Norwin grad Moose shines at World Long Drive Championship’s biggest stage
It’s often been said the journey is much better than the destination. Those words couldn’t ring more true for 2004 Norwin grad Justin Moose after his second-place finish at the 2018 Volvik World Long Drive Championship Sept. 5 at WinStar World Casino and Resort.
Moose’s run through a crowded field of 96 golfers from 40 countries began in the round of 16, where No. 13-ranked Moose placed his seventh ball onto the tee, gripped his Krank long driver, squared his wide shoulders to the ball and ripped a 404-yard drive to knock out Kevin Shook and advance into the quarterfinal round. The win was something Moose will never forget, if he could only remember it.
“It’s crazy,” said Moose, who after high school went on to play golf at Clarion and was named the 2006 PSAC Golfer of the Year. “The only thing I remember is spiking the club and just started celebrating and then I blacked out.
“I remember giving Kevin a handshake and a hug and doing an interview. The environment is so high energy and then (I) pull off one of the greatest shots in my career. You do some crazy things, and you end up on SportsCenter the next day. My buddy sent me a video of it the next day. I made No. 9 on the SportsCenter top plays.”
Long drive competitions are growing in popularity around the country and the world. Each competitor is seeded in a bracket according to their world ranking and then matched up with an opponent. After eight drives, the one with the longest drive advances in the bracket.
“It’s the home run derby, NASCAR and golf all rolled into one,” Moose said. “We probably have a couple of hundred people that watch us there, 10-12 cameras on us and everything.”
Moose didn’t shy away from the lights, either. After eliminating Shook, Moose stepped into the artificial grass tee box against No. 1-ranked Will Hogue.
With a crowded gallery yelling “Moose,” he again came through on his seventh ball and bested Hogue by 1 yard to advance the semifinals and face No. 2 Jim Waldron. Moose went on to outdrive Waldron by 2 yards with a 387-yard drive to advance to the finals.
“With my last name being Moose, the crowd loved to cheer me on saying ‘Moose,’ and I came out with the Terrible Towel and waving the towel around,” he said.
Moose’s success at long drive has even caught the attention of Westmoreland County golf royalty in six-time PGA tour winner Rocco Mediate.
“I’ve had so many cool people reach out to me from Pittsburgh,” said Moose, who now makes his home in Columbia, S.C. “Rocco Mediate actually reached out to me before the competition. I was the underdog going into most of my matches. He knows a little bit about being an underdog going up against Tiger (Woods) and all of that.”
Moose’s underdog status caught up to him in the finals where he fell to No. 3 Maurice Allen. Allen outdrove Moose by 12 yards with a top drive of 393 yards.
The runner-up finish also marked the end of the season. The 2019 season picks up in March.
“I’m No. 6 in the world now, and the new goal is to push that ranking a lot higher and do more in long drive,” Moose said. “It keeps me hungry coming into next year, I know that.”
William Whalen is a freelance writer.