Its Getting Dicey in Sin City


Big Break II LogoEditors Note: The Golf Channel aired the fifth episode of The Big Break II Tuesday night, where 10 highly skilled golfers compete in a weekly showdown of 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.
Another tense day of challenges began with the seven remaining contestants finding themselves at the unique Royal Links Golf Club, whose 18-hole layout includes replica designs of some of the most famous holes in and around Scotland.

Co-hosts Rick Smith and Lesley Swanson gathered the group around the hole that would be the site of both the skills challenge and the dreaded elimination ' a replica of Royal Troons famously short par-3 eighth hole, better known as the Postage Stamp.

First came the skills challenge where each player was to hit three different British Open-style shots ' first from knee-high greenside heather, then from a pot bunker next to the green and finally a full shot from the tee.

The Big Break IIWhen I saw where we were dropping, not only was it this nasty, nasty fescue, but it was on a downhill lie and we were hitting to a green that you had no room from the pin to the front of the green, recalled Bart Lower on the difficulty on the days first shot.

Don Donatello and David Gunas Jr. were unable to knock their shots close, and the remaining five that were closest to the pin advanced to the second stage of the skills challenge.

From a deep greenside pot bunker, one by one they blasted out, trying to nestle their balls close the flagstick.

Lower, Mike Foster and Kip Henley all played beautifully from the sand, leaving Sean Daly and John Turk sitting out the final stage.

Hitting tee shots from 146-yards on the Postage Stamp hole, the closest to the pin would win the challenge and be exempt until the next show.

After Lower sprayed his tee ball way left, Foster stepped up and knocked his within 20 feet from the hole, leaving Henley with a tall order to fill.

After Mike stuffed it in there pretty darn good, I knew I had to hit a great shot, recalled Henley. But that sort of took some pressure off me.

The relaxed atmosphere did him well as hit a superb iron shot inside Fosters to claim the skills challenge and stave off elimination for at least one more day.

It was then on to the Top-Flite mulligan challenge as the players were asked to try and hit balls through the eyes of giant dice. Given eight balls to use, the competitors first hit at the six and if successful in knocking it through one of the holes, they then moved onto the five and so forth.

After a four-man playoff cut the field to just Foster and Daly, the pair began a sudden death competition that seemed to last an eternity. Both players couldnt quite seem to shake the other as they went round after round hitting at the dice.

Finally, Daly broke through to win the challenge and earn what was to be an important mulligan in the days final challenge.

I was happy. You have no idea. That wall just wasnt going to let me in, said Daly. But it finally let me in to get the mulligan and it was huge.

With Henley looking on after winning the skills challenge and Daly armed with a mulligan, the players made their way back to the tee at the Postage Stamp. The elimination round was at hand and the seriousness of the moment was in no way lost on anyone.

Ten thousand dollars from Nationwide, a Ford 500 automobile, and four spots on the Nationwide Tour, recalled John Turk about what was at stake. Thats huge!

The elimination challenge would be test the players distance control. Using the club of their choice, each player took three shots to a line painted across the green. The player that posts the highest accumulated distance from the line would be ousted.

All the best players in the world would concur, that distance control is where its at, explained co-host Rick Smith. Being pin high, thats really important. If you dont have control of your ball ' long or short ' youre going to be in for a long day.

The players started off by each hitting two balls and then waiting for their totals before stepping up to the final shot of the day. As Rick Smith tallied up their scores, Daly and Gunas Jr. became aware that both were teetering on the brink of elimination, their scores being the highest of the group with just one shot to go.

Then, one by one, the players hit their final shot in reverse order, from best to worst. Things couldnt have gone worse for both Daly and Gunas Jr., as the group of four in front of them all hit solid approach shots and were safe from going home.

Daly, leading Gunas Jr. by a slim margin, hit first and quickly realized the shot wouldnt be good enough. He then turned and announced he was now going to use the mulligan he had won early in the day, catching Gunas Jr. a little off guard.

I said Oh, my god, recalled Gunas Jr. on the twist of events. Rick (Smith) looked at me and said, You forgot about the mulligan, huh? I said yep!

The Big Break IIFortunately for Gunas Jr., Dalys second attempt didnt fare much better, leaving his opponent with a small window of opportunity.

Having to get inside 19 feet, Gunas Jr.s approach landed on the green and rolled past the line, stopping 14 feet from the pin - good enough to stay alive.

I just so happy to still be in, said the obviously relieved Gunas Jr. I just know that if I can get into that match play final I got a good chance to win the thing. But I gotta get there first. You gotta survive a few more bullets.

Be sure to watch The Golf Channel every Tuesday at 9:00PM (ET), as the group continues to battle for survival on The Big Break 2.
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