A Second Chance

By TJ Hubbard, Big Break ProducerSeptember 21, 2010, 7:03 pm

Welcome to a new season of Big Break—our 14th—set in the beautiful Dominican Republic at the Casa de Campo Resort! While we’ve had many championship golf courses to host this series (Carnoustie, Kingsmill, Turtle Bay, Disney – Palm/Magnolia), Pete Dye’s gems in the Caribbean—Teeth of the Dog and Dye Fore—were the best I’ve seen on Big Break. The course conditions, the greens and the layout and design of the course were pure perfection. Honestly, that’s not just a pop to our host for gratuitous marketing. I speak the truth; the courses were in tremendous condition, so long as you could correctly read the grain!

While we are very excited to get this series going and showcase all that it has to offer, we’re especially eager to welcome back 12 very entertaining Big Break alumni. No one on this show tasted success in their respective season, and this is their second chance. All of them knew that an opportunity like this doesn’t come along often.

This is my ninth season working on the series, and I can say, without a doubt, this will be the most entertaining season ever. Every season, we have no problem finding talented golfers to cast this show, however you never know what you’re going to get as far as ‘watch-ability.’ Our biggest fear is casting a player whose personality and character don’t transfer well to television. The most recurring question we ask ourselves when casting players for the show is, “Will they be memorable?” Not just memorable in the sense, “are they crazy, certifiable nut jobs?” Our “memorable” is a little deeper than the classic American Idol-loony dressed up for Simon. We want memorable in the sense of, “can they golf their ball; are they a good story; can they carry the series with their presence on camera?” This is the first season where I can say all 12 of our contestants can do that. If you don’t believe me, check out our cast here: http://www.thegolfchannel.com/big-break-dominican-republic/players/

As I said before, casting is the most important aspect of Big Break, and in BIG BREAK DOMINICAN REPUBLIC we delivered the goods. Most of these memorable players, compiled from the last seven seasons, arrived to the Dominican with a host of skeletons in their closet from their experience on Big Break

  • Christina Lecuyer and Lori Atsedes, who legitimately despised each other, arrived at Santo Domingo Airport together and didn’t speak to each other for the entire one-hour bus ride to Casa de Campo. In fact, that was the first time they saw each other since the show’s production. The producers on the bus said the indifference was palatable and quite awkward. All I want to say is Christina and Lori aren’t any closer to being friends even now.
  • Blake Moore and Andrew Giuliani who were two guys profoundly affected by their previous Big Break experience, one positively, one very negatively. Andrew learned a lot about himself as a player and competitor, and weeks after Big Break Disney Golf wrapped production, Mr. Giuliani (son of former NYC mayor-Rudy Giuliani) won the MET OPEN (a tournament won by Walter Hagen, Gene Sarazen and Byron Nelson). While Andrew has seen success, Blake Moore’s post-Big Break story goes another direction that all stemmed from his behavior on the show. He was “asked” to leave his golf club in California. He subsequently moved to Colorado to get away from the stress of his surrounding golf community. He also lost sponsorships and had poor results in golf.
  • Anthony “A-Rod” Rodriguez missed a 2-foot putt and was eliminated from Big Break Mesquite after dominating the first few episodes. Since his show, A-Rod stopped playing, and by his admission, he couldn’t get over the missed putt for more than a year.
  • Blair O’Neal has continued her modeling career with great success and has been playing extremely well (three wins on the Cactus Tour) all as a result of Big Break re-igniting her golf competitive fire and her runner-up finish.
  • Others like David Mobley, “self-titled” and voted on by our viewers as the Most Hated Big Breaker ever, has enjoyed success and notoriety on the golf entertainment circuit, while Brian Skatell’s story hasn’t been one of success, more of frustration. Although he’s back on Big Break, Brian said his experience on Prince Edward Island “ruined his life.”  
  • Elena Robles experienced only one show and was gone. We brought her back because of all the first-show eliminated players we’ve had, her quality of golf was the best. She honestly didn’t hit a bad shot! And from the same show, Sara Brown was a player that proved she could not only hit good shots, but captivate us with her smile, giggles and laughter. I’ll say this now; her ride in the Dominican Republic will not be an easy one.
  • Same goes for the rest of the players filling out the cast. William “Football” Thompson, eliminated second on Prince Edward Island will have to overcome his stage fright and inability to get over the pressure of Big Break. And finally can Brenda McLarnon, everyone’s favorite Irish woman, overcome the fact that she’s traded her tour golf career for the daily grind on a lesson tee? 

