Coast Guardsman Wins 2007 Military Long Drive Championship

By Tim Hipps, Army News Service

MESQUITE, Nev. – U.S. Coast Guard Airman Ryan Hixson won the 2007 Military Long Drive Championship Oct. 25 with a drive of 367 yards.

With his victory, Bryan Hixson earned $10,000 and an exemption into the 2008 RE/MAX World Long Drive Championship in Mesquite.

“We’re very proud to provide this competition for members of the Armed Forces,” said Art Sellinger, owner of Long Drivers of America and producer of the RE/MAX World Long Drive Championship in Mesquite. “It’s a great way to honor these heroes, and I hope it’s the start of a great golf tradition.”

Army Sgt. Joey Bozik, a triple-amputee who served in Iraq, launched the ceremonial first drive standing on prosthetic legs during an elaborate opening ceremony. The competition will air on ESPN and ESPN2 during the Christmas holiday season.

The Army’s “Black Dagger” skydivers dropped onto the driving range to deliver an American flag and the ceremonial first ball, which, based on the crowd’s response, sounded like Sgt. Bozik launched into orbit.

“It was great to see Joey hit the ceremonial first ball,” Coast Guardsman Hixson said. “He got the recognition he deserved from the crowd, and the support. I was looking around at a couple of the guys and they were a little teary-eyed. I was, too. It was a very touching moment.” Hixson followed by winning the first round of six balls apiece on a 365-yard drive with his final swing.

“You’ve got to balance it,” said Coast Guardsman Hixson, who qualified for the finals with a drive of 346 yards at Fort Stewart, Ga. “In the finals, I hit one 366 in the grid and was pretty comfortable with that, so I felt like I could just rear back and let it go. “Then again, when you swing that way, it’s kind of tough to hit the grid sometimes.”

Such as his 379-yard blast in the first round that came to rest just four inches out of bounds.

“If I could have hit another one of those on the grid, then I’d have been very happy,” said winner Hixson, who wanted to thank all supporters of his mission in Mesquite. “This has been an incredible experience – more than we could ever ask for…I hope they continue this tradition for a very long time.”

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