LAS VEGAS — Local golfer Justin Young survived an early loss to stay alive in the ReMax World Long Drive Championship in Las Vegas Monday.
A small-town man against the best from around the globe, Young has defied the odds at the gambling capitol of the world to advance to the round of 32 tomorrow.
Young, who played golf for North Surry and Surry Community College, came down to his last swing twice before advancing with booming hits.
The 128 participants came from all over the world. Some of the hitters aren’t even regular golfers — they specialize just in long drive contests.
In order to make the large crowd manageable, ReMax created groups of eight players. The top four performers in that round would advance, and the bottom four would drop into the losers’ bracket.
Then the losers would compete against each other for the right to continue on.
Young had bad luck in his initial seeding. He was placed in the same group as five-time world champion Jason “Golfzilla” Zuback and Ben Tua’one, who finished second in Las Vegas in 2011.
His father, Joe, said that Justin slammed a drive 406 yards in that round and still didn’t make the top four.
In the losers’ round, Young was not yet in the top four when he came down to his final ball. Then he launched a 435-yarder to advance.
In the next round, he came down to the last ball again.
Young was drawing some attention from the crowd with his outfit, noted Joe. He was wearing some outlandish John Daly pants from Loudmouth Golf.
Coming up to his final swing, Young began to play up to the crowd gathered around the tee box. With a nice cheer going up, he smashed his best drive of the day, 441 yards.
The fans just let out a roar, said the proud papa.
In his last round of the day, Young posted 431 yards to reach the field of 32 on Wednesday.
The 441-yard bomb actually wasn’t Young’s longest of the day, noted Joe, but the others just missed making the grid.
In order for a swing to count, the ball must come to rest inside a grid just 40 yards wide.
Considering the brute force that goes into every swing, landing in a narrow grid is more than just talent; there is some luck involved, too, said Joe. A slight breeze can push the ball a long way in the course of 400 yards of flight. A bad bounce can send the ball sideways as well.
Just making the cut from 128 to 32 is quite an accomplishment and will attract the attention of more sponsors, said Joe. So far, Young has apparel from Loudmouth and used drivers from Geek Golf.
If he can make it to the final 16 tomorrow, then he is guaranteed some winnings. And, his family and friends back home will be able to watch him live on television.
ESPN3 will show the finals Thursday beginning at 2 p.m.
Joe gave thanks to the local people and companies that helped the Young family with expenses for this week. It was Justin’s first-ever plane rides, going from Greensboro to Atlanta to Las Vegas.
Young is one of six North Carolina golfers who traveled to Las Vegas for the event. The other six are Greg Bunn, Raleigh, Jeff Crittenden, Greensboro, Michael Knox, Cary, David Mobley, Huntersville, and Trent Scruggs, Granite Falls.