The Big Break VI Trump NationalbrTees off with First Elimination

By Golf Channel Public RelationsSeptember 26, 2006, 4:00 pm
As Donald Trump issued his welcome to the 18 Big Break VI: Trump National contestants, his boardroom demeanor clearly suggested it was time to get down to the business of survival. Sixteen of the competitors acted on the message while Sid Corliss (Cumming, Ga.), a seasoned professional from Cumming, Ga., and Karyn Stordahl-Utecht (Brownsburg, Ind.), a former Miss Minnesota married to an Indianapolis Colt, were eliminated from the 12-week competition in a short game challenge.
 
The shows concept pits nine men and nine women competing against each other in a variety of challenges that test their skills and mental toughness for the right to compete in two Champions Tour and two LPGA Tour events, respectively. One female and one male will be eliminated from the series each week, with the two standing being crowned Big Break VI: Trump National winners.
 
The female champion will receive an exemption into the 2007 SBS Open at Turtle Bay and the 2007 Longs Drugs Challenge, as well as waived entry fees for the 2007 Duramed FUTURES Tour season. The winning male contestant will receive exemptions into the 2007 Turtle Bay Championship and the 2007 Bank of America Championship, as well as waived entry fees in six events on the 2007 Heartland Players Senior Tour.
 
Corliss and Stordahl-Utecht cant say they werent warned. Trump electrified the atmosphere in a video greeting to the contestants en route to Trump National Golf Club, Los Angeles with the warning, Enjoy your view along Trump National drive, because the competition begins right now.
 
And the sixth season of The Golf Channels popular series began with intrigue. Not knowing what was at stake, each contestant climbed steps 40 feet to an elevated tee to hit nothing more than a wedge towards the hole 65 yards away. Ashley Gomes (Pleasanton, Calif.) was the top female with an effort resting 71 from the hole while Jeff Mitchell (Frisco, Tex.) earned male honors at 143. Their reward for being the closest to the pin was immunity from elimination in episode one.
 
I was shocked and extremely happy said Gomes. The one thing no one wants to do is to be the first to leave.
 
Living up to the shows billing, Trump had something to say about who was staying and who was going home. After Sara Lynn Johnston (Williamston, S.C.), Kristy McPherson (Conway, S.C.), Albert Crews (Homer, La.) and Denny Hepler (Warsaw, Ind.) gained immunity over the next two challenges, The Donald sent tremors through the competitors and shook things up in earthquake country.
 
The twist was the six competitors who had gained immunity picked a partner of the opposite sex from the remaining contestants and would team with them in episode two. Those players picked would be immune from elimination for the remainder of the first episode while the remaining six would be forced to play in an elimination challenge.
 
One by one the immune contestants walked the driving range looking for the intangible that would make a relative stranger a teammate. Like a puppy liberated from the pound, those picked hugged their rescuer while the others felt the sting of playground rejection.
 
Im like the kid not being picked in dodge ball, explained a dejected Bri Vega (North Andover, Mass.), one of those not picked and forced to play in the elimination challenge. No one wanted me as a partner.
 
Making the rejection worse, The Donald also added incentives to stave off elimination by revealing the ultimate winner of The Big Break VI would receive what he called a really big check that would be personally presented during the champions trip to Trump Plaza in New York. They would also win a 2007 Chrysler Aspen.
 
Those prizes, however, were in the distant future as the six players not chosen headed to the elimination challenge.
 
The final showdown dissected each players short game. From three locations ' a 20 yard pitch, a shot from deep greenside rough and a blast from a greenside bunker ' the contestants had up to four shots to hit their ball in a circle on the green. Players were awarded points for how many shots it took to hit the target.
The player with the highest total was eliminated.
 
Corliss hopes were dashed early as he took three shots on each of the first two locations to be eliminated while Kelly Murray (Reston, Va.) and Gavin Slabbert (Orange Park, Fla.) advanced.
 
In the ladies showdown, Stordahl-Utecht started fast by tallying one point with a deft pitch shot but took the maximum of five points while trying to get out of the rough. Needing only three points to advance after Vega and Annie Mallory (Las Vegas, Nev.) each suffered five point efforts in the bunker, Stordahl-Utecht couldnt get out of the hazard and was once again tagged with five points and sent packing.
 
You get a little more comfortable with things and then you see that youre eliminated, Corliss said. Its hard.
 
If it was easy, then Trump probably wouldnt be involved.

Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 5:11 pm

Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.

Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.

Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.

With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

Ko told GolfChannel.com Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.

“It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”

Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

Piller declined an interview request when GolfChannel.com sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

“I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

And that’s a magic word in golf.

There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.


Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery


A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

“The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

“It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

Parity was the story this year.

Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

“I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.

Love's hip surgery a success; eyes Florida swing return

By Rex HoggardNovember 22, 2017, 3:31 pm

Within hours of having hip replacement surgery on Tuesday Davis Love III was back doing what he does best – keeping busy.

“I’ve been up and walking, cheated in the night and stood up by the bed, but I’m cruising around my room,” he laughed early Wednesday from Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala., where he underwent surgery to replace his left hip. “[Dr. James Flanagan, who performed the surgery] wants me up. They don’t want me sitting for more than an hour.”

Love, 53, planned to begin more intensive therapy and rehabilitation on Wednesday and is scheduled to be released from the hospital later this afternoon.

According to Love’s doctors, there were no complications during the surgery and his recovery time is estimated around three to four months.

Love, who was initially hesitant to have the surgery, said he can start putting almost immediately and should be able to start hitting wedges in a few weeks.

Dr. Tom Boers – a physical therapist at the Hughston Orthopedic Clinic in Columbus, Ga., who has treated Fred Couples, Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman and Brad Faxon – will oversee Love’s recovery and ultimately decide when he’s ready to resume normal golf activity.

“He understands motion and gait and swing speeds that people really don’t understand. He’s had all of us in there studying us,” Love said. “So we’ll see him in a couple of weeks and slowly get into the swing part of it.”

Although Love said he plans to temper his expectations for this most recent recovery, his goal is to be ready to play by the Florida swing next March.