Norwin grad swings for title

| Sunday, Oct. 19, 2008

Justin Moose was starting to think that, even though he can launch a golf ball distances that most people can only dream of, maybe this long drive thing wasn't going to work out as he'd hoped.

But guess who's going to be grippin' and rippin' Oct. 20-25 in the ReMax World Long Drive Championship in Mesquite, Nev.?

Yep, Justin Moose, the Norwin High School graduate, who launched one 402 yards on the fly to qualify for the regionals in 2004.

"I just figured, why not go out and give it a try again," said Moose, a graduate of Clarion University who now is caddying and working in the pro shop at Totteridge Golf Club near Greensburg.

This try was definitely the charm for Moose. In the regional qualifier at Oakland Beach Golf Club at Conneaut Lake, Moose qualified for the national event with a drive of 351 yards. But even getting to the finals was a real test.

"In the first round, I hit six balls out of bounds and had to go to the losers bracket," Moose said. "I won all of the rounds after that with drives of over 360 yards. I was proud of myself. That was the first time I really got nervous and was able to handle it."

So in less than two weeks, Moose will be competing against the biggest names in long driving, as well as some of the biggest men he's ever seen swing a golf club.

"There are a lot of football players in this sport. As a matter of fact, one of the winners last year was 6-(foot)-8, 300 (pounds)," said Moose, a mere 6-3, 215. "There's a lot of stability, a lot of core muscle involved. Flexibility is a big key as well."

An irony of the situation is that Moose went to the regional competition without a true "long driver" in his bag. He borrowed one and made it work well enough to get him to the national finals.

Long drivers are a bit different than regular ones in that they're a bit longer and have been tweaked to keep the ball in the air a long time.

The lack of proper equipment will be rectified next week when Moose visits Callaway Golf's home base in Carlsbad, Calif. That trip was set up by his friend and one of Totteridge's founding investors, Rocco Mediate.

Mediate has been on staff for years with Callaway and arranged for Moose to get fitted properly and get some new equipment.

"I owe a lot to Totteridge and the members there," Moose said. "Rocco, Frank Zoracki. I want to thank them for all they've done for me."

Moose is a scratch golfer and was the No. 1 player on the Clarion golf team the past three years.

"We'll see how it goes. If long drive doesn't pan out, I'm going to play some mini-tours, but I'll be a professional either way," he said.

Next week's World Long Drive Championship will be shown on ESPN and ESPN2 on Christmas Day.

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