Shark Tanks, Casinos and Rum, OH MY!

By Big Break ProducerMay 2, 2012, 1:53 pm

As a 21-year-old Senior at the University of Connecticut, I had not yet embarked on that prototypical “SPRING BREAK!!!” type of trip.  As a precocious young college kid, I always aspired to do such things, but alas, it was not to be up to that point in my quest for higher learning.  I was not a child of trust funds who was allowed a trip to Cancun every spring since the day their parents dropped them off for freshman orientation in their Sweet-16 Beemer.  Nope.  That was not in the cards for me and my circle of friends.  Going into our final year of our college careers, our lone Spring Break trip consisted of piling into my parents’ mini-van for 2 nights of north-of-the-border fun in the toasty tropical surroundings of…Montreal.  At that time (the pre-millennial year of 1999), the U.S. dollar was still worth something up there, which helped significantly.  Our shoestring budget appreciated the extra 30-cents on the dollar.  And as the kids have done for generations, we reveled for the better part of 48-hours in our obnoxious, collegiate, American-ness.

Although Montreal did prove to be a great success (especially discovering the Duty Free shop at the border), the following year, a few of us started talking about doing something other than freeze our butts off for our final Spring Break trip together.  Outside of the occasional trek down to Misquamicut, Rhode Island for a day at the beach during the summer, none of us had ever really escaped the clutches of the Northeast for some good ol’ fashioned tropical fun in the sun.  Then along came our tech-savvy dorm-mate who introduced us all to  In the burgeoning age of the internet (it was just beginning to take hold as a viable medium during this time), this was amazing.  You mean we can find discounted airfare AND cheap hotel rooms without having to pay a travel agent?!?!?  JACKPOT!!!  So, after some intensive research (and numerous stop-downs due to the modem being knocked off line) we found that Nassau, Bahamas was actually a very affordable trip.  So, we booked some cheap airfare, booked a few rooms in a…ahem…“hotel” and off we went.  (Not surprisingly, our lodging of choice for that weekend has since been demolished and the beach area across from it has been built up quite a bit and renamed as Junkanoo Beach.)

After a day of sun, fun and local rum, we got word of this new resort that just recently opened over on Paradise Island.  It was called “Atlantis” and it had shark tanks, waterslides and a casino.  So, we did what any educated person would do upon hearing of such a thing: packed up a bottle of rum, got in a cab, and headed to the lost city of Atlantis.

Our wide eyed enthusiasm, I’m sure, was palpable by any of those unfortunate enough to be in our vicinity upon arrival.  I mean, dude…there were shark tanks and a casino.  So after spending some quality time out on the beach (where The Cove Atlantis now stands), we made our way into the casino, found a $5 blackjack table ($10 is now the minimum) and took our 1st step toward procuring some extra funds for the rest of our weekend.  Now keep in mind, up to that point in my life, I had never even set foot in a casino.  I was also, as mentioned earlier, on a part-time-college-job type of income.  Every dollar down on the table meant one more bead of sweat trickling down my nervously furrowed brow.  First, I lost the $40 in my pocket.  It was then that I faced the all important casino decision for the 1st time in my life.  Play, or walk away.  Well, being the rookie that I was, I took another $40 out of the ATM and went right back to the table, determined to take back what was rightfully mine.  After another quick $20 donation, I learned my lesson and departed the table with my last $20 and a bruised ego.

Now, some 12-years later, as long-time Series Producer of the Big Break franchise, I’ve definitely experienced my fair share of casinos and tropical locales (Big Break II Las Vegas, Big Break V Hawaii, Big Break Ka’anapali, Big Break Sandals Resorts).  One could say that wide-eyed enthusiasm would wane over the years.  I mean, just like anything; once something goes from “out of the ordinary” to just “ordinary” it just becomes normal.  While I certainly don’t garner that same feeling I had when first visiting Atlantis, there is one thing that always seems to bring it back.  That moment when the contestants arrive on site.  They’re all, not only, experiencing the very beginning of a competition that can change their lives, but most are experiencing the location itself for the 1st time.  That’s what makes the start of this series that much more exciting for me.  The looks on their faces when they pull up to Atlantis bring back that same feeling I had when I first witnessed it 12-years ago.  Granted, I wasn’t about to compete on a TV show, but I was experiencing something I had never experienced up to that point of my life.

Even the feeling I had that afternoon in the casino most certainly translates to the types of challenges we’ve conjured up for this season.  So much of what they will face during the course of the competition, will be based on their decision making ability, not just their golf game.  Like my 1st foray into the world of casino gambling, these ladies will have to determine during many of the challenges…play, or walk away.

As for the copious amounts of local rum we “experienced” during our one and only tropical Spring Break…well…considering what we have in store this season…these ladies may need plenty of it.

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Match-by-match: 2018 WGC-Dell Technologies, Day 1

By Will GrayMarch 21, 2018, 6:32 pm

Here is how things played out on Day 1 of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, as 64 players take on Austin Country Club with hopes of advancing out of pool play:

Group 15: (15) Pat Perez vs. (50) Si Woo Kim, halved: The first match of the day ended up in a draw, as the top seed rallied from a deficit to salvage half a point. Kim won three of the first six holes and held a 3-up lead with seven holes to go, but Perez fought back with four birdies over the next six holes to draw even.

Group 15: (24) Gary Woodland vs. (37) Webb Simpson, halved: This group remains entirely up for grabs since nothing was decided on the opening day. Woodland took a 3-up lead at the turn, but Simpson rallied by winning four of the next seven holes, including a birdie on No. 17 that brought him back to all square for the first time since the third hole.

