First Contestant Cashes in His Chips

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Big Break II LogoEditors Note: The Golf Channel aired the second 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 golf 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.
 
As the players arose from a wild night at the Treasure Island casino, each one of them was well aware that by the time the sun set in the Nevada desert that evening, one player would be heading home.
 
Co-hosts Rick Smith and Lesley Swanson met the contestants on the range at the Stallion Mountain Country Club and again reminded them just how big the stakes were 'four Nationwide Tour exemptions, $10,000 in cash and a brand new Ford 500. They also let them in on what was in store for the first day of real competition and how the format was going to be set up.
 
Each week the players will face three separate challenges ' a skills challenge, a mulligan challenge and then the all-important elimination challenge. The winner of the skills challenge will be done for the day, immune from elimination and safe for another week.
 
The rest of the players then compete in the Top-Flite Mulligan Challenge were they play for an extra shot in the elimination challenge that would ultimately send someone packing for home.
 
The Big Break IIIts a pretty comfortable feeling knowing that if you can win the skills challenge you can sit down for the rest of the day, remarked Jay McNair, a schoolteacher from Brandon, Fla.
 
For the first skills challenge a giant wall was erected in front of were the players were to hit, with the idea to force them to hit both a draw and a fade shot into a green about a 185-yards out. Each players shots were to then be measured as to how far they landed from the flagstick and the lowest total would be finished for the day.
 
Getting out there and being creative, thats the best part of the game for me, said Mike Foster, Jr. of Savannah, Ga., about his prospects of what it took to win the shows first skills challenge.
 
O.K., so you have to hit around (this big wall), how hard can that be? Well, its your first challenge of the show and youre very nervous. Very, very nervous, said Sean Daly from San Luis Obispo, Calif. Anybody saying that they werent nervous are lying like dogs.
 
After a variety of good and bad approach shots, it was Foster who stood alone on top at the end. On the strength of a beautiful shot to 4 9 of the flag, Foster could rest easy knowing hed live to see another day.
 
It was ridiculous how good 4 9 was. He just wiped us all off the map, quipped Don Donatello about Fosters strong performance.
 
It was then on to the Top-Flite Mulligan Challenge where an old favorite from the original series was brought back to decide who would get the extra shot in the Elimination Challenge. The competitors were to attempt a knock-down shot while trying to break a small, square plane of glass, sitting on a pole about four-feet high and 30-yards away.
 
It was the first time I had ever taken a ball and a club and attempted to break glass ' and it was fun, said John Turk from Melbourne, Fla.
 
There were nine panes of glass with each players name on a separate target. The remaining contestants took turns trying to break the glass of someone other than their own. The last player to keep his glass from being broken would get the extra shot in the days final challenge.
 
And suddenly without warning, things began to get a little spicy as Donatellos target became the focus of the other players.
 
I happened to do what I always do which is run my mouth, and my mouth kinda got a shoe, a ball and a piece of glass stuck in there, said a chuckling Donatello following his early exit in the mulligan challenge.
 
After a good amount of trash talking, near misses and glass shattering, the 23-year-old Daly was fortunate enough to win the mulligan as his glass somehow withstood the barrage of knock down shots.
 
Its such a fun competition to win, said Daly, who now enjoyed the thought of strategically using a mulligan in the days final event.
 
And finally the moment had arrived ' the Elimination Challenge.
 
All of sudden the reality of guess what somebodys going home here, said Turk on the serious tone the competition had quickly taken. You could hear a pin drop.
 
Faced with a long par-3 over water, the players took aim at a green marked for scoring purposes. A 15-foot circle around the flagstick was worth 3 points, a circle outside that worth 2 points and anything on the green and not inside either of the inner circles was to be worth a single point.
 
The players would each hit a shot from three different locations ' one from 180-yards, one from 146-yards and then the last shot being a wedge from 119-yards.
 
After the first series of approach shots only three of the contestants managed to score any points, the other six coming up with blanks.
 
I was feeling good but I was very nervous, said Donatello, who was one of the three to score two points during round 1 of the elimination challenge. I mean, Im telling you my heart was pounding so hard, like I was back at Q-School trying to get my (PGA Tour) card.
 
Through the completion of the second round of the challenge, two more players managed to get on the scoreboard but still four had yet to tally a single point. It would come down to the final shot of the day.
 
Daly, Turk, David Gunas Jr. from Amston, Conn., and McNair all now faced a simple wedge shot to a green from just over 100-yards.
 
The Big Break IIThird shot. Im second to last to go. Everyone has points except for me and Jay. If I dont hit this green Im basically thinking Im going to be going home, said Gunas Jr., who then deftly landed his final shot on the green to earn his first point and put the pressure solely on McNair.
 
So with the wind swirling, the pressure mounting and a bit of indecision in his club selection, McNair let fly his last attempt only to watch it come up short and with it his dreams of playing with the big boys on tour.
 
You gotta learn how to lose before you can win, said an obviously disappointed McNair. Its not going to be the end of it, hopefully it will be just the beginning. I just wish it would have lasted a little longer.
 
Be sure to tune in to The Golf Channel next Tuesday at 9:00PM (ET) as the group takes in some Las Vegas shows and face another round of tough challenges to see who will survive, and who will follow McNair off the show.
 
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