Second Season Begins

By September 28, 2004, 4:00 pm
Big Break II LogoThe Golf Channel debuted the first episode of The Big Break II Tuesday night, the networks follow-up to its hit series from last fall where 10 highly skilled golfers from around the country compete in a weekly showdown using a variety of golf skills challenges. The last man standing after the 11-week season wins the Big Break of his golfing career - a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to compete in four Nationwide Tour events televised on The Golf Channel in 2005.
Flying in from all over the country, the 10 competitors were a bit confused as to why they all were meeting inside an airport in Ontario, Calif. But shortly after all had arrived and spent a little time getting to know one another they were escorted outside to a bus that they figured was going to take them the rest of the way into Vegas.
Why are we in Ontario, Calif., when were supposed to be in Las Vegas? Whats going on? wondered schoolteacher Jay McNair from Brandon, Fla.
The Big Break IIAnd then off the bus steps none other than Matt Griesser, better known to most as Sign Boy from the FootJoy television commercials, and co-host with Peter Jacobson on The Golf Channels Plugged In series. Knowing Sign Boy and his antics, the group soon began to realize that something was up, especially after the bus pulled into a deserted Air Force base.
All I see is all these little Cessna planes. Im like dude, Im not getting on one of those planes, said McNair about the shows first apparent twist. I dont know what they got planned, but I aint getting on with a personal pilot on no Cessna. I aint doing it.
So after they all pile out of the bus, Sign Boy informed them that the beautiful private jet that they pulled up alongside (not the Cessna) will be taking to Vegas those competitors who can complete this seasons first challenge.
A makeshift green was ready on the tarmac and the players would have to make a simple 3-foot putt if they wanted to ride on the charter plane provided by Net Jets. If they missed, it was back on the bus with Sign Boy for a long, long bus ride to Sin City.
Youre like, Its a 3-footer and, well, a 3-footer is not that big of a deal. But then (you see) the wind is flying by the flagstick, remarked Bart Lower about the suddenly not so simple task. It was exciting; it got the heart pumping a little bit. And you dont want to gag the first challenge.
One by one they stepped up and drained the putt that put them on the Net Jet, except for one, Mike Foster Jr., who ended up pushing his putt just a little and watched as it lipped out.
I think I was just too excited, a little bit of the adrenalin running, said Foster, who is known as Hawaiian Mike. I wasnt disappointed that I missed, I just felt that I shouldve made it.
With that, the lucky nine who made the putt reveled in the comforts of the Net Jet as they were finally en route to the bright lights of Las Vegas where a fabulous penthouse suite was awaiting, complete with a virtual golf simulator and other amenities any golfer would love.
Its absolutely ridiculous. We got our own putting green, said a wide-eyed David Gunas Jr., a golf professional from Manchester, Conn. We got our own slot machine. We cant get any money out of it, but were trying.
After getting a tour through the resort and settling into their room assignments, the group looked forward to the following day where they would begin their Big Break II quest.
Meeting the next morning on the range of the Stallion Mountain Country Club with new co-host Lesley Swanson - who will set the stage for each episode and guide the contestants through the various challenges ' the competitors were introduced to Rick Smith, famed golf instructor for 2004 Masters champion Phil Mickelson.
Smith, who will be on hand to offer advice, tips and other needs for the players, was excited to set up the days first challenge as well as pass along some other wonderful information. First was the news that Nationwide was sweetening the pot of the four Nationwide Tour exemptions to also include $10,000 in cash. Secondly, Ford Motor Company was offering a new Ford 500 luxury sedan to the lucky winner of the Big Break II.
The Big Break IIOther good news was that this first challenge was a chance to let the competitors get their feet wet and that no one would face elimination. It also, much to the delight of everyone, afforded them a chance to win a new Ford 500 outright, even before things were to get serious.
Sitting on the tee box, a target green was located 300-yards away and the players were told that the person that wound up closest to the pin would have a chance to knock his next shot into the cup for the luxury sedan.
If you can get up-and-down from 300-yards you win a new car? Youve got to be kidding me? said driving range owner Bart Lower of Ann Arbor, Mich.
Each competitor then took turns trying to knock it stiff but ultimately it was Lower who ended up closest to the pin following a ripped 3-wood that finished some 23 feet from the hole.
Pulling off any golf shot when you have to pull it off is a great feeling, said Lower. Whether its $10 with your buddies or a shot like that.
But with the pressure squarely on his shoulders, his putt for the car unfortunately drifted left and settled a few feet from the hole.
No one ever said winning in Las Vegas was easy.
I just didnt play enough break and it kinda hopped a little bit and the wind just pushed it and pushed it, said Lower on his nerve-racking putt. Im like, Sorry honey, no car.
With that initial skill challenge over and the players more aware of what to expect, the group returned to their suite knowing the next day things were going to get serious, and that someone was going to become the first sent packing for home.
Not lost among the surroundings of Las Vegas though was what the Big Break could ultimately mean to them individually.
It would give me a chance to chase my dream one more time, remarked Hawaiian Mike. This is all anyone could ask for.

