It’s amazing how so many moments can happen during the course of Big Break that shape the competition, the outcomes and the storylines, and in just one instant, a single shot can determine the final outcome. On the 17th green, with the championship match reaching its climax, Carling Coffing took that single shot which will now live in Big Break infamy; hopping, skipping and jumping her way to the win in the grand finale of Big Break Sandals Resorts. Sure, there was still one hole to play and, courtesy of that tiny, little palm tree, Lili suffered probably one of the worst breaks I’ve ever witnessed on a golf course. The fact of the matter is though, the dagger was effectively plunged into Lili’s gut on that 17th green. The break on 18 was just a twisting of the blade.
Before we get into Carling’s win, I must say a few words about this season’s runner-up, Lili Alvarez. Even after such a heart wrenching defeat, Lili showed us how to carry oneself as a competitor and a true sportsman. She didn’t get angry; she didn’t play the “woe is me” card about the bad break; she didn’t blame anyone else for her loss. She just took it for what it is—a game and an experience. That, in itself, just shows how classy a competitor and how wonderful an ambassador to the game she is.
As shocking as it was to see Carling drain that 25-foot putt, I’m not sure I would classify it as a straight up surprise, though—especially not for our good buddy, Stephanie Sparks. One thing you didn’t see in the finale was that as Lili and Carling were making their way up to the 17th green, Sparky turns to Tom and says, “How much you want to bet she makes that putt?” Only minutes later, Carling sinks one of the biggest pressure putts in the history of Big Break. Up until that point, one of the most absolute clutch putts in the series’ 13 seasons came from none other than Miss Carling Coffing on the 12th green at the expense of poor little Sara Brown. So, coupling that with her lights-out putting performance for the bulk of the match, Sparky’s prediction wasn’t all that far-fetched.
So, where will Carling rank in the annals of Big Break Champions? Will she go the route of a Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey, or will she go the way of a Danielle Aimee? Only time will tell, and I certainly couldn’t make a solid prediction at this moment, but I will say one thing: Carling Coffing possesses one of the best short games I’ve seen during any season of the Big Break. Ever. As those who play the game for a living or those who obsessively search for that next weekend tee time will attest, a good short game is the key to shooting low scores. Hate to say it, but the old adage still seems to ring true to this day. You drive for show and putt for dough. Truth be told, Carling must now own her own bakery.
(*Producer’s note: I’d like to apologize for that awful joke. Just couldn’t help myself.)
So, was Carling the best player in the competition? As with many seasons, this seems to be a recurring question. Some would say that Ryann was far and away the best player. Well, to tell you the truth, I don’t necessarily disagree with that statement. Ryann hit the ball further than anyone, she possesses a short game that can certainly keep pace with Carling, and she’s gone on to win two Duramed FUTURES Tour events since the filming of the series—not too shabby a resume. However, one thing that continually gets overlooked during this competition is how one reacts when dealt with some form of adversity. This type of adversity is just a little different than a normal round of tournament golf. Ryann, at least during the Big Break competition, did not deal with adversity particularly well (her infuriated reaction to Seema’s Save/Send-lucky-seat as a prime example). Carling, on the absolute other end of the spectrum, let just about every bit of adversity she faced just roll right off her back. Whether it be her “altercation” with Sara on the bench or her battle with diabetes-related blood sugar problems during the third week of the season, Carling exhibited a type of toughness that no one else possessed during this competition.
That’s what it all comes down to for Carling. She’s tough. She’s really tough. To deal with a serious illness day in and day out, that takes a type of toughness that only few can acquire. To roll in a 25-foot birdie putt with the championship match on the line…I guess that takes some serious toughness too.
Congratulations Carling. Say it out loud. You’re the Big Break Champion.