Shark Tanks, Casinos and Rum, OH MY!

By Big Break ProducerMay 2, 2012, 1:53 pm

As a 21-year-old Senior at the University of Connecticut, I had not yet embarked on that prototypical “SPRING BREAK!!!” type of trip.  As a precocious young college kid, I always aspired to do such things, but alas, it was not to be up to that point in my quest for higher learning.  I was not a child of trust funds who was allowed a trip to Cancun every spring since the day their parents dropped them off for freshman orientation in their Sweet-16 Beemer.  Nope.  That was not in the cards for me and my circle of friends.  Going into our final year of our college careers, our lone Spring Break trip consisted of piling into my parents’ mini-van for 2 nights of north-of-the-border fun in the toasty tropical surroundings of…Montreal.  At that time (the pre-millennial year of 1999), the U.S. dollar was still worth something up there, which helped significantly.  Our shoestring budget appreciated the extra 30-cents on the dollar.  And as the kids have done for generations, we reveled for the better part of 48-hours in our obnoxious, collegiate, American-ness.

Although Montreal did prove to be a great success (especially discovering the Duty Free shop at the border), the following year, a few of us started talking about doing something other than freeze our butts off for our final Spring Break trip together.  Outside of the occasional trek down to Misquamicut, Rhode Island for a day at the beach during the summer, none of us had ever really escaped the clutches of the Northeast for some good ol’ fashioned tropical fun in the sun.  Then along came our tech-savvy dorm-mate who introduced us all to  In the burgeoning age of the internet (it was just beginning to take hold as a viable medium during this time), this was amazing.  You mean we can find discounted airfare AND cheap hotel rooms without having to pay a travel agent?!?!?  JACKPOT!!!  So, after some intensive research (and numerous stop-downs due to the modem being knocked off line) we found that Nassau, Bahamas was actually a very affordable trip.  So, we booked some cheap airfare, booked a few rooms in a…ahem…“hotel” and off we went.  (Not surprisingly, our lodging of choice for that weekend has since been demolished and the beach area across from it has been built up quite a bit and renamed as Junkanoo Beach.)

After a day of sun, fun and local rum, we got word of this new resort that just recently opened over on Paradise Island.  It was called “Atlantis” and it had shark tanks, waterslides and a casino.  So, we did what any educated person would do upon hearing of such a thing: packed up a bottle of rum, got in a cab, and headed to the lost city of Atlantis.

Our wide eyed enthusiasm, I’m sure, was palpable by any of those unfortunate enough to be in our vicinity upon arrival.  I mean, dude…there were shark tanks and a casino.  So after spending some quality time out on the beach (where The Cove Atlantis now stands), we made our way into the casino, found a $5 blackjack table ($10 is now the minimum) and took our 1st step toward procuring some extra funds for the rest of our weekend.  Now keep in mind, up to that point in my life, I had never even set foot in a casino.  I was also, as mentioned earlier, on a part-time-college-job type of income.  Every dollar down on the table meant one more bead of sweat trickling down my nervously furrowed brow.  First, I lost the $40 in my pocket.  It was then that I faced the all important casino decision for the 1st time in my life.  Play, or walk away.  Well, being the rookie that I was, I took another $40 out of the ATM and went right back to the table, determined to take back what was rightfully mine.  After another quick $20 donation, I learned my lesson and departed the table with my last $20 and a bruised ego.

Now, some 12-years later, as long-time Series Producer of the Big Break franchise, I’ve definitely experienced my fair share of casinos and tropical locales (Big Break II Las Vegas, Big Break V Hawaii, Big Break Ka’anapali, Big Break Sandals Resorts).  One could say that wide-eyed enthusiasm would wane over the years.  I mean, just like anything; once something goes from “out of the ordinary” to just “ordinary” it just becomes normal.  While I certainly don’t garner that same feeling I had when first visiting Atlantis, there is one thing that always seems to bring it back.  That moment when the contestants arrive on site.  They’re all, not only, experiencing the very beginning of a competition that can change their lives, but most are experiencing the location itself for the 1st time.  That’s what makes the start of this series that much more exciting for me.  The looks on their faces when they pull up to Atlantis bring back that same feeling I had when I first witnessed it 12-years ago.  Granted, I wasn’t about to compete on a TV show, but I was experiencing something I had never experienced up to that point of my life.

Even the feeling I had that afternoon in the casino most certainly translates to the types of challenges we’ve conjured up for this season.  So much of what they will face during the course of the competition, will be based on their decision making ability, not just their golf game.  Like my 1st foray into the world of casino gambling, these ladies will have to determine during many of the challenges…play, or walk away.

As for the copious amounts of local rum we “experienced” during our one and only tropical Spring Break…well…considering what we have in store this season…these ladies may need plenty of it.

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.