The start of the Big Break IV was much like those of the previous Big Break beginnings: players of all ages, from all over the country flying in from places you may or may not have known existed. That, however, is where this installment went to another level. Or in this case, went to another continent: The Big Break headed across the pond and into Europe.
To the famed Carnoustie Golf Club in Scotland, to be exact.
Last seen, Carnoustie was busy making a verb out John Van de Velde at the 1999 British Open. Now its to be the seen of the Ryder Cup-style Big Break IV ' USA vs. Europe.
Big Break II you looked at it like you were going to meet the competition, said Bart Lower, speaking about the unique team format that this series presents. This time though, for me, was like Im going to meet my team.
And with that, team United States boarded a plush British Airways jumbo jet and headed over the Atlantic to meet up with there soon to be rivals from all over Europe.
Now we have little competition going. Now its not just boys having fun, said T.J. Valentine, after seeing a video in which Guy Woodman of England predicted his side would have the advantage in the upcoming contests.
That temperament rolled onto the range before the players began the competition, as the two teams finally got their first glance of each other up close.
We sort of waved to them, and some of them didnt wave back and I thought, Oh God, is this going to be this serious all the way through, said Marty Wilde Jr. on what he perceived as a brush off by the Americans.
Co-hosts Vince Cellini and Stephanie Sparks eventually met with both squads and informed them they were not wasting any time and to head to the tee box.
Playing in three sets of twosomes, each team played the 17th and 18th holes at Carnoustie and the team with the fewest amount of strokes would be given a shot to win a 2006 Ford Explorer.
Although no one was scheduled to get ousted from the show on the first day, it didnt take long for tensions and nerves to start to take hold.
I got to take the first shot of Big Break IV. The nerves kind of came in when I peeked up before my tee shot and saw everybody, admitted Valentine. Theres going to be a lot of people watching this shot dont screw it up!
Sure enough, Valentines opening salvo found a burn to put the first American twosome in a tough spot. He more than made up for his miscue, however, as he rolled home two straight clutch par-saving putts to keep the score tied after the first pairing.
In the second group to go out, the U.S. sent out self-admitted country boy Tommy Gainey from Bishopville, S.C.
A guy with two gloves and a baseball swing, recalled Gainey on his welcome to the big time moment. Everybody was anxious to see me hit.
Up to the challenge, Gainey laid up just shy of the burn, much to the delight of his partner Randall Hunt.
Tommy takes out his 5-wood and he just ripped it! said Hunt.
The good vibe was short lived unfortunately, as Team USA had disastrous trip into one of the legendary nasty bunkers at Carnoustie and fell five shots back of the Europeans heading into the last pairing.
Even though they had a substantial lead, I knew anything could happen in the Big Break, said Lower of the U.S., hinting at a possible comeback for him and his teammates.
After trading pars on the first hole, the Europeans clinched it with another easy par at the 18th to advance to the Prize Challenge for the Ford Explorer.
Its a good thing we came out a little bit squirrelly, because now we understand the snowball effect that can happen, said Lower about his teams defeat. So it was a good learning experience for us.
The Ryder Cup is the greatest event in golf for the greatest players in golf. So for the
level we are, this is our Ryder Cup, added Edoardo Gardino of Italy, who has the opportunity in the past to caddy for the likes of Sergio Garcia and Jose Maria Olazabal.
The European team then gathered at the home hole to take dead aim at a six-foot circle that was painted around the flagstick. From 100-yards out, any player knocking it inside the circle would drive off with a brand new vehicle.
You got one shot, and youve got to hit it pretty close, as the target is very small from 100-yards, said Wilde on the chances of cashing in.
In a driving rain that had kept up for most of the day, no one on the European side could quite dial in the number, leaving the Ford Explorer safe from a new driver.
Gathering all the players together once again, co-host Cellini and Sparks informed the group that come the next day, someone would be given the boot from the show and traveling back to their home country. And a certain glass breaking challenge would once again be making an appearance.
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