Wearing black slacks and a red golf shirt, William Hinson addresses the ball seven feet from a square of plywood. His powerful swing sends the ball sizzling through the square. “Oohs and ahs,” from Chinese VIPs accompany the shattering wood. No language barrier here.
People who play golf — and many who don’t — know the driver hits the ball the farthest of any club. The reason? Physics, not just power and technique. Drivers possess the lowest launch angle, or loft, which is the degree the face of the club slopes back. High-loft clubs – a sand wedge comes to mind – pop the ball high. William understands golf’s physics, which involve factors such as spin, and he also knows how to destroy half-inch construction grade plywood with a driver, ball and tee.
In describing this astounding feat, Bob Spear, a columnist for The State newspaper, says, “The ball not only splinters the wood; it also travels in the vicinity of 300 yards after impact. The ball has been compressed so much at impact that a regular ball will not pass through the hole left in the wood.”
William, a junior in high school, saw Jamie Sadlowski, two-time Long Drive world champion, send a ball through plywood at a 2012 exhibition in Pinehurst, N.C. “The first time you do it is pretty cool,” says William. “I was told it takes a ball speed of 200 mph to burst through.” Tour pros range in the high 160s.
It’s power like this that has made William Hinson the youngest professional Long Drive champion in history.
A Golf Family
William and his family live in Blythewood. With a cat named Callaway, the Hinsons are known as avid golfers. “My whole family plays golf – both brothers, mom, dad, grandparents, aunts and uncles,” says William. “My oldest brother, Josh, competed in the 2012 NJCAA National Championship and was the number one player and team captain of his college team. I played on the 4A runner-up state championship teams in 2011 and 2012. Dad won the NKF National Championship and the long drive challenge at Pebble Beach this past year. We all play.”
William displayed a unique ability to perform under pressure when he was quite young. “At the age of 6,” says Edward, his father, “he competed nationally in BMX (bicycle sprint races). In locals and regionals, he would walk by the trophy tables prior to the races. If he liked the trophies, he would win the race. It was as simple as that.” Based on his preference of trophies, he competed in the 8- to 10-year-old bracket.
That desire to win also surfaced in golf. “When he was 10 and in his first real tournament, he shot three under par at the state championship for the Little Legends junior program. He had never even come close to par before that,” says Edward.
Later that summer Edward and William were playing at Sandpiper Bay in a father-son event when they faced 198 yards as a second shot in to a par five, into the wind. “I laid up because the green was so narrow at that approach point,” says Edward. “I looked over and William was holding his five wood, which came up to his neck. He smoked it to about 10 feet within the pin. It was incredible.”
During the 2012 AAAA State Championship at Furman University, Edward witnessed another eye-popping performance. “William had a bad hole and marched furiously to the next tee where he ripped his drive onto the next green 412 yards away. That was the moment I understood that he had God-given talent.”
Edward enjoyed the following years, watching his son consistently perform under tremendous pressure. He was not the only one who was often astounded by William’s bent on the impossible. “At the age of 17, he was the youngest Long Drive Professional Championship winner in history, at the time, by three years. In his first six months of professional competition, he has three top eight finishes and a championship win,” Edwards says. “He also competed in the 2012 World Championship making it through six rounds. Only 10 professionals were chosen from around the globe to represent the Callaway X Hot Long Drive Team. The team includes five world championship titles in the group. In 2013 he finished ninth in the East Coast Long Drive Classic. He narrowly missed a top six in this one.” He went on to a second place finish this year in Florida during the FuoccoGroup Long Drive Challenge, where he qualified to compete in the 2013 REMAX World Long Drive Championship for the second consecutive year and is once again the youngest professional competitor for the open division in qualified world competition. More than 10,000 competitive attempts are made to qualify for the final stage. This year the field was expanded from 124 competitors to the top 196 qualifiers from around the globe.
The times have been exciting for this golfing family. On June 26, William and his parents returned from the Callaway Performance Center in Carlsbad, Calif. As part of the Global 13-man Callaway X Hot Long Drive Team, he had access to this facility, which is available only to PGA Tour players. “They were able to minimize his misses dramatically, and he is hitting better than ever,” Edwards says. “The same guy that builds and fits the world’s elite golfers, like Phil Mickelson, also custom fits the drivers for William.”
Hitting Better Is Right
William’s ability to drive the ball vast distances has garnered accolades such as the RE/MAX World Long Drive Championship Finalist, “Young Gun” of Long Drive at World Championship, and 62nd in World Ranking. The ranking system is based on a two-year rolling points total and although William only has one year’s worth of professional points in the open division, his goal is to break in to the top 50 in 2013, his first complete year.
“In a game that separates the men from the boys, he has reversed the roles,” says Paul Graham, vice president of Talent and Events at Charleston-based Empire Sports Management. William attributes some of that reversal to his workout regimen. “I use P90X that covers strength, flexibility and endurance. I also do fast twitch muscle and speed training.”
His tour schedule evokes comparisons to a rock band’s. Consider these venues from 2013: January, Orlando, Fla. for a hitting exhibition; March, Mesquite, Nev, for the Desert Launch finals; June, Greenville, Tenn. for the Tennessee Shootout; and Carlsbad, Calif. for the aforementioned Callaway Performance Center. Future plans include appearing in Denver, Colo. at the Mile High Shootout, the Spanish Long Drive Championship in Madrid, the Sandhills Slam in Pinehurst, N.C., and the International Long Drive Challenge in Mazatlan, Mexico.
Expect to hear — and see more — about this long-driving young man. The Golf Channel has taped William for an upcoming four-part series that aired during prime time on the Golf Channel/NBC Sports as a run up to the World Championship that began Oct. 9.
Asked if his son is busy, his dad replies, “For sure, especially with another year of high school left. We are working on how to juggle his college schedule as well.”
According to William, “My whole family works together to help support me.” And that support means a great deal. But suppose for a moment that William had never discovered golf. What might his sport be?
“I would be interested in playing baseball to follow in my grandfather’s footsteps,” he says. His grandfather played several years for the Braves in AAA.
Clearly, athleticism is in the blood, and the Hinson family takes great pride in their child prodigy and in his nickname, “Hawk,” which was given to him by ten time long drive champion Kevin “The Bull” Bullard after William’s championship victory.
Looking to the future, William Hinson clearly knows what he will be doing. “Competing, playing, or working at anything to do with golf — it’s my life.”
It is, indeed, his life, and it’s turning eyes his way. According to Paul Graham, “He’s got a world of talent and with his solid family and support around him, he can go a long way in long drive.”
William’s ultimate goal? “To win the RE/MAX World Long Drive Championship,” he says. To twist new meaning into an old saying, William’s dream is a long shot. And for that reason precisely, it stands a very good chance of coming true.
For more information on William, visit www.williamhinson59.com. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram at WilliamHinson59.