Mike Moulton's first trip to Lawrence was worth $6,000.
Actually, his longest drive was worth that much. The big hitter from San Bernardino, Calif., ripped a 382-yard, 2-foot, 2-inch drive on Saturday to win the Great Plains Long Drive Championship at Eagle Bend Golf Club's driving range.
Moulton's winning drive came on his ninth and second-to-last shot in the finals of a four-man shootout. He was third before delivering the decisive drive.
"When I hit it, I knew it and so did everyone in the grandstands," said Moulton, who turned 25 on Monday. "Everybody jumped up."
Dave Mobley (370 yards, 1 foot), Brian Pavlet (362 yards, 2 feet, 4 inches) and Bart Hartsell (358 yards, 5 inches) finished 2-3-4 in the finals.
"This was the best field outside of the world championship," said tournament director Gary Winters, who announced the length of the drives after they were marked in a 40-yard grid.
Moulton has been participating in long-drive competitions since 1997. He said the Great Plains championship ranked among the best.
"This was an awesome event," Moulton said. "I've been to a lot of events over the years. This is one of the best I've been to."
Moulton knew he a knack to whack the long ball, especially since his days on Cal State-San Bernardino's golf team.
"I was always the longest guy on the team," he said, adding that he once crushed a drive 454 yards. "I kind of stumbled on the long drive and went with it."
Moulton now makes a living driving balls nearly four times the length of a football field.
"I play a little bit," he said of actual rounds of golf. "I do a lot of exhibitions for corporate outings. Basically, I hit golf balls for a living."
Moulton outlasted 52 other long drivers for the top prize.
Mobley's second-place check was $2,800 and Pavlet's third-place check was $1,500.
Pavlet unleashed the longest drive in the two-day event with a 386-yard, 11-inch blast in the quarterfinals earlier Saturday.
"Of all the hitters, Moulton was the most consistent," Winters said.
Winters lauded the efforts of Eagle Bend pro Jim Kane and the course's superintendent, Kerry Golden, for allowing the competition to occur at the driving range, which was closed for two days to the public.
"We'd like to do it again next year," Winters said.
Winters also said tournament officials would supply approximately 30 dozen golf balls and 50 clubs to Extra Mile, a local charity for underprivileged youth.