Big Break Vs Prange Enjoys Payoff

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2005 Safeway ClassicThe payoff is here for Ashley Prange. The Golf Channels Big Break V winner will play in the LPGA Safeway Classic (TGC Fri. at 10 p.m. ET) at Portland, Ore., this weekend, and thus far she has handled it quite nicely, if not exactly calmly.
 
Actually, my nerves have been doing really well this week until this morning, she said with a silent laugh Thursday. Teeing off in the Pro Am, it took me about three holes today to settle down. So I'm hoping that that kind of gave me a little bit of a forefront of what it's going to be like tomorrow. I'm sure that my nerves are going to be absolutely just kicking. I'm going to learn to embrace them and just go at it.
 
Ashley Prange
Big Break 5: Hawaii winner Ashley Prange makes her LPGA debut Friday at the Safeway Classic.
My goals this week are just to soak it up, take it in, just truly enjoy it, and then also play my game. Because I've been playing well this year, and if I can just get in a rhythm, I'll be just fine. So I'm really looking forward to it.
 
The 24-year-old from Noblesville, Ind., plays on the Duramed Futures Tour, and she is fourth in the money standings with only three weeks remaining on the schedule. The top five get their LPGA cards for the 2007 season, so Prange is taking a chance on losing out by availing herself of this opportunity. But she says the Big Break V was such an enjoyable occasion that she wouldnt dream of not playing in this event, the big payoff for the Big Break V winner.
 
You know, the entire opportunity has been just an absolute whirlwind, and an opportunity of a lifetime, she said. It happened so long ago, so I have to kind of take myself back to it. It was two weeks, very, very, intense competition, not much sleep, and some pretty good golf.
 
But the experience has been great for me, just mostly to see what I can take away from it has been'I really learned where my weaknesses were in my game under pressure. Because it's a different type of pressure than what it is in a normal round of golf. You have one shot that could determine your life on the show, whereas when you play 18 holes, you may have'you can recover from four shots.
 
So that experience has been phenomenal, and then working with the TV crews and cameras and things of that nature have made my nerves a lot thicker and stronger. So now it's great for me. Cameras don't bother me, and seeing a lot of people doesn't bother me. So that's been very beneficial.
 
It all started for Prange in June of 2005, when Golf Channel cameras invaded the driving range at a Futures Tour event in Decatur, Ill., and solicited applications. I did my audition - several of us did, she said. I think of the 11 of us on the show, I think six of us auditioned there that day.
 
I basically heard nothing back for three months. Just kind of nothing, and then I got my first call back the second week of September, found out I was a semi-finalist. Then on my last practice round at Q-School in Palm Springs, I got the call that I was in, and I was on a plane (to Hawaii) three weeks later.
 
Prange won the competition, downing Jeanne Cho, 5-and-4, in the final the last day. The victory has brought about a reaction from the public that totally surprised Prange.
 
I never imagined that I would be as recognized as what I have been. I've been getting recognized all over the place, away from golf courses in addition to golf courses. It has brought me notoriety and some sponsorships, she said.
 
Prange was always comfortable with the format of The Big Break experience ' a reality television show.
 
I thought it would be fun, she said. Why not? Absolutely, why not?
 
It's an experience that not too many people can say they've been able to do. I had a lot of fun with it. I was true to who I was. I think that's the key to being about it is, I've learned a lot about myself on TV and the way I'm perceived, and that's been interesting. But I've enjoyed the entire process, and I'd do it again in a heartbeat.
 
And the experience actually has been a big plus to Pranges golf career.
 
The intensity with that I think is going to be the biggest thing that I will pull away from golf, Prange said. You had to learn how to calm your nerves very quickly. Because when you see us hit a shot, it is still very much a TV production. There's time and there's gap in between shots, in between people who are hitting. You may have warmed up an hour before you actually got to hit your first shot.
 
So you have to learn how to perform on cue - which I think is key to playing great golf coming down the stretch, especially in important events. So that's been extremely beneficial to me this year.
 
Being The Big Break V winner has been a huge boost to Prange. In addition to winning the show, she believes it has been beneficial to her golf game.

I think it has aided the process ' No. 1, financially. It has just taken that burden completely off, which I'd be lying to say that it probably didn't have an effect, because it probably did.
 
But it's a secondary effect that I just don't even think about anymore. So it's nice. But I think the entire show and learning how to be around cameras and the media and everything, that's been extremely beneficial for me as well.
 
One of the by-products of winning is that her travel expenses this year on the Duramed Futures Tour are covered by The Golf Channel. And the Duramed corporation this week has given Prange a golf bag and clothes.

The largesse has been a big relief to Prange, who has had a huge weight lifted off her shoulders in having one less thing ' expenses ' to worry about.
 
We're very similar to minor league baseball, she explained. We have long hours of travel, we don't get paid nearly as well. But it's a stepping stone. It's a process that you need to go to get to the next level, and I'm a firm believer in it.
 
I think the Futures Tour is great for building the game and building the maturity to play well in the LPGA. I think it's a direct replication of how many Futures Tour alumni are on the LPGA today.

The Golf Channel will televise the Safeway Classic starting at 10 p.m. ET Friday.
 
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