Burke's blast takes World Long Drive checkered flag

Tim Burke after winning the 2013 Re/Max World Long Drive Championship.

Tim Burke after winning the 2013 Re/Max World Long Drive Championship.

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LAS VEGAS – Tim Burke of Orlando, Fla., hit a 427-yard drive here Wednesday night to defeat favorite Joe Miller of London and claim the winner-take-all $250,000 first prize in the Re/Max World Long Drive Championship.

Burke had just three drives remaining when he walloped a monster blast down the left side of the makeshift fairway at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where a 52-yard-wide grid was created in the grass between the front straightaway and pit row. The teeing platform – or launching pad – was elevated 70 feet off the ground in the middle of the bleachers.

Burke, 26, smashed what he called “absolutely the best drive of my life.”

Miller, 28, had exhausted all six of his drives in the final round, and one of them was a 405-yard shot that forced Burke to go long as 5,000 spectators and a live TV audience watched.

Burke already had hit three drives. Because one of them was a 405-yard effort that matched Miller’s yardage, a playoff was a possibility. However, Burke’s fourth drive decided the contest. As he did on all of his drives, the 6-foot-4-inch Burke aimed down the left side of the fairway. The ball looked good all the way, fading perhaps a yard or two. It carried about 410 yards in the air and rolled the rest of the way.

Burke was facing the potential disappointment of a second straight runner-up finish in the World Long Drive. Last year he was defeated by Ryan Winther of Sacramento in the final.

All contestants in this event are required to use driver heads that conform to U.S. Golf Association standards. The maximum driver length is 48 inches, although the sanctioning body, Long Drivers of America, endorses a quirky method of measurement that is different from the USGA method. As a result, LDA 48 equals USGA 49.5.

The official ball was stamped Top-Flite and was said to be a Top-Flite XL.

“I knew I had to kill one," Burke said, adding in seriousness: "You know, 405’s not that big a number.”

Not that big a number? It depends on your perspective.

Justin Padjen, business development and project manager for TrackMan, the company that makes the TrackMan launch monitor and measuring device, helped quantify the finals.

According to Padjen, Burke’s ball speed on his winning drive was 222 mph. This mammoth speed was was aided by what Padjen called “perfect numbers” from Burke on his decisive drive: launch angle was 12.0 degrees and spin was 2,450 RPM.

Padjen said the launch angle of the two favorites, Miller and two-time champion Jamie Sadlowski, did not match the conditions that existed at the speedway. Miller’s tee shots were too high, Sadlowski’s too low. Neither could match the carry distance or the rollout achieved by Burke.

Sadlowski was the event’s biggest disappointment. Of his seven drives in the quarterfinal round, the longest was 388 yards. He did not advance to the final four.

In addition to Burke and Miller, that elite group included Tyler Kellett of Scottsdale, Ariz., and Will Hogue of Collierville, Tenn. Burke defeated Hogue and Miller beat Kellett to set up the final match.

Of the eight golfers who advanced to the quarterfinals, Kellett was the oldest, at 33. Aaron Mansfield, 22, of Washington, Pa., was the youngest.

As the night ended, Burke talked about hitting under the lights at the speedway. “Magical,” he called it. “When you hit the ball, it kind of glows as it gets up in the air. I feel like the luckiest guy in the world.”

If not the luckiest, he's certainly the longest.

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