The chance to get four Nationwide Tour starts is very important to me, reiterated Kip Henley III, a golf teaching pro from Crossville, Tenn. I mean it would be my true Big Break.
Be sure to tune in to The Golf Channel next Tuesday at 9:00 p.m.(ET) as the first competitor will fail to capitalize on what could have been his Big Break.
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    Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

    By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

    Well, this is a one new one.

    According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

    “No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

    Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

    “If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

    The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

    “I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

    The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

    Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

    Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.

    PGA Tour suspends Hensby for anti-doping violation

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 8:02 pm

    Mark Hensby has been suspended for one year by the PGA Tour for violating the Tour’s anti-doping policy by failing to provide a sample after notification.

    The Tour made the announcement Monday, reporting that Hensby will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

    The statement reads:

    The PGA Tour announced today that Mark Hensby has violated the Tour Anti-Doping Policy for failing to provide a drug testing sample after notification and has been suspended for a period of one year. He will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

    Hensby, 46, won the John Deere Classic in 2004. He played the Tour this past year, playing just 14 events. He finished 142nd on the money list. He once ranked among the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking but ranks No. 1,623 today.

    The Sunshine Tour recently suspended player Etienne Bond for one year for failing a drug test. Players previously suspended by the PGA Tour for violating the anti-doping policy include Scott Stallings and Doug Barron.

    The PGA Tour implemented revisions to its anti-doping program with the start of the 2017-18 season. The revisions include blood testing and the supplementation of the Tour’s prohibited list to include all of the substances and methods on the World Anti-Doping Agency prohibited list. As part of this season’s revisions, the Tour announced it would also begin reporting suspensions due to recreational drug use.

    The Tour said it would not issue further comment on Hensby's suspension.

    Good time to hang up on viewer call-ins

    By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 7:40 pm

    Golf announced the most massive layoff in the industry’s history on Monday morning.

    Armchair referees around the world were given their pink slips.

    It’s a glorious jettisoning of unsolicited help.

    Goodbye and good riddance.

    The USGA and R&A’s announcement of a new set of protocols Monday will end the practice of viewer call-ins and emails in the reporting of rules infractions.

    “What we have heard from players and committees is ‘Let’s leave the rules and administration of the event to the players and those responsible for running the tournament,’” said Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior director of rules and amateur status.


    The protocols, formed by a working group that included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and the PGA of America, also establish the use of rules officials to monitor the televised broadcasts of events.

    Additionally, the protocols will eliminate the two-shot penalty when a player signs an incorrect scorecard because the player was unaware of a violation.

    Yes, I can hear you folks saying armchair rules officials help make sure every meaningful infraction comes to light. I hear you saying they make the game better, more honest, by helping reduce the possibility somebody violates the rules to win.

    But at what cost?

    The chaos and mayhem armchair referees create can ruin the spirit of fair play every bit as much as an unreported violation. The chaos and mayhem armchair rules officials create can be as much a threat to fair play as the violations themselves.

    The Rules of Golf are devised to protect the integrity of the game, but perfectly good rules can be undermined by the manner and timeliness of their enforcement.

    We have seen the intervention of armchair referees go beyond the ruin of fair play in how a tournament should be conducted. We have seen it threaten the credibility of the game in the eyes of fans who can’t fathom the stupidity of a sport that cannot separate common-sense enforcement from absolute devotion to the letter of the law.

