Cast Revealed for Golf Channel's Big Break Greenbrier

By Golf Channel Public RelationsAugust 13, 2012, 4:42 pm

 

Orlando, Fla. (Aug. 13, 2012) -- The cast for the next season of Golf Channel's popular Big Break reality competition series was revealed today, featuring 12 accomplished, professional golfers ready to realize their lifelong dreams of playing on the PGA TOUR.  Big Break Greenbrier, the series' 18th season, premieres Tuesday, Oct. 2 at 9 p.m. ET.

Produced at The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia -- the historic retreat known as 'America's Resort' -- Big Break Greenbrier will showcase golfers competing each week in various golf-related skills challenges, with the ultimate winner receiving his 'Big Break' -- an exemption to the 2013 Greenbrier Classic on the PGA TOUR, cash and other prizes.

The cast of Big Break Greenbrier come from different backgrounds -- several have multiple victories on the various mini tours all over the world, while others are resuming their golf careers after stepping away from competitive golf.  All are looking to leapfrog their careers onto golf's biggest stage: the PGA TOUR.

The contestants are:

Ray Beaufils (25, Phoenix, Ariz. / Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia) – A former Rugby player who had a decorated amateur golf career in Australia, Beaufils has battled injuries and a self-imposed burn out after moving to the U.S. After taking six months away from the game, he renewed his passion after playing a weekend round of golf with friends. He turned professional in 2009, won the first two professional events entered and, ultimately, earned conditional status on the Web.com Tour (formerly the Nationwide Tour) in 2010 before a knee injury sidelined his career. Fully recovered, Beaufils is looking to regain his confidence on the course. He is currently competing full-time on the Gateway Tour, where he is a two-time winner and has several top-10 finishes in 2012.

Derek Bohlen (27, Fountain Hills, Ariz.) – Following a successful collegiate golf career at the University of Northern Iowa, Bohlen put his dreams to compete professionally on hold for an office job. After seeing the success of fellow Iowan Zach Johnson and having to constantly answer the question about why he gave up on golf, Bohlen switched careers and moved with his wife to Arizona in 2009 to pursue his dream. Bohlen is currently competing on the NGA Pro Series Tour and various mini tours.

Anthony Casalino (32, Yonkers, N.Y.) – A PGA of America apprentice at Willow Ridge Country Club in Harrison, N.Y., Casalino is relying on his experience as a PGA of America professional to kick start his tournament career on Casalino, who turned his life around and focused on golf after filing for bankruptcy in 2005, recorded a best finish T7 in the Callaway Golf PGA Assistant Championship in 2011, and qualified to compete in the 2012 Met Open in New York in late August by winning a recent qualifier with a 6-under 66.

Rick Cochran (25, Paducah, Ky.) – Nephew of Champions Tour professional and 2011 Senior Open champion Russ Cochran, Rick is currently competing on the NGA Pro Series Tour, where he has recorded several top-10 finishes and one win in 2012. Rick is looking to follow in his famous uncle’s footsteps – both on and off the course – to become a successful golfer and a role model for up-and-coming golfers.

Brian Cooper (45, Phoenix, Ariz. / Pittsburgh, Pa.) – The oldest competitor on the series, Cooper has amassed more than 30 professional victories on various professional golf tours worldwide. A two-sport athlete in college – hockey and baseball – Cooper switched to golf full-time after college, and is currently playing full-time on the Gateway Tour.

Liam Friedman (25, Lackawanna, N.Y.) – One of two PGA of America professionals competing on the series, Friedman is assistant golf professional at Orchard Park Country Club in Lackawanna, N.Y. He captured the 2011 Western New York PGA Championship and competed in the 2012 PGA Professional National Championship near San Francisco earlier this summer. A member of the 2010 NCAA Division III National Championship golf team at Methodist University, Friedman also is currently competing on the Golfslinger.com Tour, where he has accumulated four top-10 finishes in 2011-12.

Stu Gold (26, West Haven, Utah) – Stu Gold’s journey is an inspirational story of defeating personal demons and dramatically turning his life around. Once addicted to pain killers, Gold’s goal is to make it to the golf’s biggest stage and share his story with others. Gold, who has been clean for more than two years, also is a new father and husband. He wants be an inspiration to family and friends who have supported him through his battles. Gold is currently competing on the Golfweek National Pro Tour.

