LAKE OCONEE, Ga. – From the beginning, the Big Break Invitational Reynolds Plantation has made it very clear – this week is all business.
“No glass breaks. No wall flops. This is real golf,” the promos on Golf Channel echoed in the weeks leading up to the inaugural event. Turns out, players were listening.
Years removed from their stints on "Big Break," many of the competitors in this week’s field have gone on to grander stages, performing on the game’s top tiers, oftentimes with documented success.
When you watched them on the reality competition, their games were raw. Now, they’re well-done.
Through one round of the modified stableford format, "Big Break" Disney (2009) alum Tony Finau leads the men at plus-29. That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, because Finau is coming off a successful season on the Web.com Tour, where he recorded a win at the Stonbrae Classic and finished seventh on the season-long money list. He’s secured his PGA Tour card for next season, which begins next week at the Frys.com – an event he’s scheduled to attend.
On the women’s side, Gerina Piller ("Big Break" Prince Edward Island, 2009) leads with a score of plus-25. This shouldn’t surprise you, either; Piller has been an LPGA member since 2010 and competed in the Solheim Cup in 2013.
Perhaps there’s something that the Solheim Cup and the Big Break Invitational Reynolds Plantation have in common, because hot on Piller’s heels is another Solheim veteran in Ryann O’Toole, who's two strokes back at plus-23.
“I drove the ball really good and I struck the ball really well, as well,” O’Toole said. “Between the two, I just tried to stay in the moment with each shot, put myself in position.”
Or perhaps, there’s something about this event that sets up well for recent developmental tour graduates. Three ladies who secured their LPGA cards for next season are all in great position after Tuesday’s round. Jackie Stoelting ("Big Break" Florida champion, 2014) is plus-22. Sadena Parks ("Big Break" Florida, 2014) is plus-19. Mallory Blackwelder ("Big Break" Ireland, 2011) is T-8 at plus-17.
Or, just maybe, victory on the PGA Tour is the key to success this week. That would explain why Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey ("Big Break" IV, 2005), who won the 2012 McGladrey Classic, is tied for fifth at plus-23.
I don’t know the winning formula for winning the Big Break Invitational Reynolds Plantation, but what I do know, is the golfers got the memo – this week is all business.