WOW! What a fantastic semi-final match in Big Break NFL!
So often one hears from viewers that Big Break is not “real golf”, but last night’s episode made many eat their words. The duel between Isaac and Mallory was, as Jerry Rice said, “One of the best exhibitions of golf I’ve seen in a long time.”
There were no losers on this week’s show. Mallory did her team proud and I hope she uses that day to rekindle her passion for the game and her quest for an LPGA card. She deserves it.
Today I had the pleasure of talking with Brian about his free pass from the day’s competition and the bonding that occurred within Team Doleman at the Sandbar…
Caught up with Stefanie today and learned about all the fun things the eliminated teams did while those left standing slugged it out on the golf course. She also shared her thoughts on who she thought would win the Big Break after the semi-final…
Check out the whole water sports video Stefanie talked about on Golf Channel’s Big Break site. Not a bad way to spend elimination, eh? 🙂
And don’t forget to read Blue Falcon’s analysis of the show and then let us both know what you thought.
Big Break NFL Puerto Rico-Episode #10
By Blue Falcon
As I watched and later re-watched episode #10 of Big Break NFL Puerto Rico, I was reminded of how I felt a couple of years ago when I wrote about Big Break: Sandals Resorts. At the end of this episode, I was happy but heartbroken at the same time.
The big question at the beginning of this episode was: Would Team Doleman be required to participate?
The answer was no. They were through to the finale and given the day off.
That left Teams Brown and Rice to play off to determine which team would face Team Doleman in the finale. The winner of the semifinal challenge would be decided over six holes of stroke play.
The format was this: one player would play 1 hole, one player would play 2 holes and one player would play 3 holes. (Editorial comment: I’m glad that the teams were actually playing golf as opposed to “challenges.” After 20 seasons of challenges, most of them, with the exception of the Glass Break and the Flop Wall, are becoming pretty stale to me. In my opinion, this series creates two types of golfers: those that are good in challenges, and those who do well in “regular golf.” Being good in challenges doesn’t always equate to being a good golfer, and I believe, though I can’t prove this, that this might be one reason why so few Big Breakers actually go on to be successful at the highest forms of golf, but. That, however, is a subject for another time.)
The lineup for the semifinal was this: (Team Brown listed first.)
Hole 1: Tim vs. Jerry.
Holes 2 & 3 : Will vs. Emily.
Holes 4 – 6: Mallory vs. Isaac.
At first, I was surprised by the lineups, but after thinking about it, it made sense. Both team stacked the order of play based on talent, with the less experienced players starting, and the strongest players finishing.
Hole #1: This was a par 3 measuring 152 yards. Tim led off with a strong tee shot to about 5 feet. Could Jerry respond to his former teammate with the Oakland Raiders strong opening salvo? The answer was no, as Jerry’s shot came up short right of the green. Jerry almost made his putt from just off the green, but had to settle for a par. Tim couldn’t capitalize on his great tee shot and also had to settle for a par. After 1 hole, the score remained at even. Both players did what they were supposed to do; that is,don’t put their professional teammates in a hole that they would have to dig out of. That can’t be said for all the NFL players for sure.
Holes 2 & 3 pitted Will vs. Emily. The second hole of the challenge was a par 4 playing 375 yards for Will and 321 yards for Emily. Both players found the fairway off the tee, but their second shots went divergent paths; Will pulled his approach left from133 yards and nearly dunked his shot into the water. Emily’s second missed the green right not far from where Jerry hit his shot. Will’s chip from the hazard looked good, but got a bad bounce and skittered 20 feet by the hole.
Once again, Emily had an advantage, and once again, she couldn’t capitalize on it, stubbing her toe with a weak putt to about 6 feet. Will’s par putt just missed right, he scored a bogey. Emily shook off her demons about her putting by burying the biscuit and taking a one shot lead. After 2 holes, Team Rice led Team Brown by one shot, even par to one over.