James Lepp (28, Abbotsford, British Columbia) –A two-time winner on the Canadian Tour, a four-time All American from the University of Washington and the 2005 NCAA Individual Champion, Lepp is returning to competitive golf in 2012 after burning out on the game and switching to the business side of golf, when he founded Kikkor Golf, a golf shoe apparel company. Lepp will test himself on to see if his passion for competitive golf returns.

Isaac Sanchez (33, Folsom, Calif.) – Sanchez has overcome enormous odds in his career off the golf course. He was diagnosed with gigantism at an early age and, subsequently, had a tumor removed from his brain when he was in high school. After being surrounded by children with terminal illnesses while in the hospital, he changed his perspective on living – to be grateful for what life has provided. Sanchez, a professional since 1999, lives by the motto, 'Be, do, have,' and currently is in the top-10 on the money list on the 2012 Pepsi Tour.

Mark Silvers (25, Savannah, Ga.) – One of the more accomplished competitors on Silvers competed in the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in 2010, accumulated more than 15 wins on various mini tours in 2011, and has eight top-10 finishes and one win on the NGA Pro Series Tour in 2012. He is competing on with a heavy heart, as his father – who introduced him to the game at a young age – passed away just prior to filming of the series.

Chan Song (29, Cartersville, Ga.) – Older brother to lady professional golfers Naree and Aree Song, Chan is giving competitive golf one final push in 2012 after a wrist injury a few years ago sidelined his career and he switched to the business side of golf. A three-time All American at Georgia Tech and one of the top ranked junior golfers in the United States, Song is looking to follow in his sisters’ footsteps and contribute to his family’s legacy in professional golf. Song is currently competing on the mini tour circuit and the Canadian Tour.

Michael Tobiason (28, Wilmington, Del.) – A two-sport athlete (basketball and golf) in college at Goldey-Beacom College in Wilmington and carding 23 collegiate golf wins, Tobiason is one of two competitors who played in a U.S. Open – the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club. Currently playing on the Moonlight Golf Tour – where he has four wins in 2012 – Tobiason teaches golf at Appleton Country Club in Wilmington to supplement his income.

Big Break Greenbrier will unfold on the resort’s four golf courses: The Old White TPC Course – home to the PGA TOUR’s The Greenbrier Classic; The Greenbrier Course – a Jack Nicklaus design and home to the 1979 Ryder Cup and the 1994 Solheim Cup; The Meadows Course – a Dick Wilson and Bob Cupp design that is often referred to as the most scenic of The Greenbrier courses; and The Snead Course – the private residents’ course and a Tom Fazio design that showcases a remarkable test of strategic tee shots, precision approaches and undulating fast greens.  During the series, the competitors will reside in two deluxe, 3,000-square-foot timber-framed homes in The Greenbrier Sporting Club luxury residential community, located 3,300 feet atop Greenbrier Mountain.

The Big Break show concept pits highly skilled golfers against each other in a variety of challenges that test their physical skills and mental toughness.  During Big Break Greenbrier, one contestant will be eliminated each week, with the last player standing awarded his Big Break, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to compete on the PGA TOUR at The Greenbrier Classic in July 2013.

Past Big Break champions have won tournament exemptions to compete on some of the world’s top professional circuits, including the PGA TOUR, Champions Tour, European Tour, LPGA Tour, Web.com Tour and Canadian Tour.  Marcela Leon, winner of Big Break Atlantis, will compete in the LPGA Kingsmill Championship, Sept. 6-9. Tommy 'Two Gloves' Gainey, Big Break VII: Reunion champion and PGA TOUR professional, caught the world’s attention in 2011 with three top-five finishes, and Big Break Ireland champion Mark Murphy made the cut in both of his 2012 events on the European Tour he received as a result of winning the series (Trophee Hassan II and The Irish Open).

Several other past Big Break competitors are currently competing on the world’s top tours, including Matt Every (PGA TOUR), James Nitties (Web.com Tour), Kim Welch and Sara Brown (Ladies European Tour); and Gerina Piller, 2011 Solheim Cup team member Ryann O’Toole and 2009 U.S. Solheim Cup Team member Kristy McPherson (LPGA Tour).

