Big Break Ireland Producer Blog: It's All About the Golf

By Constantin Preda, Big Break ProducerSeptember 28, 2011, 2:00 am


Talk about extremes. The first time I had the pleasure of field and post producing for Big Break, it was in the Dominican Republic.  Every single day on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola was defined by heat, humidity, cobalt blue and green oceans, plenty of rain, and some of the most intense golf challenges I’d seen on Big Break to date. I didn’t think it could get more surprising. That was until I landed on the Emerald Isle and found myself in the complete opposite of environments. Freezing cold temperatures, gusts of wind that reached up to 50-miles an hour, farm lands dappled with sheep as far as the eye could see, and castles dating as far back as the 12th century – I had never felt or seen anything like it and I was excited to be there.

My first assignment was to meet up with a few of our competitors who had flown in from different parts of the U.S.: Whitney, a charming golfer from South Carolina who may have had been perceived as naïve by some of the other competitors - but I think they confused kindness with weakness. Whitney is not weak and that showed in her fire during her elimination challenge.  Even though she had been eliminated in episode one by Bennett, I think we all still saw her athleticism and I know there will be more great golf moments from her in years to come. It was sad to see her go.

Speaking of Bennett, I could tell he automatically saw himself as a leader. While the others may have seen him as somewhat of a black sheep, I think his strategy is to not get too close to the others, because they had all been told there would be only one winner of Big Break Ireland. Bennett, an Orlando, Florida resident, is laser-focused on that win. Hopefully, he’ll be able to cut loose a little. Only time on the show will tell.

And then there is the complete opposite of Bennett: Mark Murphy. Mark is originally from Waterville, Kerry, Ireland and now a resident of my favorite city in the world, “Nawlins”, Louisiana. The golfer’s got jokes and not only did he keep spirits light in show one, but he may have been a key ingredient to his team’s win. Yeah, things didn’t quite pan out in show two for Team Liffey, but something tells me Mark’s ‘laissez les bon temps rouler’ attitude may be an asset to him. And he pretty much made me, and the crew, laugh every day – even while enduring the wind chills and icy rain. I still even laugh while in the edit bay as my editor and I put together some of his more light-hearted moments.

I guess what I’m attempting to point out is that the personalities on Big Break Ireland are as colorful, enigmatic, and lush as Ireland itself. It could be Andy’s intensity on the course – most likely from years spent playing professionally – to his sense of humor when he chunks it out of the bunker. Or the often reserved and quiet Nina who absolutely proved her fearlessness and ability by speaking out in breakfast against Bennett and then backing her bark up with her bite by winning her match against Mallory. Or Matt, the rugged, tough Scottsdale, Arizona resident originally from Mulanje, Malawi, Africa who cuts loose with Mark as the two of them play great golf and goof around.

However, more important than the personalities of Big Break Ireland’s competitors is their ability to play great golf. Kelly going toe-to-toe with Nicole to keep her match square, Matt’s monster 25-ft putt to win his match and surprise Bennett, or Julien’s putt that beat Mark and effectively turned the tide toward Team Straffan…absolutely amazing. As Mallory stated, “We thought we had it in the bag…” but she thought too soon and the win was ripped from Team Liffey forcing Team Captain Mallory to take not one, but two of her own teammates into the Elimination Challenge.

That’s when I saw the friendliness between the girls of Team Liffey all but disappear. Kelly was annoyed that Mallory selected her. She felt that it showed how scared Mallory may have been to compete against a guy. Annie, who was on the Big Break to redeem her reputation as the golfer “busted” for supposedly cheating in her last tournament at Notre Dame – resulting in a disqualification – wanted to come out of the elimination challenge unscathed. Annie can golf. She essentially pulled a prank in her last college tournament in which she reported her genuine scores on her score card, but joked with a rep from – reporting a birdie on each hole – and the rules officials didn’t find the prank sportsman like. However, we’ve all done something ridiculous in college and only in hindsight do we see the folly of our ways.

After Mallory saves herself from elimination by successfully putting two balls on the green of the 18th hole at the Palmer Smurfit Course, Kelly and Annie are left to square off, head to head, to see who will stay and who will be eliminated.

It all came down to the final location in which Annie plops her ball in the water. It was a tough shot and as Kelly put it, she “wished she could have told [Annie] to not hit that shot” the way she had, but it’s “cutthroat.” In the elimination challenge, the team aspect of the competition goes out the window and it becomes every golfer for herself. In the end, Kelly beats Annie and, in tears, Annie is eliminated. But don’t write Annie off any time soon. She’s an athlete, she made it to show two, and she is playing a full schedule on the LPGA Futures Tour in 2011. Expect more from her and much more from Big Break Ireland in the next show aptly titled “The Fighting Irish”. 

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Berger more than ready to rebound at Travelers

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:54 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Daniel Berger hopes that this year he gets to be on the other end of a viral moment at the Travelers Championship.

Berger was a hard-luck runner-up last year at TPC River Highlands, a spectator as Jordan Spieth holed a bunker shot to defeat him in a playoff. It was the second straight year that the 25-year-old came up just short outside Hartford, as he carried a three-shot lead into the 2016 event before fading to a tie for fifth.

While he wasn’t lacking any motivation after last year’s close call, Berger got another dose last week at the U.S. Open when he joined Tony Finau as a surprise participant in the final group Sunday, only to shoot a 73 and drift to a T-6 finish.

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“It was one of the best experiences of my professional golf career so far. I feel like I’m going to be in such a better place next time I’m in that position, having felt those emotions and kind of gone through it,” Berger said. “There was a lot of reflection after that because I felt like I played good enough to get it done Sunday. I didn’t make as many putts as I wanted to, but I hit a lot of really good putts. And that’s really all you can do.”