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Watch: Thomas saves par from impossible position

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 21, 2018, 5:18 pm

Luke List was just hoping for an opening in his Day 1 match against Justin Thomas at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

Thomas cracked the door on the par-4 ninth, but then quickly slammed it shut. Thomas, 3 up through eight holes, was in terrible shape after two shots at No. 9. But his third shot was a beauty, and a heartbreaker for List.

Thomas made the putt to halve the hole and make the turn 3 up.

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LPGA's new Q-Series to offer deferrals for amateurs

By Randall MellMarch 21, 2018, 4:36 pm

The LPGA’s new Q-Series, which takes the place of the final stage of Q-School beginning this year, will come with a revolutionary new twist for amateurs.

For the first time, the LPGA will offer deferrals that will allow amateurs to win tour membership in December but delay turning pro until the following June or July, tour commissioner Mike Whan told

It’s a notable change, because the deferral will allow a collegiate player to earn tour membership at the end of this year but retain amateur status to finish out her collegiate spring season next year, before joining the tour.

“We haven’t done that in the past, because we didn’t want an onslaught, where every player in college is trying to join the tour,” Whan said.

The way it worked in the past, a collegian could advance through the final stage of Q-School, but if that player earned the right to a tour card and wanted to take up membership, she had to declare after the final round that she was turning pro. It meant the player would leave her college team in the middle of the school year. It was a particularly difficult decision for players who earned conditional LPGA status, and it played havoc with the makeup of some college teams.

Whan said the revamped Q-Series format won’t create the collegiate stampede that deferrals might have in the past.

“It will take a unique talent to show up at the first stage of Q-School and say, ‘I’ll see you at Q-Series,’” Whan said. “There won’t be a lot of amateurs who make it there.”

Under the new qualifying format, there will continue to be a first and second stage of Q-School, but it will be much harder to advance to the final stage, now known Q-Series.

Under the old format, about 80 players advanced from the second stage to the Q-School finals. Under the new format, only 15 to 25 players from the second stage will advance to the Q-Series, and only a portion of those are likely to be collegians.

Under the new format, a maximum of 108 players will meet at the Q-Series finals, where a minimum of 45 tour cards will be awarded after 144 holes of competition, played over two weeks on two different courses. The field will include players who finished 101st to 150th and ties on the final LPGA money list, and players who finished 11th to 30th and ties on the final Symetra Tour money list. The field will also include up to 10 players from among the top 75 of the Rolex Women’s World Rankings and the top five players on the Golfweek Women’s Collegiate Rankings.

“We feel if you make it to the Q-Series finals as a college player, you are probably among the best of the best, and we ought to give you the opportunity to finish the college year,” Whan said.

University of Washington coach Mary Lou Mulflur said she would prefer amateurs not be allowed to compete at Q-School, but she called this a workable compromise.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” Mulflur said. “It’s better than the way it’s been in the past. That was hard, because it broke up teams.”

Mulflur said she disliked the tough position the former policy put college players in at the final stage of Q-School, where they had to decide at event’s end whether to turn pro and accept tour membership.

“I can’t imagine being a kid in that position, and I’ve had a couple kids in that position,” Mulflur said. “It’s hard on everybody, the player, the family and the coaches. You hear about coaches standing there begging a kid not to turn pro, and that’s just not the way it should be, for the coach or the player.”

Mulflur agreed with Whan that the new Q-Series format should limit the number of collegians who have a chance to win tour cards.

“I believe it’s a good compromise, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out going forward,” Mulflur said. “Kudos to the commissioner for giving kids this option.”

University of Miami coach Patti Rizzo, a four-time LPGA winner, applauds the deferral option. Two years ago, Rizzo lost her best player, Danny Darquea, who turned pro in the spring. It hurt Miami’s team.

“That was probably our best chance in seven years to win the nationals,” Rizzo said.

Rizzo said her concerns seeing a player turn pro go beyond how it affects her team.

“What all these girls need to realize now is that a degree is more important than ever,” Rizzo said. “In my day, it was like, 'My chances are pretty good. I will get my card.’ But it’s so much more competitive now. And financially, it’s hard to make it. I think it’s so much harder than it ever was. So many girls aren’t making it, and they need a backup plan.”

Darquea is playing the Symetra Tour now, but Rizzo said she is also back in Miami taking classes to finish up her final semester and get her degree.

“It’s great she is doing that, but it would have been better if she could have stayed in college three more months and got her degree and then turned pro,” Rizzo said. “I think this deferral option is great, and I would think all the college coaches will think so, too.”

Whan said collegians who take deferrals will be counseled.

“We will sit down with them and their families and explain the risks,” Whan said. “If you take a deferral and start playing on July 15, you might find yourself back in Q-Series again later that year, because you may not have enough time.”

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Tour still focused on security after death of suspected Austin bomber

By Rex HoggardMarch 21, 2018, 4:07 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Although the suspect in the wave of Austin-area bombings was killed early Wednesday, the PGA Tour plans to continue heightened security measures at this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club.

According to various news outlets, Mark Anthony Conditt has been identified as the bombings suspect, and he was killed by an explosion inside his car in Round Rock, Texas, which is 19 miles north of Austin Country Club.

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“We do not comment on the specifics of our security measures, but we are continuing to work in close collaboration with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in Austin to ensure the safety of our players and fans at this week’s tournament,” the Tour said in a statement. “Regardless of the recent developments, our heightened security procedures will remain in place through the remainder of the week.”

Authorities believe Conditt is responsible for the five explosions that killed two people and injured five others in Austin or south-central Texas since March 2.

Play began Wednesday at the Match Play.