Getty Images

LAAC returning to Casa de Campo in 2019

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 8:23 pm

The Latin America Amateur Championship will return to Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic in 2019 (Jan. 17-20), event organizers announced Saturday in Chile, where this year’s championship is underway.

The LAAC champion receives an invitation to play The Masters at Augusta National Golf Club every spring.

The champion is also exempt into The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event for which he is eligible to compete. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by The Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

The championship got its start in 2015 with Chile’s Matias Dominguez winning at Pilar Golf in Argentina. In 2016, Casa de Campo hosted, with Costa Rica’s Paul Chaplet winning. At 16, he became the first player from Central America to compete in The Masters. In 2017, Chile’s Toto Gana won the title at  Club de Golf de Panama.

Getty Images

Beef's beer goggles: Less drinks = more wins

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 6:07 pm

An offseason spent soul searching is apparently paying quick dividends for Andrew “Beef” Johnston, who is in contention to win Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Johnston acknowledged he was “burning the candle at both ends” last year, playing both the PGA Tour and the European Tour, but he told reporters Saturday that it wasn’t too much golf that hindered his efforts.

It was too much “socializing.”

“I'm a social person,” Johnston said. “If you go out with friends, or you get invited to something, I'll have a beer, please. But I probably had a few too many beers, I would say, to be honest. And it reflected in my golf, and I was disappointed looking back at it. I want to turn that around and have a good season.”

Johnston posted a 6-under-par 66 Saturday, moving into a tie for sixth, three shots off the lead. He said he arrived in Abu Dhabi a week early to prepare for his first start of the new year. It’s paying off with a Sunday chance to win his second European Tour title.

“Last year was crazy, and like getting distracted, and things like that,” Johnston said. “You don't know it's happened until you've finished the season. You’re off doing things and you're burning the candle at both ends. When I got back from last season, sort of had time to reflect on it, I sort of said to myself, 'You've got to keep quiet and keep disciplined and get on with your work.’”


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Johnston finished 189th last year in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings. He was 116th in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.

Johnston’s fun-loving personality, his scruffy beard and his big-bodied shape quickly made him one of the most popular and entertaining players in the game when he earned his PGA Tour card before the 2016-17 season. Golf Digest called him a “quirky outlier,” and while he has had fun with that persona, Johnston is also intent on continuing to prove he belongs among the game’s best players.

His plan for doing that?

“Just put the work in,” he said. “I didn’t put enough work in last year. It’s simple. It showed. So, just get down, knuckle down and practice hard.”

Rory McIlroy at the 2018 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship Getty Images

McIlroy making big statement in first start of 2018

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 3:40 pm

Rory McIlroy marched the fairways of Abu Dhabi Golf Club Saturday with that fighter pilot stride of his, with that confident little bob in his step that you see when he is in command of his full arsenal of shots.

So much for easing into the new year.

So much for working off rust and treating these first few months of 2018 as a warmup for the Masters and his bid to complete the career Grand Slam.

McIlroy, 28, is poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

With back-to-back birdies to close his round, McIlroy put up a 7-under-par 65, leaving him just one shot off the lead going into the final round.

“It’s good,” McIlroy said. “I probably scored a bit better today, short game was needed as well, but I hit the ball very well, so all in all it was another great round and confidence builder, not just for this week but obviously for the rest of the season as well.”

McIlroy can make a strong statement with a win Sunday.

If he claims the title in his first start of the year, he sends a message about leaving all the woes of 2017 behind him. He sends a message about his fitness after a nagging rib injury plagued him all of last year. He sends a message about his readiness to reassert himself as the game’s best player in a world suddenly teeming with towering young talent.

After his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro, McIlroy is eager to show himself, as well as everyone else, that he is ready to challenge for major championships and the world No. 1 title again.

“It feels like awhile since I’ve won,” McIlroy said. “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


A victory would be all the more meaningful because the week started with McIlroy paired with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and reigning European Tour Player of the Year Tommy Fleetwood.

McIlroy acknowledged the meaning of that going into Saturday’s round.

