By Dave Ongie
Shortly after GF Sports & Entertainment took over World Long Drive (WLD), GF President Shawn Tilger began calling athletes and stakeholders to ask them which event had to be on the schedule moving forward.
“Kingsport kept coming up as a city that embraced us,” Tilger said. “We immediately said that will be our first televised event. We’re going to be live on the Golf Channel.”
Kingsport Mayor Pat Shull, Visit Kingsport President and Chief Tourism Officer Frank Lett, and World No. 1 long driver Kyle Berkshire were also on hand for Thursday’s announcement that WLD will return to Cattails at Meadowview on Aug. 26-28. Berkshire will defend the title he won in 2019 in the Open Division. The three-day competition will include a Women’s Division, Senior Division and an Amateur Division.
Kingsport hosted its first WLD event back in 2019, and the event was a rousing success. However, the COVID-19 pandemic came along and it appeared to all involved that the inaugural event would be a one-and-done.
Berkshire, who called his victory in Kingsport in 2019 a breakthrough performance, said he was thrilled to recommend a return trip to the Model City when Tilger called and asked his opinion.
“There’s a saying in life that you can’t really appreciate a good thing until it’s gone, and I think that is what a lot of us as long drivers went through, myself for sure,” Berkshire said. “A lot of felt like this event wouldn’t happen again. I couldn’t be happier to be coming back here.”
The event in Kingsport in 2019 featured strong sponsorship support from Ballad Health that was matched only by the overwhelming support of people in the region, who turned out in full force to watch the event. Lett said the upcoming return of WLD and the fact it will be aired live on the Golf Channel is an invaluable opportunity for Kingsport and the region as a whole.
“It’s a huge asset to our community being able to showcase Kingsport to the world,” he said.