BY TATE RUSSELL
SUN SPORTS WRITER
CHUCKEY - With the wind swirling, the rain coming down, a wet course and a tight grid, the conditions were far from optimal for the final round of the Laughlin Memorial Hospital Tennessee Long- Drive Shoot-Out.
But none of that seemed to matter to Pennsylvania native Justin Moose.
Moose gripped his 50-inch driver and ripped the ball 390 yards down the middle of the fairway at Graysburg Hills' 512-yard first hole to win the tournament and the $12,000 payday that came with it.
Moose's bomb came on his fourth of six attempts and was eight yards longer than any other competitor's effort in the two-day competition.
"Honestly I don't have words right now to express how I feel," Moose said. "Once I got into second place, one of my buddies told me 'Aim right and rip the crap out of it'."
"That's all I did. I aimed to the right, swung hard and it ended up just perfect."
The win was the first ever for the appropriately named Moose, who is a broad-shouldered, towering figure who could appropriately garner comparisons to his woodland namesake.
"It was my first win ever so that was pretty big. It was awesome to get that," Moose said. "I changed shafts two days ago and it was working absolutely perfect all weekend. This is great for me and I think I can get things going in the right direction."
Collierville native Will Hogue started the final round with a bang, launching a 382-yard blast down the right side on the first swing. To that point, it was the longest shot of the event.
"I felt great after the first shot," Hogue said. "I busted it out there. That was as good as I could do. He just beat me."
Hogue finished in second and took home $6,000. It was the first time the former Austin Peay outfielder had ever finished in the money. Hogue got started in the sport one year ago, and last year's Tennessee Shoot-Out was his first-ever tournament.
"This was the first event I ever competed in last year, and now it's the first time I made the finals. It's been a great year and I've come a long way," Hogue said. "I was a power-hitting baseball player and one day I was out horsing around with my dad playing golf and hit the ball 400 yards. He told me he would pay for me to enter an event so I came here and it's been a great ride since then."
Jason Eslinger turned in a 373-yard drive that was good enough for third place and $4,000 dollars.
Kyle Blakely just squeaked his way into the finals with a 365-yard drive on his last attempt that beat Graden Kirksey by one yard to lock up the last of six finals spots. That yard ended up being worth $2,200 as Blakely went on to finish fourth and earn $4,000.
Ben Tua'one of Salt Lake City was on the verge of being eliminated in the semifinal round as his first five shots failed to find the grid and he had one shot remaining. He needed a shot of at least 360 yards to put himself ahead of Josh Crews and on his sixth and final try, he hit a ball straight down the middle that landed 368 yards out.
One of his competitors shouted from the gallery, "Good shot, Ben."
He quickly responded, " No, that wasn't a good shot. That was an absolutely great shot."
The shot eventually earned him $3,500 dollars after his fifth-place finish.
Ben Hug advanced all the way through the winners bracket before failing to place a ball on the grid in the finals, but finished in sixth and pocketed $3,000 dollars.
Kirksey, Crews, Clay Lanigan and Ryan Steenberg rounded out the top ten and each took home $1,750 dollars.