“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent healthy,” he said. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and one of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

It’s worth repeating what 2008 Masters champ Trevor Immelman said last month about pairings and the alpha-dog nature of the world’s best players. He was talking about Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge, when Immelman said pairings matter, even in off season events.

“When you are the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Immelman said. “They want to show this guy, `This is what I got.’”

A victory with Johnson in the field just two weeks after Johnson won the Sentry Tournament of Champions in an eight-shot rout will get the attention of all the elite players.

A victory also sets this up as a January for the ages, making it the kind of big-bang start the game has struggled to create in the shadow of the NFL playoffs.

Johnson put on a tour-de-force performance winning in Hawaii and the confident young Spaniard Jon Rahm is just a shot off the lead this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour. Sergio Garcia is just two off the lead going into the final round of the Singapore Open. Tiger Woods makes his return to the PGA Tour at Torrey Pines next week.

To be sure, McIlroy has a lot of work to do Sunday.

Yet another rising young talent, Thomas Pieters, shares the lead with Ross Fisher. Fleetwood is just two shots back and Johnson five back.

McIlroy has such a good history at Abu Dhabi. Over the last seven years, he has finished second four times and third twice. Still, even a strong finish that falls short of winning bodes well for McIlroy in his first start of the year.

“I have never won my first start back out,” McIlroy said.

A strong start, whether he wins or not, sets McIlroy up well for the ambitious schedule he plans for 2018. He’s also scheduled to play the Dubai Desert Classic next with the possibility he’ll play 30 times this year, two more events than he’s ever played in a year.

“I’m just really getting my golf head back on,” McIlroy said. “I’ve been really pleased with that.”

A victory Sunday will make all our heads spin a little b it with the exciting possibilities the game offers this year.

Getty Images

Garcia 2 back in weather-delayed Singapore Open

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 3:06 pm

SINGAPORE - Danthai Boonma and Chapchai Nirat built a two-stroke lead over a chasing pack that includes Sergio Garcia and Ryo Ishikawa midway through the third round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open on Saturday.

The Thai golfers were locked together at 9 under when play was suspended at the Sentosa Golf Club for the third day in a row because of lightning strikes in the area.

Masters champion Garcia and former teen prodigy Ishikawa were among seven players leading the chase at 7 under on a heavily congested leaderboard.

Garcia, one of 78 players who returned to the course just after dawn to complete their second rounds, was on the 10th hole of his third round when the warning siren was sounded to abruptly end play for the day.

''Let's see if we can finish the round, that will be nice,'' he said. ''But I think if I can play 4-under I should have a chance.''

The Spanish golfer credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his first major championship title at Augusta National because of the stifling humidity of southeast Asia and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament.


Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore in 2017, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the subsequent week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later. He is feeling confident of his chances of success this weekend.

''I felt like I hit the ball OK,'' Garcia said. ''My putting and all went great but my speed hasn't been great on this green so let's see if I can be a little more aggressive on the rounds this weekend.''

Ishikawa moved into a share of the lead at the halfway stage after firing a second round of 5-under 66 that featured eight birdies. He birdied the first two holes of his third round to grab the outright lead but slipped back with a double-bogey at the tricky third hole for the third day in a row. He dropped another shot at the par-5 sixth when he drove into a fairway bunker.

''It was a short night but I had a good sleep and just putted well,'' Ishikawa said. The ''greens are a little quicker than yesterday but I still figured (out) that speed.

Ishikawa was thrust into the spotlight more than a decade ago. In 2007, he became the youngest player to win on any of the major tours in the world. He was a 15-year-old amateur when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup.

He turned pro at 16, first played in the Masters when he was 17 and the Presidents Cup when he was 18. He shot 58 in the final round to win The Crowns in Japan when he was 19.

Now 26, Ishikawa has struggled with injuries and form in recent years. He lost his PGA Tour card and hasn't played in any of the majors since 2015. He has won 15 times as a professional, but has never won outside his homeland of Japan.

Chapchai was able to sleep in and put his feet up on Saturday morning after he completed his second round on Friday.

He bogeyed the third but reeled off three birdies in his next four holes to reach 9-under with the back nine still to play.

Danthai was tied for 12th at the halfway stage but charged into a share of the lead with seven birdies in the first 15 holes of his penultimate round.