Hole #3 of the challenge took the players to a par 5 measuring 510 yards for Will and 440 yards for Emily. Will debated taking driver off the tee, but Mallory talked him out of it. Both players hit 3-wood off the tee and both made the fairway. From 273 yards, Will debated going for the green in two, but whether his cooler head prevailed or he was afraid of Mallory’s wrath-or both-he decided to lay up with an iron and did well.
Emily debated going for the green from 217 yards, but also decided to lay up to a comfortable distance. From 128 yards out, Will’s approach to the green went to about 8 feet. Emily’s approach from 108 yards was okay, but outside of Will’s shot. She missed her 14 foot putt but saved par. Could Will even things up by making his putt? The answer was a resounding, yes! After three holes, the score was back at even par.
Holes 4-6: After the golf appetizer, it was time for the main course, Mallory vs. Isaac. Their first hole-the 4th of the challenge, was a par 4 playing 411 yards for Isaac and 350 yards for Mallory. Both players found the fairway; surprisingly, Mallory wasn’t that far away from Isaac. Mallory’s second shot from 130 yards flew the hole, leaving her a downhill putt from about 20 feet. Isaac, meanwhile, yanked the string on his approach from 125 to about 12 feet. Neither player could make birdie, but both made par to keep the match square after four holes at even par.
The fifth hole of the challenge sent the players to a par 4 playing 405 yards for Isaac and 344 yards for Mallory. It sounds like a broken record, but once again, both players found the fairway. Isaac’s approach from 138 yards was a dart once again to about 6 feet. Mallory had to respond, and once again, she did, hitting her approach inside Isaac’s from 115 yards. Isaac made his birdie, and Mallory poured hers in on top of his to keep the score tied at -1 each. Thrust and parry. That was the theme of this competition.
The sixth hole of the challenge-or so everyone thought-was a par 4 measuring 401 yards for Isaac and 340 for Mallory. Isaac tugged his tee shot left; Mallory found the fairway with her shot, and for that moment, she had the advantage. Isaac’s approach came from 149 yards away, got a serious bounce on the green and rolled to about 6 feet.
Once again, the pressure was placed squarely on Mallory’s shoulders, and her approach from 127 yards was…adequate. Not special, but okay, barely reaching the green. Could Mallory make more magic? You bet your sweet bippy she could! She nailed her birdie putt, leaving Isaac under tremendous pressure to equal her to keep his team in the competition. He also responded, making his birdie and forcing the pair to go to an extra hole. After six regulation holes, the score was tied at -2 under. Neither player wanted to lose this match. It simply meant too much to everyone.
As expected, Mallory and Isaac were nominated to play the previous hole again. Once again, the start was cut and paste, both players hitting their shots in the fairway. Isaac hit a lightning bolt with his approach from 122 yards, this shot rolling to about 2 feet. Could Mallory respond yet again? This time, sadly, the answer was no, as her approach from 120 yards barely crept on the green.
Whether she simply ran out of energy or whatever, is unknown. She tried her best to make the putt, but the ball rolled left and the chances of Team Brown winning the challenge rolled with it. All that remained was for Isaac to put the cherry on the sundae and make his short birdie putt. He did, ensuring Team Rice a spot in the finale and eliminating Team Brown. Team Brown had nothing to be ashamed of in this challenge. They didn’t lose it, they got beat.
So now, the stage is set for the finale of Big Break NFL Puerto Rico. It’s Team Doleman vs. Team Rice. Here’s how I see things:
Team Doleman: Their issues earlier are well documented. However, they seem to have gotten past them and have certainly earned their place in the final. As is the case with all of the teams this season, their weak link is their NFL player. Chris Doleman clearly has a very large ego, and unlike most of the other NFL players, he seems to believe-despite having no evidence to support this belief-that he is as good as, if not better, than his professional teammates, Brian Cooper and Shannon Fish. On more than one occasion, this arrogance has put the team in a difficult spot and forced the professionals to bail him out. He can talk all he wants about this making the team better, but I disagree. If Doleman can check his ego at the door, which I seriously doubt, this would be a tremendous help to his teammates. The other NFL players understood what their role was this season; provide support to their teammates and not put the team in a major hole. Doleman, although he has gotten better lately, hasn’t done that enough.