I can’t wait for the series to begin, and I can’t wait for all of you to see what we have in store.  Enjoy!

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USC's Gaston leaves to become head coach at A&M

By Ryan LavnerJune 19, 2018, 11:00 pm

In a major shakeup in the women’s college golf world, USC coach Andrea Gaston has accepted an offer to become the new head coach at Texas A&M.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Gaston, who informed her players of her decision Monday night, has been one of the most successful coaches over the past two decades, leading the Trojans to three NCAA titles and producing five NCAA individual champions during her 22-year reign. They have finished in the top 5 at nationals in an NCAA-record 13 consecutive seasons.

This year was arguably Gaston’s most impressive coaching job. She returned last fall after undergoing treatment for uterine cancer, but a promising season was seemingly derailed after losing two stars to the pro ranks at the halfway point. Instead, she guided a team with four freshmen and a sophomore to the third seed in stroke play and a NCAA semifinals appearance. Of the four years that match play has been used in the women’s game, USC has advanced to the semifinals three times.  

Texas A&M could use a coach with Gaston’s track record.

Last month the Aggies fired coach Trelle McCombs after 11 seasons following a third consecutive NCAA regional exit. A&M had won conference titles as recently as 2010 (Big 10) and 2015 (SEC), but this year the team finished 13th at SECs.

The head-coaching job at Southern Cal is one of the most sought-after in the country and will have no shortage of outside interest. If the Trojans look to promote internally, men’s assistant Justin Silverstein spent four years under Gaston and helped the team win the 2013 NCAA title.  

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Spieth 'blacked out' after Travelers holeout

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 9:44 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – It was perhaps the most-replayed shot (and celebration) of the year.

Jordan Spieth’s bunker holeout to win the Travelers Championship last year in a playoff over Daniel Berger nearly broke the Internet, as fans relived that raucous chest bump between Spieth and caddie Michael Greller after Spieth threw his wedge and Greller threw his rake.

Back in Connecticut to defend his title, Spieth admitted that he has watched replays of the scene dozens of times – even if, in the heat of the moment, he wasn’t exactly choreographing every move.

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“Just that celebration in general, I blacked out,” Spieth said. “It drops and you just react. For me, I’ve had a few instances where I’ve been able to celebrate or react on a 72nd, 73rd hole, 74th hole, whatever it may be, and it just shows how much it means to us.”

Spieth and Greller’s celebration was so memorable that tournament officials later shipped the rake to Greller as a keepsake. It’s a memory that still draws a smile from the defending champ, whose split-second decision to go for a chest bump over another form of celebration provided an appropriate cap to a high-energy sequence of events.

“There’s been a lot of pretty bad celebrations on the PGA Tour. There’s been a lot of missed high-fives,” Spieth said. “I’ve been part of plenty of them. Pretty hard to miss when I’m going into Michael for a chest bump.”

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Pregnant Lewis playing final events before break

By Randall MellJune 19, 2018, 9:27 pm

Stacy Lewis will be looking to make the most of her last three starts of 2018 in her annual return to her collegiate roots this week.

Lewis, due to give birth to her first child on Nov. 3, will tee it up in Friday’s start to the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas. She won the NCAA individual women’s national title in 2007 while playing at the University of Arkansas. She is planning to play the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship next week and then the Marathon Classic two weeks after that before taking the rest of the year off to get ready for her baby’s arrival.

Lewis, 33, said she is beginning to feel the effects of being with child.

“Things have definitely gotten harder, I would say, over the last week or so, the heat of the summer and all that,” Lewis said Tuesday. “I'm actually excited. I'm looking forward to the break and being able to decorate the baby's room and do all that kind of stuff and to be a mom - just super excited.”

Lewis says she is managing her energy levels, but she is eager to compete.

“Taking a few more naps and resting a little bit more,” she said. “Other than that, the game's been pretty good.”

