Soven, Clifford Battle For Pro Tour Season Title

Harley Clifford chases Phillip Soven by 15 points

The top professional wakeboarders from throughout the globe are headed to Volunteer Landing in downtown Knoxville on Aug. 13-14 for the final stop of the 2010 MasterCraft Pro Wakeboard Tour.

Over the past few months, more than 50 pro riders have been competing on the five-city tour in a points race for one of the most prestigious crowns in wakeboarding — the MasterCraft Pro Wakeboard Tour title.

“We’ve been competing this entire season, waiting to get to Knoxville to see who wins it all,” said current points leader Phillip Soven. “Knoxville is going to be a tough contest for sure, because it’s everyone’s last shot at winning. As the points leader, I just need to stay calm, stay focused and lay down my run.”

Soven held the Pro Tour title for two consecutive years in 2007 and 2008, but lost it last year to Australian phenom Harley Clifford, who captured the 2009 title in his rookie year.

Clifford could repeat season champ with a successful finish in Knoxville. The young Aussie only trails Soven in the standings by a mere 15 points.

“Harley and I have been going back and forth this entire season, battling each other, trying to take the lead in the standings,” Soven says. “It’s going to come down to the wire. We’re both hungry to win, we’re both competitive and we both can’t afford to hold anything back.”

The season-ending event runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 13, with Pro Men qualifiers set to begin at 12:30 p.m. The MasterCraft Pro Wakeboard Tour will kick off the morning in Knoxville with opening rounds for the Jr. Pro Men’s division, followed by the Pro Women’s division.

The Pro Women’s division does not crown a Pro Tour titlist, as the female riders only compete at two stops on the five-city tour. However, Knoxville serves as the fourth event in the five-stop Queen of Wake series — an all-female pro wakeboarding circuit.

Former Queen of Wake crown bearer Nicola Butler is poised to reclaim her title, as she currently leads the series standings with 290 points. With defending titlist Dallas Friday out the rest of the season with a leg injury, Butler’s toughest competition comes from 17-year-old Raimi Merritt. Merritt sits behind Butler in the standings with 245 points and will look to overthrow Butler in Knoxville to take the lead in the series.

“Nicola is obviously a gifted rider, but I feel this is my season and I want to win it all,” Merritt says. “My goal this weekend is to have fun and try to podium, but if I really want to turn things around, I know I need to win in Knoxville.”

In addition to the Pro Men’s division, the Jr. Pro Men will also be finishing their season in Knoxville. Florida native Nick Galotifore leads the Jr. Pro Tour standings with 370 points. Fellow Floridians Daniel Powers and Steel Lafferty stand in second and third place. All three riders are in contention to win their first Jr. Pro Tour title.

The Knoxville tour stop will wrap up on Saturday, Aug. 14, with the ticketed event starting at 11 a.m.

Following the conclusion of the event, Indmar Marine Engines and MasterCraft Boats invite the general public to join the athletes at the Bijou Theater for the 2010 MasterCraft Pro Wakeboard Tour Party. Doors to the theater will open at 9 p.m.