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.
And 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.
Other 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.