Lewis won the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in 2014, and she was credited with an unofficial title in ’07, while still a senior at Arkansas. That event was reduced to 18 holes because of multiple rain delays. Lewis is a popular alumni still actively involved with the university.

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Just like last year, Spieth in desperate need of a spark

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 8:38 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Jordan Spieth has arrived at the Travelers Championship in need of a turnaround. Again.

Spieth’s playoff victory last year over Daniel Berger, complete with a bunker hole-out and raucous celebration, went down as one of the most electrifying moments of 2017. It also propelled Spieth to some more major glory, as he won The Open in his very next start.

So it’s easy to forget the state of Spieth’s game when he first stepped foot on the grounds of TPC River Highlands a year ago. Things were, quite plainly, not going well.

He was struggling on the greens, even going so far as to switch putters at the AT&T Byron Nelson. He then failed to contend at Erin Hills, only netting a T-35 finish thanks to a final-round 69 that came hours before the leaders teed off.

So here we are again, with Spieth in search of a spark after a series of underwhelming performances that included last week’s effort at Shinnecock Hills, where he bogeyed the last two holes of his second round to miss the cut by a shot. Except this time, the climb back to the top may be even steeper than it was a year ago.

“I’m not sure where the state of my game is right now,” Spieth said. “If I strike the ball the way I have been this year, then the results are coming. But the last couple weeks I’ve played Muirfield and then the (U.S.) Open, and I hit the ball really poorly and didn’t give myself that many opportunities to let the putter do the work.”

While many big names play sporadically in the time between the Masters and U.S. Open, Spieth remained as busy as ever thanks to the Tour’s swing through Texas. So even after failing to contend much in the spring outside of a memorable finale in Augusta, and even after struggling for much of his week at TPC Sawgrass, Spieth looked out at his schedule and saw a myriad of possible turning points.

There was the AT&T Byron Nelson, played in his hometown and at a venue on which he was one of only a handful with any experience (T-21). Then a trip across town to Colonial, where he had beaten all but two players in a three-year stretch (T-32).

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Throw in the missed cuts at Muirfield Village and Shinnecock Hills, and Spieth has made it to the last leg of a six-event stretch that has included only one off week and, to date, zero chances to contend come Sunday.

“I think here this week, the key for me is just to get out in the first round and try not to do too much,” Spieth said. “I mean, 90-plus percent of the tournaments the last two years I’ve thrown out my chances to win a golf tournament on Thursday. I’ve had too much to do from here on.”

That was certainly the case last week on Long Island, where Spieth’s hopes for a fourth major title evaporated well before course conditions became a focal point over the weekend. He was 4 over through his first two holes and spent much of the next 34 stuck in a fit of frustration. He gave himself a glimmer of hope with four late birdies Friday followed by a pair of bogeys that snuffed it out with equal speed.

Spieth has continued to preach patience throughout the year, but there’s no getting around some eye-popping stats; he's 188th on Tour this year in strokes gained: putting and 93rd in fairways hit. It can foster a pressure to find a cure-all in any given week, especially given how quickly he got a middling summer back on track last year.

“It’s something that you fight, sure,” Spieth said. “It’s been that way just about every tournament except Muirfield, because then you go to the U.S. Open and think you don’t even have to shoot under par to win this golf tournament. So as much as that kind of comes into your head, it’s not bothering me this time. I’m going to try and have fun, and make progress.”

After this week, Spieth will have some down time with family before making the trip overseas to Carnoustie. He plans to have a few private dinners accompanied by the claret jug, one last toast to last year’s success before turning the trophy back over to the R&A.

But even Spieth admitted that as it pertains to his chances to follow in Brooks Koepka’s footsteps by successfully defending a major title, he’ll be greatly aided by working his way into the mix this weekend. It represents the last chance in this early-summer swing to get his name back on the leaderboard, an opportunity to light fire to a pedestrian campaign like he did a year ago.

No pressure.

“It’s your basic stuff that sometimes gets off, that the harder you try to get them back on sometimes, the worse it gets,” Spieth said. “It can be frustrating, or you can just kind of wait for it to come to you. I think I’m OK with where things are, whether it’s the rest of this year or next year. I feel like there are good scores coming.”