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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McCoy earns medalist honors at Q-School

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Tour Q-School.

McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

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Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.



Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."

Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout

Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.