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Free-swinging Norwin grad makes mark in golf

| Saturday, Nov. 26, 2011

Justin Moose went to Nevada to pick up a Christmas treat for his family.

Moose, 25, a Norwin graduate, reached the quarterfinals of the RE/MAX World Long Drive Championship in Mesquite, Nev. on Nov. 4, and he and his family will be able to relive his success when the event is broadcast at 1 p.m. on Dec. 24 on ESPN.

For Moose, who was competing in his fourth consecutive world championship, it was his first time reaching the match-play final eight, and it will put a new twist on a holiday routine for his family.

"Since I was a kid, I used to watch it with my family on Christmas. My dad would say, 'You could do that,'" Moose said. "My dream was to compete on TV, and I did it."

A long hitter since he picked up the game, Moose has no problem in front of the camera with the skills he has in the tee box. Once the clubs were out of his hand, he said, it was a different story.

"I wasn't even that nervous in the competition, but I was nervous for the interview," he said. "It was live on, and I recorded it, but I am looking forward a little bit to seeing it on ESPN."

The quarterfinal finish — his distance of 419 yards in the round placed him sixth in the final standings — was another improvement for Moose, whose 13th-place finish in 2010 was his previous best.

He was defeated in the match by Englishman Joe Miller, the defending champion, by just two yards, 421-419.

With nearly 15,000 applicants for the event and 128 hitters in the competition, Moose said he was very happy with his performance, especially when he considers the difficult path he took to the quarterfinals.

"Last year, when I finished 13th, I went all the way through the winner's bracket," he said. "This year, I lost in Round 2, so I had to hit in nine of the 13 rounds just to get to the quarterfinals."

His steady ascent in the sport has coincided with an increase in the number of competitions he enters. That has given Moose more experience and helped to build his confidence against the longest hitters in the world.

"What's really been helping me out is that I've started doing the (Long Drivers of America) tour, and they have events all over the country," Moose said.

"In Florida, I finished fourth; and in Tennessee, I finished eighth. Having the confidence to compete with these guys gave me enough of a boost to go all the way through to the quarterfinals."

Moose's style is unorthodox in long drive competitions, as he sports more of a true golf swing than some of his all-out power competitors. He also has experienced success on the regular links, as he twice reached U.S. Open sectional qualifying in the last three years.

"Ever since junior golf, I was never infatuated with making 3-foot putts," he said. "My buddies would joke with me that I can drive it to the green, but I still just make par."

With his recent success, however, Moose said he probably will be focusing more of his time on long driving and tweaking his swing toward that end.

"The biggest difference is that I have kind of a golf swing, while the other guys use a swing just for power," he said. "(The other long drivers) have shown me a few tips that have helped, though.

"Truly, I don't practice (long drive). I practice for about two weeks before the competition, and that's kind of how it is for me."

With his finishes continuing to improve, Moose now has his sights set on winning long drive events, and hopefully, he said, one day capturing a world championship.

"Guys are coming from all over the world to play in these tour events," he said. "It's awesome to be one of the best in the world and that out of the top eight, three were from Pennsylvania."

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