Both Brian and Shannon have been solid for the most part, with Brian a bit more inconsistent than Shannon. That may be due to the fact that Brian is a more emotional player than Shannon. She more easily shakes things off than he does. Brian is long off the tee-though not as long as Isaac, and hasn’t been as consistent with his short game as Isaac is, especially in the last episode. Shannon is the shortest hitter of the players remaining, but she usually can compensate with strong iron/wedge play.
One big question: given what Brian said in his interview with Golfgal last week, that Shannon suffered an injured ankle in a golf cart mishap, how will she be physically? I don’t doubt for a minute that she’ll play, but how much her injury will affect her performance is a question to be answered.
Team Rice: From the beginning, this team had the best chemistry, pairing a NFL legend in Jerry Rice who spent virtually his entire career playing for Northern California NFL teams with two people from the same area who are fully aware of who he is and what he did gave the team an advantage that the other teams had to develop, which they did to different levels.
Jerry Rice, from the start, understood that he is not a professional golfer and has played within himself. It was Clint Eastwood , in one of the “Dirty Harry” movies who said “It’s a smart man who knows his limitations.” The fact that Jerry knows his and was willing to do what was best for the team is another major credit to him. He has provided mostly leadership for the team, with an occasional good shot here and there.
Like every player on Big Break, Isaac Sanchez was at times inconsistent. However, in the last episode, he was a stud. It’s very difficult to sustain that type of excellence over a long period of time, but if he can find just a little of that magic in the finale, he will be a huge asset to Team Rice. Isaac is clearly the longest off the tee, and he’s shown skill in his short game-especially in the last episode-as well.
Emily Talley is a great athlete; she could play any number of sports and excel at them. Of the two women in the finale, she is longer than Shannon off the tee; however, I’m not sure that Emily’s short game is as good as Shannon’s. The big question for Emily is, of course, her putting. She has been highly inconsistent on the green and if that continues in the finale, it could be really bad for Team Rice. How she performs with the flat stick in her hands may very well decide the fate of this championship.
So, who will win Big Break NFL Puerto Rico? Well, I believe it will be…Team Doleman. Or Team Rice. I guarantee that one of these teams will win.
Side note: Earlier I asked what would happen if one of the three ladies in this season’s Big Break-Mallory Blackwelder, Shannon Fish or Stefanie Kenoyer-would gain full status at last week’s Stage III of the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament, would they still need the exemption to the ShopRite LPGA Classic that the woman on the victorious team would get for winning this season?
There were ten women who have appeared on Big Break who were among the 153 players trying to gain LPGA Tour status next season. They were (in their finishing order):
- Anya Alvarez (Big Break Atlantis)
- Stefanie Kenoyer (Big Break Mexico/ Big Break NFL Puerto Rico)
- Maiya Tanaka (Big Break Sandals Resorts)
- Taylor Collins (Big Break Mexico champion)
- Mallory Blackwelder (Big Break Ireland/Big Break NFL Puerto Rico)
- Shannon Fish (Big Break Atlantis/Big Break NFL Puerto Rico)
- Selanee Henderson (Big Break Atlantis)
- Kelly Jacques (Big Break Ireland)
- Kim Welch (Big Break Ka’anapali)
- Nicole Smith (Big Break Ireland)
Of those ten women, only Alvarez (T-29), earned LPGA Tour status, in the limited category 17, for next season. So the female winner of Big Break NFL Puerto Rico will need the exemption into the LPGA event for next season.
Hopefully, the winning team will take all their prizes and put them to good use.
Until we meet again, I remain…