Magic Tricks in Michigan

By November 25, 2003, 5:00 pm
The Big BreakEditor's Note: The Golf Channel aired the eighth episode of its original series, The Big Break, Tuesday in which a group of scratch golfers vie in a weekly showdown of golf skills challenges. Each week one contestant will be eliminated until there is just one man left standing. That lucky winner will get the Big Break of his golfing career - exemptions into four Canadian Tour events airing on The Golf Channel in 2004.
As Mother Nature reared her ugly head at the Treetops Resort in northern Michigan, the players were left in the clubhouse, killing time with some light stretching, small talk and a couple of card tricks.
Here we go again, spoke Justin Peters about the harsh weather the players had to deal with. Its just going to be another one of those absolute mental challenges.
With the field down to the final four contestants, a match-play style challenge, nasty weather and the mounting pressure all set the stage to see who would ultimately have to pull off a little magic of their own to stave off elimination.
As the contestants huddled under umbrellas waiting for instructions for the days first challenge, co-host Rick Smith pulled up with some good news on an otherwise dreary day. The Ford Motor Company was offering the use of a new Ford Explorer for two years to the player that would eventually win the Big Break.
That was a shock because none of us even expected that, quipped Peters. It just raises the bar, the pot has been sweetened!
Justin & Anthony team upThe first challenge split the quartet into two-man teams - Randy Block and Craig Pawling versus Justin Peters and Anthony Sorentino. The teams would face off in a three-hole Ryder Cup-style format, with each hole being worth a point. The first hole was alternate shot, the second better-ball and the third was combined team score, and the team winning the most points would receive the luxury of not having to face the upcoming elimination challenge.
The team of Block and Pawling quickly got a huge break, as Randys approach shot on the first hole somehow escaped the trees on the right and bounced down onto the green about 30 feet from the cup. After finding the green in regulation, a missed three-footer by Peters resulted in a three-putt bogey, giving Block and Pawling the first point of the day.
I felt terrible I missed that putt, said a shocked Peters. I just hit it too hard.
On the second hole, with better-ball in play, Peters found himself in position to win the hole with a 20-foot birdie putt, and to also gain some redemption for his short miss at the last. His putt found the bottom of the cup and earned the team its first point and drew them even heading into the final hole.
We had been talking all week about gut checks, and what really defines a golfer is coming through, said happy teammate Sorentino. He drained that putt and I was thrilled.
The final hole of the skills challenge, where combined scores would decide the winner, the contestants faced a tough 220-yard par-3. Sorentino, the only player to find the dance floor, hit a beautiful long iron that finished up just short of the flagstick. His resulting par and teammate Peters' bogey-4 beat their opponents by a stroke, leaving Block and Pawling to do battle to see who would stay alive.
In the elimination challenge each player was given the chance to select between one of five shots in which he felt he could beat his opponent. The five choices were a 185-yard long iron shot, a fairway bunker shot, a flop shot, a greenside bunker shot and a 65-foot putt, with the player closer to the hole being the winner. Each shot was worth a point and the first contestant to reach two points would move on to the next show.
Pawling was the first to choose and citing his belief in his distance control on long putts, decided to go with the putting competition. Wrong move, as his putt was well short and to the left, coming to rest 9 feet 6 inches from the hole. Block couldnt capitalize though, sending his putt racing by the hole and to the back of the green, 24 feet 2 inches away. However, by having a lower score in the skills challenge, Block wisely used the mulligan he earned and put it to good use, nestling his follow-up putt inside Pawlings and winning the point.
With the momentum clearly on his side, Block then selected to hit the flop shot in the second portion of the elimination challenge. The pressure was now squarely on Pawlings shoulders and he had to respond in order keep things going. And respond he did, hitting his wedge to 9 feet 1 inch and putting the pressure back in Blocks corner.
Its out of my hands now. Ive done all I can, said Pawling as he waited for Blocks attempt.
Blocks subsequent shot, however, caught the fringe and died before advancing the needed distance. The two now headed to a decisive final shot.
Rick Smith randomly selected the final shot in the elimination challenge, the 185-yard fairway shot, and Block was to be the first to hit. Having already struggled with his long irons in the earlier challenge, Block continued the trend, pushing his 5-iron well right of the green, 133 feet 5 inches from the hole.
Randy is dejectedThat opened the door for Pawling, who despite not hitting a quality shot himself, still wound up well within Blocks distance and good enough to advance.
The shots they hit really, truly werent a reflection of how good of golfers they really are as it was a reflection of how bad the weather was 'it was brutal, said Sorentino about Pawling and Blocks final battle. From the beginning I thought it would end up being me, Randy and Justin. So I was a little surprised, but when the weather is like that anything can happen.
Tune in next Tuesday at 9:00PM (ET) as the final threesome find themselves testing their all-important short game skills, seeing which two can wedge themselves into the final shows final showdown in two weeks.
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