Things Heating Up in Sin City

By October 12, 2004, 4:00 pm
Big Break II LogoEditors Note: The Golf Channel aired the third episode of The Big Break II Tuesday night, the networks follow-up to its hit series from last fall where 10 highly skilled golfers compete in a weekly showdown of skills challenges. The last man standing after the 11-week season wins the Big Break of his golfing career - an opportunity to compete in four Nationwide Tour events televised on The Golf Channel in 2005.

Although things had become quite a bit more serious on the golf course with the elimination of Jay McNair in last weeks episode, that didnt necessarily mean that the party had come to an end off the course.

The remaining nine began the show with a rousing visit to one of the many spectacular Las Vegas shows the strip has to offer ' Cirqcue Du Soleils Mystere. Given the VIP treatment they are starting to become accustom to, the group was treated to the best seats in the house ' front and center. It wasnt long before contestant Kip Henley was pulled out of the comfort of his chair and thrust into the actual production of the show.

Kip was pushing this golf cart with this diaper on and this bottle in his mouth and in his little bib, recalled a laughing Don Donatello about Henleys Vegas acting debut. It was just hilarious.

But the morning sun soon came calling and their focus quickly returned to golf as they arrived at the golf course to found out what co-hosts Rick Smith and Lesley Swanson had in store for them.

Again, the players faced three separate challenges ' the winner of the skills challenge would be done for the day, immune from elimination and safe for another week. The rest of the players would then compete in the Top-Flite Mulligan Challenge where they play for an extra shot in the do-or-die elimination challenge.

Standing on the course 180-yards from the hole, the players had to hit through an area comparable to the opening of a garage door that was situated a mere 30-yards in front of them.

It was intimidating, said John Turk, the elder statesman of the bunch. Normally youre looking out into a great big space and then all of a sudden youre looking at something like this (small area).

The Big Break IIThe players each took a turn trying to execute the difficult shot as the four closest to the pin got to advance to Rd. 2. Of the final four, Bart Lower and Turk were able to knock it stiff and move into the finals of the skills challenge.

As the pair got mentally prepared, co-host Rick Smith threw a couple of twists into the mix. First, he had maintenance workers lower the structures opening to a mere six feet off the ground, making the already difficult shot even harder. He then replaced the regular flagstick with a special Ford Motor Company that signified that a hole-in-one would result in winning a sleek Ford 500 automobile.

It just put a little more excitement on it, and in all honesty it makes you zero in a little tighter, said Lower about new wrinkle that was put into effect in the skills challenge.

Despite a good shot by Turk, Lower was true to his words and with his added focus hit a great that shot that won him the skills challenge ' though not the Ford - and granted him immunity from the rest of the show and guaranteed him another night in Vegas.

The remaining eight contestants then moved on to the Top-Flite Mulligan challenge where they waged a putting duel to see who would win the extra shot in the elimination challenge. Putting from a starting distance of three feet, the player who drained his first putt would then advance to the next stage where two more feet were added to the length of the putt. The player holing a putt from the longest distance would win the mulligan.

Each player in the group had no problem with the three footer but once the distance moved back to five feet two suffered lip-outs. As their confidence began to grow, six competitors were left as they began rolling putts from seven feet.

Seven-footer, same routine, same putt, offered David Gunas Jr., who is known for both his barefooted playing style and his unusual putting set-up. I make a lot of putts and Ive never met a more confidant putter than myself. Death, taxes and my short putts are pretty much a sure thing.

Strong words from the smallest player of the group, but he nevertheless backed it up as only he, Sean Daly and Donatello progressed to the 11-foot range.

It was at that point where things got spicy once again as Donatello - who eventually won the challenge by being the only one of the three to sink his putt - let out a Boo-yah, that was punctuated with a fist pump.

There was probably a lot of people that werent happy about that at all, said Donatello without a hint of regret. Im not here to make friends. Im here to win this competition.

Armed with his mulligan, Donatello and the others finally got around to the dreaded elimination challenge.

A stiff short game test was on tap as the players would hit shots from three different areas surrounding a green that had a small circle painted around the flagstick. Each player was given four shots, if necessary, to stop his ball inside the 15-foot circle. They earned a point for each shot that was unsuccessful, with a five-point penalty assessed if all four attempts went awry.

The player who amassed the most points after hitting from all three areas would have to say goodbye to the bright lights of Sin City.

I guess its not that difficult of a shot if youre not nervous, but under the pressure, your hands start going again, said Scott Yancy about the challenge.

The first shot was from a greenside bunker, the second from an area 40 yards away and the third, and most difficult, a wedge or flop shot over water to a tight flagstick.

The pressure turned out to be real indeed as three of the players failed to pull off the first shot and received the five point penalty. Only Daly was able to hit the target area and his 1-point tally held the lead going into stage two.

Going into the second shot I felt confidant. I thought O.K., you know what, just chip it up there, done. One point. Your outta here and sitting good, said Shelby Chrest about the start of stage two. But four errant chips left him again with five points tacked onto his score.

I hit what I thought were pretty decent shots that just rolled off the back end, said Chrest, who now was in the unenviable position of being last heading into the final stage. I was quite disappointed after that series off shots.

With several players safe from elimination due to their low score and Chrests high score, it ultimately came down to five players battling it out.

Both Yancy and Turk, who were the first two to hit, couldnt find the target area, which in turn gave Chrest a breath of new life. Mike Foster and Kip Henley then took turns and answered the call as both found the right touch and took themselves out of danger.

The Big Break IIOne more night in the penthouse. I just keep chipping away, said Henley on his quest to be the last man standing at the end of the competition.

Now, only Chrest remained, trying to conjure up a little last-minute Big Break magic.

If he could stick the target area with his first shot he would send Turk packing. Hit it on the second try it would force a playoff. If not, his demise would be imminent.

I had a feeling in my heart that Shelby was going to stick it, confessed Turk on Shelbys last stand.

With the group looking on - Turk in particular - Chrest hit his wedge a little fat and it came up short of the green. His second shot then landed on the green and rolled into the zone. Unfortunately, it kept rolling through the target area and out of play.

I was disappointed obviously. No one wants to leave this competition this early, said the departing Chrest. Shocked, too. Reality starts to set in and I was like Wow, your done.

Be sure to tune in to The Golf Channel next Tuesday at 9:00PM (ET) as the group lays it all the line, each trying to stave off elimination and not become the shows next victim.
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    Rose leads halted Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

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