Berger missed the cut earlier this month to end his quest for three straight titles in Memphis, but his otherwise consistent season has now included six top-20 finishes since January. After working his way into contention last week and still with a score to settle at TPC River Highlands, he’s eager to get back to work against another star-studded field.

“I think all these experiences you just learn from,” Berger said. “I think last week, having learned from that, I think that’s even going to make me a little better this week. So I’m excited to get going.”

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Rory tired of the near-misses, determined to close

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:46 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Rory McIlroy has returned to the Travelers Championship with an eye on bumping up his winning percentage.

McIlroy stormed from the back of the pack to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, but that remains his lone worldwide win since the 2016 Tour Championship. It speaks to McIlroy’s considerable ability and lofty expectations that, even with a number of other high finishes this season, he is left unsatisfied.

“I feel like I’ve had five realistic chances to win this year, and I’ve been able to close out one of them. That’s a bit disappointing, I guess,” McIlroy said. “But at least I’ve given myself five chances to win golf tournaments, which is much more than I did last year.”

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

The most memorable of McIlroy’s near-misses is likely the Masters, when he played alongside Patrick Reed in Sunday’s final group but struggled en route to a T-5 finish. But more frustrating in the Ulsterman’s eyes were his runner-up at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, when he led by two shots with eight holes to go, and a second-place showing behind Francesco Molinari at the BMW PGA Championship in May.

“There’s been some good golf in there,” he said. “I feel like I let Dubai and Wentworth get away a little bit.”

He’ll have a chance to rectify that trend this week at TPC River Highlands, where he finished T-17 last year in his tournament debut and liked the course and the tournament enough to keep it on his schedule. It comes on the heels of a missed cut at the U.S. Open, when he was 10 over through 11 holes and never got on track. McIlroy views that result as more of an aberration during a season in which he has had plenty of chances to contend on the weekend.

“I didn’t necessarily play that badly last week. I feel like if I play similarly this week, I might have a good chance to win,” McIlroy said. “I think when you play in conditions like that, it magnifies parts of your game that maybe don’t stack up quite as good as the rest of your game, and it magnified a couple of things for me that I worked on over the weekend.”

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Sunday run at Shinnecock gave Reed even more confidence

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:08 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – While many big names are just coming around to the notion that the Travelers Championship is worth adding to the schedule, Patrick Reed has been making TPC River Highlands one of his favorite haunts for years.

Reed will make his seventh straight appearance outside Hartford, where he tied for fifth last year and was T-11 the year before that. He is eager to get back to the grind after a stressful week at the U.S. Open, both because of his past success here and because it will offer him a chance to build on a near-miss at Shinnecock Hills.

Reed started the final round three shots off the lead, but he quickly stormed toward the top of the leaderboard and became one of Brooks Koepka’s chief threats after birdies on five of his first seven holes. Reed couldn’t maintain the momentum in the middle of the round, carding three subsequent bogeys, and ultimately tied for fourth.

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It was a bittersweet result, but Reed is focusing on the positives after taking a couple days to reflect.

“If you would have told me that I had a chance to win coming down Sunday, I would have been pleased,” Reed said. “I felt like I just made too many careless mistakes towards the end, and because of that, you’re not going to win at any major making careless mistakes, especially on Sunday.”

Reed broke through for his first major title at the Masters, and he has now finished fourth or better in three straight majors dating back to a runner-up at the PGA last summer. With another chance to add to that record next month in Scotland, he hopes to carry the energy from last week’s close call into this week’s event on a course where he feels right at home.

“It just gives me confidence, more than anything,” Reed said. “Of course I would have loved to have closed it out and win, but it was a great week all in all, and there’s a lot of stuff I can take from it moving forward. That’s how I’m looking at it.”

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Koepka back to work, looking to add to trophy collection

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 8:53 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Days after ensuring the U.S. Open trophy remained in his possession for another year, Brooks Koepka went back to work.

Koepka flew home to Florida after successfully defending his title at Shinnecock Hills, celebrating the victory Monday night with Dustin Johnson, Paulina Gretzky, swing coach Claude Harmon III and a handful of close friends. But he didn’t fully unwind because of a decision to honor his commitment to the Travelers Championship, becoming the first player to tee it up the week after a U.S. Open win since Justin Rose in 2013.

Koepka withdrew from the Travelers pro-am, but he flew north to Connecticut on Wednesday and arrived to TPC River Highlands around 3 p.m., quickly heading to the driving range to get in a light practice session.

“It still hasn’t sunk in, to be honest with you,” Koepka said. “I’m still focused on this week. It was just like, ‘All right, if I can get through this week, then I’m going to be hanging with my buddies next week.’ I know then maybe it’ll sink in, and I’ll get to reflect on it a little bit more.”

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Koepka’s plans next week with friends in Boston meant this week’s event outside Hartford made logistical sense. But he was also motivated to play this week because, plainly, he hasn’t had that many playing opportunities this year after missing nearly four months with a wrist injury.

“I’ve had so many months at home being on the couch. I don’t need to spend any more time on the couch,” Koepka said. “As far as skipping, it never crossed my mind.”

Koepka’s legacy was undoubtedly bolstered by his win at Shinnecock, as he became the first player in nearly 30 years to successfully defend a U.S. Open title. But he has only one other PGA Tour win to his credit, that being the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open, and his goal for the rest of the season is to make 2018 his first year with multiple trophies on the mantle.

“If you’re out here for more than probably 15 events, it gives you a little better chance to win a couple times. Being on the sidelines isn’t fun,” Koepka said. “Keep doing what we’re doing and just try to win multiple times every year. I feel like I have the talent. I just never did it for whatever reason. Always felt like we ran into a buzzsaw. So just keep plugging away.”