phillis Meti who has been called one of the longest hitters in the history of women’s golf.

Garner hit first in the final and posted another low drive that bored into the wind and measured an impressive 304 yards. Throughout the afternoon, Meti had consistently been about 10 yards shorter than Garner. As Meti began hitting the pressure began to mount. Through seven balls it looked like Garner was going to win. It was at that time that Meti summoned up all her strength, experience, and determination to hit her best drive of the day. She knew it was good when she hit it; the suspense grew as everyone waited for the official yardage to be announced. And when her winning yardage of 310 yards was posted her reaction was priceless as she fell in a heap where she stood.

With the depth of this year’s championship and new contenders entering the sport in the last few years the competition for the title of being the Women’s World Long Drive Champion should be great to watch as each raises the bar a little higher. Let’s hope that Phillis Meti is able to come back to try and add numerous titles in the future.

Final Match (Courtesy of Golf Channel)

Women’s Division Bracket

By Rich O’Brien