    In other sports, video review’s timely use helps officials get it right. In golf, video review too often makes it feel like the sport is getting it wrong, because timeliness matters in the spirit of fair play, because the retroactive nature of some punishments are as egregious as the violations themselves.  

    We saw that with Lexi Thompson at the ANA Inspiration this year.

    Yes, she deserved a two-shot penalty for improperly marking her ball, but she didn’t deserve the two-shot penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard. She had no idea she was signing an incorrect scorecard.

    We nearly saw the ruin of the U.S. Open at Oakmont last year, with Dustin Johnson’s victory clouded by the timing of a video review that left us all uncertain if the tournament was playing out under an incorrect scoreboard.

    “What these protocols are put in place for, really, is to make sure there are measures to identify the facts as soon as possible, in real time, so if there is an issue to be dealt with, that it can be handled quickly and decisively,” Pagel said.

    Amen again.

    We have pounded the USGA for making the game more complicated and less enjoyable than it ought to be, for creating controversy where common sense should prevail, so let’s applaud executive director Mike Davis, as well as the R&A, for putting common sense in play.

    Yes, this isn’t a perfect answer to handling rules violations.

    There are trap doors in the protocols that we are bound to see the game stumble into, because the game is so complex, but this is more than a good faith effort to make the game better.

    This is good governance.

    And compared to the glacial pace of major rules change of the past, this is swift.

    This is the USGA and R&A leading a charge.

    We’re seeing that with the radical modernization of the Rules of Golf scheduled to take effect in 2019. We saw it with the release of Decision 34/3-10 three weeks after Thompson’s loss at the ANA, with the decision limiting video review to “reasonable judgment” and “naked eye” standards. We’re hearing it with Davis’ recent comments about the “horrible” impact distance is having on the game, leading us to wonder if the USGA is in some way gearing up to take on the golf ball.

    Yes, the new video review protocols aren’t a panacea. Rules officials will still miss violations that should have been caught. There will be questions about level playing fields, about the fairness of stars getting more video review scrutiny than the rank and file. There will be questions about whether viewer complaints were relayed to rules officials.

    Golf, they say, isn’t a game of perfect, and neither is rules enforcement, though these protocols make too much sense to be pilloried. They should be applauded. They should solve a lot more problems than they create.

    Lexi 'applaud's USGA, R&A for rules change

    By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 5:15 pm

    Lexi Thompson’s pain may prove to be the rest of golf’s gain.

    David Rickman, the R&A’s executive director of governance, acknowledged on Golf Channel’s "Morning Drive" Monday that the new protocols that will eliminate the use of TV viewer call-ins and emails to apply penalties was hastened by the controversy following Thompson’s four-shot penalty at the ANA Inspiration in early April. The new protocols also set up rules officials to monitor TV broadcasts beginning next year.

    “Clearly, that case has been something of a focus point for us,” Rickman said.

    Thompson reacted to the new protocols in an Instagram post.

    “I applaud the USGA and the R&A for their willingness to revise the Rules of Golf to address certain unfortunate situations that have arisen several times in the game of golf,” Thompson wrote. “In my case, I am thankful no one else will have to deal with an outcome such as mine in the future.”

    Thompson was penalized two shots for improperly returning her ball to its mark on a green during Saturday’s round after a viewer emailed LPGA officials during Sunday’s broadcast. She was penalized two more shots for signing an incorrect scorecard for her Saturday round. Thompson ultimately lost in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu.

    The new protocols will also eliminate the additional two-shot penalty a player receives for failing to include a penalty when a player was unaware of the penalty.

    Shortly after the ANA Inspiration, the USGA and R&A led the formation of a video review working group, which included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and PGA of America.

    Also, just three weeks after Thompson was hit with the four-shot penalty, the USGA and R&A released a new Rules of Golf decision decision (34-3/10) limiting video evidence in two ways:

    1. If an infraction can’t be seen with the naked eye, there’s no penalty, even if video shows otherwise.

    2. If a tournament committee determines that a player does “all that can be reasonably expected to make an accurate estimation or measurement” in determining a line or position to play from or to spot a ball, then there will be no penalty even if video replay later shows that to be wrong.

    While the USGA and R&A said the new decision wasn’t based on Thompson’s ANA incident, LPGA players immediately began calling it the “Lexi Rule.”