My experience on Big Break Indian Wells is something I will never forget! I had almost given up on playing professional golf after battling through a couple of injuries last year that completely took me out of golf…that is until I got the call that I was going to be on the show. It was a once in a lifetime experience for a small town guy from Texas. Almost immediately I became good friends with Russell, Piri and Will. As the show progressed, I also became friends with just about everyone else on there, except of course Kent. When you get two guys together who think and know inside that they are probably the two best all-around players of the group, then you can't really expect them to get along in competition. I may have come across to some of the competitors and viewers as cocky and arrogant, but it is just my competitive nature. I am actually a really nice guy; I just HATE to lose!!
I was pretty excited when we drove up and saw the Glass-Breaking Challenge. It should have been my cup of tea because of where I grew up. Playing in the winds of west Texas you learn to control the trajectory of your ball really well, otherwise the 30 or 40 mph winds will take your ball to places you don't want to go. This challenge actually took a lot more shots than what was shown on the show because it was so difficult. What wasn't shown was before Kent took out Will and I on his last two shots, I had a chance to take him out and be the hero for our team. My shot missed his plate of glass by no more than a half an inch right below it almost hitting the post that was holding it up. After I missed, I had a feeling that we weren't going to get another shot because of the rhythm that Kent had going, and I was right.
The second challenge was against our own team, hitting it inside the circles for points and the top two earned immunity. I have no regrets about this challenge because I hit every shot just how I wanted; they just didn't turn out. And that is golf. The first two from 130 yards in the fairway should have been fairly easy to get inside at least the two-point circle. I thought the first shot I hit was going to be really close based on the yardage and the wind. It was right on the flag, and when it came down I didn't see it until after it bounced- - it was on such a good line the pin blocked the view of it. The second shot I toned it down a little and tried to use the slope on the right side of the green to bring it back down to the 3-point circle. That backfired because I hit it about two yards too far and it didn't land into the slope. Both of my shots I hit just a stock pitching wedge expecting the ball to spin back a little like it always does. Well you know how that turned out, no more than a foot outside the 2-point circle. That put me in a real bind going to the next shots because I was in a big hole. All I was thinking about was the 3-point circle. The first shot I hit exactly how I wanted. Coming out of the rough you don't expect the ball to spin at all. I figured if I landed it around the 2-point line that it would release on up to the 3-point circle and I would be right back in it. Boy, was I wrong. It actually hit the chalk line and came ripping back like I had hit it out of the fairway. So that meant that I was going to the Elimination Challenge.
If you watched the show then you probably saw Kent butt-in when I was talking to Russell about my shot that hit the chalk line. 'You just got beat, You just got beat.', were his words. That actually came from Russ and I talking about the difference between the points of the two groups and that if I had been in the other group I would have been in a playoff with those two. What wasn't shown was the conflict between Kent and I where he butted into mine and Russell's conversation. If it hadn't been for Russell keeping me calm, something would have happened because I don't put up with rude and un-classy people attacking me personally and making a mockery of me when all I was doing was explaining to Russell what happened on my shot, because where Safe City was, you couldn't see the green.
In the Elimination Challenge, it was me and Shanks. We had five stations: putting, chipping, waste bunker, fairway and the entire hole. I was confident in my ability to win heads-up, but when he chose to buy the extra half a point to be up one whole point, it was going to be a difficult task to overcome, to say the least!! Especially when I found out it was only a race to three points, not the best out of the five. We halved the first station because I hit an awful putt and left it two feet short, in the dead center of the hole. I couldn't afford any mistakes already being a full point behind and I just made one. Luckily, he didn't make his so we halved the first station. The next station was a chip. My short game is what I usually pride myself on, being able to get the ball up and down from just about anywhere. In my mind I needed to make it to put some pressure on him because all he had to do was tie me for the next three and he wins. I hit a good shot to about a foot and a half where I shouldn't have, to worry about the putt. After Shank made his five-footer I just stepped up there like I always do to tap it in. I had let my mind wonder onto the next shot out of the waste bunker and not on the shot at hand and it cost me, BIG TIME!! I just pulled it. Now the pressure was really mounting square on my shoulders. Shank hit a great shot out of the waste area to about ten feet. I wasn't completely dead yet because I have seen people 3 putt from much less than that, but I wasn't counting on it. I hit what I thought was a good shot, right at the hole. My distance control out of that stuff just wasn't there. It ended up almost exactly where we had just chipped from. I tried to make the next shot because that was the only chance that I really had. It wasn't shown in the episode, but I made my four-footer to force Shank to 2 putt for the win, which he did. I felt like I beat myself because I missed that little short putt, and was more upset with myself and being down a full point than anything else. There were some comments made about me not being a good sport for losing, and needing to work on my people skills, but I shook his hand like a man and told him good job. And I lost. I hate to lose. I am not going to be all smiles and cheery after I lose at anything to someone, especially when I felt like I beat myself! And if people think that I have character flaws because I don't watch others when I am playing, then they can just think that. But I have never watched others hit or putt or anything else during competition. I focus on my game and if that is a character flaw then it is, but that is just the way I am. I don't have any regrets about the shots or any of my actions on the show, except for one, and you have to know me personally to find that out.
As for what I am doing after the show, it is really up in the air. Being on Big Break has rekindled the fire underneath me to try to pursue a career playing golf because it has brought into focus just how good I can really be and how good I want to be; I just need to catch my break to get there. I showed sparks of the old Justin in a couple of shots, but it is hard to calm your nerves when you have been out of competitive golf for almost two years. I am currently playing in Monday qualifiers for PGA and Nationwide events and thinking about moving to Florida to try to pursue my dream. It is almost within my grasp. I just need my Big Break! I thought this might be it, but I didn't perform the way I would have liked. Who knows, maybe I will make it through a Monday Qualifier and you will see me playing in a PGA event this year. Based on what all the guys told me on the show and PGA pros that I play with in Dallas, I more than have the ability and game, and I was one of the best players there, but it wasn't meant to be. I have made some lifelong friends through this experience and would like to thank Golf Channel and the producers for giving me the opportunity to be on the show! Our lives are already planned out for us, so you never know what the next curve in the road is going to bring!! Best of luck to everyone!!