Three players earned the right to jump right to the top of the audition list for The Big Break 8. Tony Caporale of Atlanta, Ga., Brent Brooks of Sorrento, Fla., Chase Barnes of Houston, Texas, won three of the four Big Break 8 Qualifier tournaments on the GOLF CHANNEL Amateur Tour.
The final qualifier was won this weekend by Andrew Flaskerud at Whisper Creek Golf Club outside of Chicago. He will get his private audition this week in Orlando.
Caporale was the first to earn a bump in the audition process by winning the first qualifier at The Heritage Club just north of Atlanta. Brooks became the second in, taking home top honors at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, Fla. Barnes was the low man at Redstone Golf Club, home to the Shell Houston Open.
Caporale, Brooks and Barnes were flown to Orlando, Fla., where they stayed at Reunion Resort, home to The Big Break VII: Reunion. They were given a tour of GOLF CHANNEL headquarters (Very cool, exclaimed Barnes.) and met Big Break co-host Vince Cellini.
If that wasnt enough star power for them, they dined with Tiger Woods that evening. Well, not exactly. But Woods was at the same restaurant as the trio.
The following morning, Caporale, Brooks and Barnes met with show producers for a formal interview. They also underwent a playing test at Reunion in which they had a chance to impress the men who control their Big Break fate. All three played well with Brooks firing a 4-under-par 68 to lead the way. Caporale got around the Par-72 course at Even par, while Barnes carded a solid 73.
Caporale is currently the tour manager for the multi-platinum band Collective Soul. He owns a +0.5 handicap and has a career low round of 66. Hes competed in professional and amateur events from coast-to-coast and says that he and members of the band play as often as possible when on the road.
The highlight of his playing career: Winning the GOLF CHANNEL Big Break Qualifier, of course!
Brooks is a veteran player with a resume full of mini-tour experience. He cites a scratch handicap and shot a career low 63 in a Hooters Tour event.
Brooks playing highlights include twice making it to the second stage of the PGA TOUR Qualifying Tournament, winning a professional event in northern Florida, and competing in the Nationwide Tours Louisiana Open.
Meanwhile, Barnes, by comparison, is just starting out in the game. He didnt really pick it up until the high school golf coach convinced him to join the team.
The now 22-year-old shot 110 in his first tournament, reduced that to an 88 four tournaments later, and shot 79 two months thereafter.
He now sports a +1 handicap and has a career low round of 65.
Once I found out, I thought, This is pretty cool. And after I won, it didnt hit me at first, but then it did and I thought, Wow, this is really cool, Barnes said.
Of course, all of these guys have individual goals which they are trying to achieve. And making it on the show can only get them closer to attaining them.
I just love the game. I love everything about it. I love working on my game, getting better, Caporale said. I love competition. Ive watched every episode of every series, so Im very familiar with the show. Ive always wanted to get the chance to be a part of this program and winning that tournament has at least given me a chance to do that.
Said Brooks, who will have been married for 11 years this July and has two kids, ages 8 and 4, The PGA TOUR exemption is what Im after. I want to get out there. That was what I wanted to do before life and family kind of derailed me. Well, not so much derailed as kind of made me change gears.
Its hard to play mini-tour golf when youve got a mortgage and a wife and a kid.
For Barnes, the bar is set even higher.
My goal is to not just make the TOUR, but to be where years from now when you say my name, people know my name, he said. Its not just to make the TOUR; its to make the Hall of Fame.
First things first: making it on The Big Break 8. The show contestants will be revealed in July.