Published in the Foothill Sentinel, November 2002.
The roar of the crowd was deafening as Patrick Dempsey, crowd favorite and Sunland resident, hit the winning drive straight down the middle of the grid on Saturday October 19. The RE/MAX World Long Drive Golf Finals were held in Mesquite, NV and Dempsey had won over the 4000 strong crowd earlier in the evening with his beautiful voice by singing the national anthem and God Bless the U.S.A. The whole crowd was on edge as Dempsey had hit four of his six allotted golf balls out of bounds. But his fifth ball was absolutely perfect, landing 342 yards from the tee and the only ball he put on the grid that evening. But, it only takes one to win.
It was a picture perfect ending to the years of hard work Dempsey has put in to master his sport. “I felt pretty good going in… I knew I was physically ready. I just have to master the mental strain of competition.”
The mental strain had weighed heavily on every competitor with many upsets in all the divisions: numerous title-holders did not even make the finals. Dempsey added to his stress by volunteering to sing for the opening ceremonies. “I don’t know what I was thinking. It’s not like I didn’t have enough pressure already!” Dempsey exclaimed.
Pat Dempsey had come on strong in the first round qualifiers on Friday by hitting the ball 356 yards – the longest drive of the day! He easily won his second round with a 330 yard ball. The pressure built as he competed in Semi Final Round. Dempsey hit his first two balls out of bounds and his third only traveled to 325 yards – he needed to hit a 327 to oust an earlier hitter from finals. The fourth ball also traveled out of play. However, the fifth hit was the charm as he pounded the ball 346 yards for a chance at the $23,000 purse.
It is Dempsey’s rookie year in the Senior Long Drive Division, having won sixth place in the Open Division last year. Upon hitting the winning ball, he was asked why he wanted to move to the Senior Division. “I wanted to compete in this division because it’s tough. This is the most underrated and competitive division in sports.” It was the only Long Drive Division with big name players in the finals including Dempsey; three time Senior champ, Mike Hooper (Culver City); Bobby Wilson (Texas) and Scott DeCandia (Maryland), both Long Drivers of America Hall of Fame players; and the 1999 Senior Division Champ, Fred Hooter (Alabama).
It was an amazing night for Dempsey as both Women’s and Open Division Champions also credited Dempsey for their wins! Stacey Shinnick of Escondido reminded Dempsey in front of reporters that she had watched him play at Hansen Dam and asked him about competing in Long Drive. He had encouraged her to give it a shot and she took home the $7,500 purse in her division.
But it was Open Division winner, Carl Wolter of Plymouth Meeting, PA that told the most amazing Pat Dempsey story. Wolter, a gifted athlete who only entered his first LDA event three months ago, found Dempsey on the internet and repeatedly called him for advice. When Wolter broke his club days before his district qualifier round, he called Dempsey in a panic: there were no clubs like his available for sale anywhere due to a manufacturing shortage. “Pat Dempsey shipped me his own personal club – that’s what I won my district with and that’s why I’m here,” Wolter said as he clutched his crystal trophy and oversize check for $80,000.
Dempsey shrugged off reporters queries on his incredible generosity by saying, “You never know when or how you’re going to touch someone’s life. I’m just glad I could help him.”
Patrick Dempsey is obviously a winner at Long Drive but he is also a winner in the game of life.
This is a collection of stories and articles created by writer / artist Holly Dare. All materials, including photographs, on this blog are copyright protected and are the sole property of the writer or original publisher. Do not steal intellectual material!